Yoga for Beginners: Three Building Blocks to Rock Your Practice

I am the first to admit that yoga can be scary. Even after practicing for essentially my entire life, sometimes I walk into the studio, look around, and mutter 'what have I gotten myself into?!" But honestly, that is one of the reasons I love it so much — no two days are ever the same. Your practice changes if you were hiking the day before, haven't moved in a week, or if you've practiced three days in a row; each time you step onto your mat (or your carpet, or your favorite trail) your body is different and the way you move will be too.

However, as much as yoga seems to change, there are building blocks that provide a bit of stability, both physically and mentally. Here are three that help me to ground myself, tone down the scary, and amp up the fun.

1. Remember, yoga is not for the flexible — it is for the willing. Whether you can't touch your toes or can drop into a split at the blink of the eye, to get something out of yoga all you have to do is want to be there, to be present in your practice. So if one day you can tickle your shins and then the next your knees, that's fine!
2. Remember to breathe. I can't stress the fact that breathing is the basis of yoga enough. You need your breath to keep steady, to stretch deeper, to calm your mind, and to relax. Even just sitting on your mat, paying attention to your breath is practicing yoga. (I happen to enjoy just that, while staring out at a gorgeous view while climbing!)
3. There are five foundational yoga poses (asana) that every single other pose stems from. Five. So if you're completely lost, need a breather, or would like to center yourself you can come back to one of those five poses and find your way.

Yoga for Beginners - 5 Foundational Yoga Poses

Standing Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Yoga for Beginners

This is the fundamental standing pose. I like to start with my legs slightly less than hip distance apart, feet facing forward and parallel. The easiest way to make sure your feet are parallel is to check that your second toes face directly forward. Now as we work up the body, hug your muscles into your midline (the imaginary line that starts at the crown of your head and ends on the floor). You can pull the tops of your thighs back and balance that with lengthening your tailbone down towards the floor. Pull your shoulders back and your neck straight, opening the heart, and align the crown of your head directly over the center of your body.

Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

Warrior Pose for beginners

Start in mountain pose. Step one foot one stride forward. Turn the heel of the opposite foot slightly angled so it faces the top corner of your mat. Your feet should be on "railroad tracks" meaning that they are still hip distance apart instead of in line with each other. Bend your front knee to 90 degrees so your thigh is parallel with the floor, making sure your knee does not extend over the ankle. You want a "stacked" feeling, knee over ankle. I've showed a slight variation where my thigh is not parallel with the floor. Depending on your flexibility you might not be able to get that 90-degree angle, if that is the case focus on your base, feet, and leg position! Extend your arms over your head, making sure to keep both hips squared forward.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Yoga for Beginners

Start in mountain pose. Facing a long side of your mat, step your feet wide, feet parallel. Turn your front leg out so that the side of your thigh faces the long side of your mat, your foot should follow facing directly forward. Turn your back foot slightly forward and align the heel of your front foot with the arch of your back foot I call these 'tightrope' feet. Extend your arms out to your sides parallel with the floor, keeping your shoulders back. Bend your front knee to 90 degrees, stacking knee over ankle, thigh parallel to the floor. Your hips should be squared to the long side of your mat.

Staff Pose (Dandasana)

Yoga Staff Pose

Sit on your mat with your legs extended in front of you, toes facing up. Rotate your legs inward to widen your sitting bones; it might be helpful to use your hands to manually rotate your thigh muscles in and your hip out. Sit up straight and raise your arms in line with your body, creating an L shape!

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Facing Dog pose

Position yourself on your mat on your hands and knees. Your elbows and wrists should be in line directly under your shoulders. Line the creases of your wrists so that they are parallel with the front edge of your mat. Focus on your hands. Making sure that they are firmly planted and not 'tented.' Walk your knees back so that they are slightly behind your hips, then turn your feet under so they are planted on the floor. Your heels may or may not touch, but either way, focus on grounding them towards the earth. Start lifting your knees off the floor, keeping them slightly bent. Straighten your arms, pulling your shoulder blades together on the center of your back, opening your chest. Lengthen your tailbone towards the ceiling, and press your thighs back, straightening your legs.

To get the most out of your practice, want to be there, breathe, and learn the five foundational poses. Sound simple? It should be. Yoga is for every one, and every body. Whether practiced for yourself or as cross training for another of your favorite physical activities give it a try; it can change your life.

posted by
Kait Welch
Blogger at Chickadeesays
Kait Welch is a healthy living enthusiast who shares her adventures on her website, Chickadee Says. A yoga instructor, a dog mom, and an advocate for holistic health, she loves living in Colorado and exploring everything this world has to offer. Want to chat? Reach out on Instagram or Twitter!
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