Yoga is a powerful tool that you can use in many aspects of life. It is good for strength and it helps you feel better about yourself. It is good for balance and flexibility, making your body do things that you never thought possible. It calms your mind and relaxes your muscles, bringing peace to your daily life.
With so many benefits and so many different positions, there’s bound to be a few poses that are better than others for your particular ambition. With that in mind, we elaborated this useful list to guide you through different poses that will aid you in different aspects.
1. Best Yoga Poses for Flexibility
Can’t reach your toes while sitting down? Would you like to put your foot above your head as the yoga advertisers do? We compiled a list of the best yoga poses to make you more flexible. Being flexible is not only about looks, but it is also a great way to keep your muscles, ligaments, and bones young. It also prevents a lot of injuries and massages your muscles before and after exercise. Unroll your yoga mat and stretch on!
Reclined hand to toe
This is a great position because it allows for several adaptations. Start by laying flat on your back on the floor. Breathe in and out, stretching your spine as much as you can. Keeping your knee straight, lift one leg and try to grab your foot by the toe. That can be incredibly hard, and there are to contour that and make you reach that point slowly.
You can use a strap, belt or towel to wrap it around your foot and bring it closer to your head. Don’t force it too much, but it is important to not bend your knees and to feel your thigh muscles elongating. Repeat the same with the other leg.
Downward facing dog
The downward-facing dog is a staple in the yoga world. It is used as an in-between pose, a resting one, an alternative for when you can’t do a certain position and it is fantastic to increase flexibility on your calves and heel muscles. Start by standing up on your mat with your feet slightly apart, matching your shoulders width. Reach your hands to the floor and find your balance on this triangle position, always with your knees straight. You can work to shift your weight in between the two legs, or simply stay there for as long as it feels comfortable.
The garland pose may not look too elegant, but it is awesome to stretch your calves, legs, and hamstrings. It consists of squatting, and the trick is to try to keep your spine straight and heels on the floor. This will be surprisingly challenging for many people, and you can start by placing a rolled towel under your heels then slowly working towards touching the floor with your whole feet.
2. Best Yoga Poses for Anxiety
It is known that yoga helps with anxiety and stress. But how does it do that exactly? Certain poses align body and mind and force you to stay focused in the present moment. They also ask for specific breathing exercises that are meant to calm your thoughts and relieve anxiety symptoms. Continue to read and prepare to feel zen.
Legs up the wall
Bring your mat close to a wall in which you can put your legs up. Lean your legs up against the wall and place your buttocks as close to the wall as possible. Close your eyes and inhale and exhale at least five times, slowly. If you have scented candles and an eye pad this is a great moment to use them. Focus on the tensed areas of your body, like shoulders and forehead, and allow them to relax and open up.
One of the best poses to relax, the child’s pose is a classic in any yoga lesson. It is important to use a thick mat or even a blanket so that your knees don’t feel discomfort. Kneel on the floor and sit back on the top of your heels comfortably. You can have your knees together or slightly apart, whatever feels better.
Inhaling, reach your arms up then stretch forward exhaling as much as you can, trying to reach further and further away on the floor with your fingertips. With each breath try to release tension from your whole body, including head, shoulders, legs, and arms.
Come to all fours on your mat, as you were an animal. Align your knees to your hips and your hands to your shoulders. This is one of those positions that combine movements and breathing and following that is important to achieve maximum relaxation. Inhaling, stretch your spine up opening your chest and pressing your shoulder blades together to find the cow position.
Exhaling, round into your back body and draw your shoulder blades apart from each other into cat position. Continue to do that following your breathing for at least five times.
This is considered to be the easiest of the yoga positions for the body, and one of the hardest for the mind. Lay on the floor and completely relax our body, spreading your legs apart and letting your hands and feet fall. Notice any clenching or tension you may feel on your body and let go. One tip to help do that is to tighten up all your muscles as much as you can then let go completely. Imagine there is a ball of light passing through each part of your body and that it is bringing peace and relaxation to your muscles and mind.
3. Best Yoga Poses for Balance
We all think we have a great balance until we have to stand on one foot. Worst yet if we have to do it with eyes closed! It is surprising how hard can that be, and how few seconds we manage to stay in that position.
Having good balance is great for several reasons and it helps us navigate life easier and with more grace. If we have a great balance we can do everyday activities easily, we prevent injuries and move more efficiently. As with everything in life is just about practice, so practice away with these simple yoga poses for balance.
At first look, this pose may seem too simple and easy but is an amazing tool to help you start to find your balance. Stand straight on your mat with your feet close together and your arms close to your body. You will feel your body shifting, trying to find the best way to stay straight. Use that to understand your difficulties and balance issues, and to try and find your center.
The tree pose is a classic pose for balance. Stand up on your mat with both feet planted on the ground. Reach your arms up and put your hands together, palm to palm with your arms straight. Slowly move one leg up and place one foot against the inner part on the other leg’s knee.
Your foot should be completely touching the leg, forming a “P” with both legs. The key to stay in this position for a long time is to pay attention to all your body parts, and focus to keep the weight balanced among both sides.
This is not an easy position to reach. It requires not only balance but also strength. Standing up on the mat, lean your upper body forward and reach your left arm straight ahead of you. Slowly bring your right foot up from the ground and reach your right hand to grab it. Use the time to find your balance and choose a focus point to stare at to help you. Try to keep your hips horizontally aligned to the floor to achieve the best balance.
Standing up on your mat, inhale and reach your arms up into the air. Don’t bring your palms together, rather keep your hands parallel to one another. Exhale and bend your knees, pretending you are sitting on an invisible chair behind you. Try to bring yourself as close to the chair position as you can, with your hips as 90 degrees from the floor. If you can’t, just go as far as possible and stay there for five breaths.
4. Best Yoga Poses for Core Strength
The core is the center of our body. Strong core muscles mean we can do most activities easier, and that includes weight lifting, running, and simply picking up things at the store. It improves our posture, which makes back pain less likely and breathing more efficient. It also boosts endurance as you don’t tire as easily, and will lead you to advanced yoga positions and poses. It is so important that almost every yoga teacher will insist on using the best yoga poses for core strength constantly.
Cosmic egg pose
Don’t be fooled by the curious name, this is a real position with many benefits, the main one being building up core strength. Sit down on your mat and bend your knees together, hugging them close to your chest. Make sure your whole arms are around your keens securing them in place. Lean back slightly and lift your feet from the ground. Try to find your balance using your core to secure you in place and avoid rolling your spine.
Similar to the previous position, you can gently flow from the cosmic egg to the boat pose with ease. Sitting down, keep your legs touching the ground straight in front of you. With your back straight, lift your legs off the ground and don’t bend your knees. Use your arms to help you balance, keeping them straight on the sides of your body, trying not to hold your legs to fully engage your core muscles.
The plank is a famous pose used in many exercises, not only yoga. It is a fantastic position and the best way to engage core muscles, even though it is so uncomfortable and hard. Start by laying down on your mat with your belly down. Bring your hands flat against the floor on the sides of your shoulders and lift your body.
Your knees should be straight and not touching the ground – your feet provide the support point. Alternatively, bring your knees down to support you if the first option was too hard. Stay there for at least five breaths. It is also possible to use your whole forearms to hold your weight, but always trying to keep your hips pushed in and your spine straight.
Knee to arm plank
While in the plank position, challenge yourself a bit more by bringing your knee forward like you are trying to touch your elbow with your knee. Alternate legs for at least 15 seconds for best results.
Hands and knees balance
On your mat start on a hands and knees position. Always pay attention to align your knees to your hips and your hands to your shoulders. Slowly bring your left arm straight up in front of you, parallel to the ground. At the same time, do the same with your right leg. Alternate arms and legs doing that, never bending the knee or elbow.
5. Best Yoga Poses for Beginners
Did some of the poses on this guide scare you? Do you want to do yoga but can’t manage to follow the most advanced poses? Don’t worry. Yoga is an inclusive exercise, and many positions are suited for beginners. In fact, almost all of the poses have a beginner-friendly alternative. It is all about respecting your limits! Try these simple, but effective, yoga poses for beginners and see how much better you will feel.
Seated forward bend
It is very important to incorporate a seated forward bend in your early practice because it stretches your hamstrings, lower back, and sides. Sitting down on your mat with a straight spine, keep your legs firmly together and your feet pointing up. Breathing in, bring your arms up to the sky. Breathing out lean your whole upper body down towards your legs and try to touch your feet. If you can’t, don’t worry, with practice you will soon be there. A good tip to push your body safely is to go a little bit forward with every exhalation.
This is a great pose to stretch the opposite muscles that the forward bend does. Lay down on the mat and bend your knees, keeping your feet apart but not too much, aligned to your shoulders. Slowly push your feet to the ground, lifting your back on a bend and opening your chest. If that is too hard, you can hold your hands together on the floor under your back.
Standing up on the edge of the mat with your feet together, take a deep breathe and bring your arms up. Take a big step forward with one foot, it should be on the other edge of the mat. Bend your front knee but keep the back knee straight. The front thigh should be parallel to the ground. Hold for five breaths and repeat with the other side.
Lay down on the mat with your whole body touching the floor, belly down. Fold your arms and bring your palms to the sides of your shoulders. Using your palms and pressing them to the floor, lift your whole body, but starting from your head. Bend your spine as much as you can, opening up your chest as you do it. Continue to bend your body and to lift it from the ground, until the only connecting points between you and the mat are your palms and the top of your feet.
We already covered this position in this guide, but we could not fail to mention it for beginners as well. The downward-facing dog is one of the best positions to know, it involves balance and flexibility, it’s easy to do but challenging at the same time and it is a great transition point to many other poses.
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Not all poses will be targeted to everything in yoga. Like all exercises, some will be better for strength while others will make you more flexible. A good yoga practice should be a mix of different poses that exercises the whole body. Yoga is meant to be a holistic activity that engages all body parts, mind and soul.
We recommend you find a studio next to you and take a few test lessons to see if you like their style. Talk to the instructor and tell them about your hopes and goals with yoga. They will most likely guide you through your evolution. If you prefer to watch videos online to learn, remember to respect your body limits and be patient with yourself. Yoga is an amazing tool to help you reach goals, but it should never feel forced, but a gentle flow.