With the myriad of styles to choose from it can feel a little overwhelming to know which yoga classes to take. It might be of comfort to learn that each style shares in a lot of commonality. Unless you are choosing between a super advanced inversion class and a passive restorative class, you can bet you will find some crossover in the occurrence of poses.
The following is a list of the top five most popular yoga poses with special tips on how to perform each correctly, plus their benefits for the mind and body.
1. Downward Dog
With both hands and feet on the mat, this pose affects all the muscles in the body. It is often revisited over and over again in class, therefore considered the number one most commonly practiced pose.
Tips: It is not a crime to have your heels lifted and knees bent in this pose. The importance is in keeping your hips high and your spine long, not curved.
Benefits: Lengthens and decompresses the spine, stretches the hamstrings, strengthens the arms, flushes the brain with oxygen, and calms the mind.
This is a great pose for all levels. There is always an option to take this pose lightly if need be. Certain yoga styles may offer slight variations of this pose, but it will be easily recognized.
Tips: Practice this pose as if your back is up against a wall. Keep your shoulders over your front leg. Resist tipping forward, instead turn your chest open toward the ceiling slightly.
Benefits: Slims the waist, strengthens the legs and core, and aids in correcting postural imbalances.
3. Warrior I and II
Dynamic and powerful, it’s no wonder we see this pose in a lot of yoga ads or commercials. It exudes self-assurance and poise.
Tips: Keep your front knee directly over your ankle. Maintain an upright position with both shoulders over your hips. Straighten and root down with your back leg firmly. Keep shoulders relaxed down and away from your ears.
Benefits: Strengthens the legs and hips, stretches the psoas muscles, and instills a sense of confidence like a peaceful warrior.
4. Child’s Pose
This pose is often used as a reprieve from the challenging moments in yoga. It is recommended to visit this pose as often as needed when you need a little rest break.
Tips: If you are unable to rest your forehead on the mat, rest it on your forearms, a yoga block or a folded blanket.
Benefits: Stretches the low back and hips, calms the nervous system, stimulates the kidneys and relaxes the spinal muscles.
5. Corpse Pose
Otherwise known as Savasana or final relaxation, this pose is the single most important one you will do in your yoga practice. It happens at the very end of class and is what makes your hard work worth it.
Tips: To fully experience this pose it is important to let go of all agenda and savor just “being” rather than “doing.” For some, this pose will be the most challenging to master. It requires a level of surrender that may seem counter intuitive in our busy world.
Benefits: Lowers blood pressure, relaxes heart rate, calms the mind and makes you fall in love with yoga.
These five poses lay the foundation for many yoga class routines. Variations will often include some twisting, extending or balancing in different ways, but by mastering the basics, the next steps will come naturally.