4 Power-Building Yoga Poses for Beginners

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Scrolling through all the advanced yoga poses and transitions on Instagram can be daunting—especially if you’re a yoga beginner. When I first started practicing yoga a few years ago, I thought I would never be able to strike any poses. I was never an athlete or a dancer or a gymnast, and I kind of think these guys are just born strong.

Yoga is a constant process of discovering yourself and going beyond any thoughts or limitations you have imposed on yourself. The ability to strike any particular pose never ends. These poses are tools for experiencing yourself. If practiced regularly, yoga can be a means of unshakable strength that both comes from and leads to a calm and steady mind.

This sequence is designed for yoga students (especially beginners) who want to build strength. The exercises focus on learning the key elements of working your abs and drawing strength from there, finding stability in your shoulders, and continually restoring balance to your body and mind. It also includes pose options, so if you’re still learning how to represent your body in various shapes, you can start with whatever variation works for you. Keep practicing and you’ll feel your strength start to take shape.

4 Yoga Poses to Build Strength

Suhasana (simple seat)

If you’re a beginner, sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Try bringing your shoulders over your hips, then relax your shoulders away from your ears. Put your hands on your knees. If you find yourself leaning forward, or feeling tense or tight in your hips or legs, or your knees lifting a lot off the mat, sit on the edge of a few folded blankets or pillows. Close your eyes and focus on slowing your breathing. You can count breaths, in and out, to steady your mind. Sit tall and lift your chest off your hips, but don’t hold your breath or get stiff. Think silently here for at least 1 minute. Every time your mind wanders, redirect it back to your breath. Be free and don’t judge yourself or your practice.

After you’ve practiced this pose a few times, your abs will gain strength and you may notice more openings in your hips. You’ll be able to relax your upper body more easily. If you feel like you no longer need the blanket, you can try going without it, although some students and teachers who have been practicing for years prefer to still use the support.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog Pose)

If you’re a beginner, use your hands and knees. Place hands shoulder-distance apart and knees hip-distance apart. Gaze down, making sure your shoulders are over your wrists. Spread your fingers apart and press down evenly with your hands, lifting your hips up and back as you begin to straighten your legs. It’s okay to keep your knees bent as needed. (If your hamstrings are tight, you’ll want to stay bent. Continue to press down with your index finger and straighten your arms. This is the basic downward dog shape. Take 5 slow breaths here.

After you’ve practiced this pose a few times, start straightening your legs a little or more. Let your heels reach the ground, but don’t force them into contact. Pull your shoulder blades away from each other, tuck your chin in slightly, and gaze at your thighs or navel. Work your quadriceps by trying to draw your knee toward your hip and press down into the base of your big toe. Draw your lower abs in and your pelvic floor up. Your body will create an inverted V shape. That’s a lot of clues for downward dog. You can focus on one at a time, allowing yourself to explore the rest of the clues in time. Take 5 slow breaths here.

forearm plank

If you’re a beginner, transition out of the tang by lowering your knees onto the mat. Rest your elbows on the mat so they are directly under your shoulders. Your forearms will be parallel to each other and your palms will be facing down. Spread your fingers apart, pulling your shoulder blades away from each other. Press down from your shoulders and through your elbows while keeping your chest broad. Take 5 slow breaths here.

After practicing this pose a few times, lower your elbows to the mat so they are directly under your shoulders. Your forearms will be parallel to each other and your palms will be facing down. Do all of the above while drawing your lower ribs toward your spine to engage your abs. Lengthen the tailbone toward the back of the mat. Bring your legs closer to each other. Take 5 slow breaths here. Put yourself on the mat. Repeat 3 times.

Wasi Shasana (Side Panel)

If you’re a beginner, come to downward dog and bring your shoulders forward until they’re almost past your wrists. Shift your weight to your left hand. Begin stacking your right hip on top of your left hip. As you do this, you’ll naturally roll to the outside edge of your left foot and the inside edge of your right foot. Your feet will still be about hip-distance apart. Place your right hand on your right hip, if you can, and look down at the mat to help with balance. Press down firmly with your left hand, trying to keep your back as straight and long as possible, rather than arched or rounded. You’ll be wobbly and that’s totally fine. As you begin to feel balanced, you can slowly turn your gaze toward the ceiling. Take 5 slow breaths here. Drop your right hand to the mat, then your knee, and rest. Repeat this on the left side.

After practicing this pose several times, place your right foot on top of your left. Bend your feet and bring your toes close to your nose. Press firmly with your left hand. If you feel comfortable, reach your right arm toward the ceiling while keeping your gaze steady and downward. Finally, slowly move your gaze to your right hand. Take 5 slow breaths here. Drop your right hand to the mat, then your knee, and rest. Repeat this on the left side.

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