5 Must-Learn Yoga Poses for Beginners

By , Kristin McGee, Acacia TV Contributor
Did you know that there are well over 300 yoga poses in the physical yoga practice? If that number seems overwhelming to you, don't worry! Learning the following five yoga postures is a great way for you to get acquainted with the practice as a beginner. Once you have a good understanding of these postures, you can start to feel more comfortable in a class or practicing on your own at home. If you do each one of these for 5 to 8 breaths, it also creates a great beginner’s yoga program for you to do every day.  

1. Mountain  
Mountain Pose is the base for all standing poses. It gives you a sense of how to ground into your feet and feel the earth below you. Mountain pose may not look like much, but there is a ton going on. Start standing with your feet together. Press down through all ten toes as you spread them open. Engage your quadriceps to lift your kneecaps and lift up through the inner thighs. Draw your abdominals in and up as you lift your chest and press the tops of the shoulders down. Feel your shoulder blades coming toward each other and open your chest, but keep your palms facing inward toward the body. Imagine a string drawing the crown of the head up to the ceiling, and breathe deeply into the torso. Hold for 5-8 breaths. 

2. Downward Facing Dog
Downward dog pose is used in most yoga practices, and it stretches and strengthens the entire body. If this is the only pose you learn, it’s one of the best! (I always say ''a down dog a day keeps the doctor away''.) Come onto all fours with your wrists under your shoulders, and knees under your hips. Tuck under your toes, and lift your hips up off the floor as you draw them up at back toward your heels. Keep your knees slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight; otherwise, try and straighten out your legs while keeping your hips back in space. You can walk your hands forward to give yourself more length if you need to. The goal in downward dog is to distribute the weight evenly in the arms and legs and use the core muscles to lift up through the center. Press firmly through your palms and rotate the inner elbows toward each other. Hollow out the abdominals and keep engaging your legs to keep the torso moving back toward the thighs. Hold for 5-8 breaths before dropping back to hands and knees to rest.
3. Plank
Plank teaches us how to balance on our hands while using the entire body to support us. It is a great way to strengthen the abdominals and to learn to use the breath to stay in a challenging pose. From all fours, tuck under your toes and lift your legs up off the mat. Slide your heels back enough until you feel you are one straight line of energy from your head to your feet. Engage the lower abdominals, draw the shoulders down away from the ears, pull your ribs together and breathe deeply for 8-10 breaths. 
4. Triangle
Triangle is a wonderful standing posture to stretch the sides of the waist, open up the lungs, strengthen the legs and tone the entire body. Start standing with your feet one leg-length apart. Stretch your arms open to the sides at shoulder height. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left toes in about 45 degrees. Engage your quadriceps and abdominals as you hinge to the side over your right leg. Place your right hand down on your ankle, shin or knee (or a block if you have one) and lift your left arm up to the ceiling. Turn your gaze up to the top hand and hold for 5-8 breaths. Lift up to stand and repeat on the opposite side. I like to imagine I’m stuck between two narrow walls when I’m in triangle pose.

5. Tree
Tree is an 
awesome standing balance to help beginners gain focus and clarity, and it teaches you how to breathe while standing on one foot. Start with your feet together and place your right foot on your inner left upper thigh. Press your hands in prayer and gaze at a spot in front of you. Hold and breathe for 8-10 breaths, then switch sides. Make sure you don’t lean into the standing leg, and keep your abdominals engaged and shoulders relaxed.

About the Author
Kristin McGee is AcaciaTV’s yoga instructor and a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. Kristin contributes new yoga workouts each month to AcaciaTV. She also contributes to Health.com/Health magazine and has created several fitness DVDs, including Acacia’s Weight Loss Pilates, Pilates for Beginners and Body by Bethenny with Bethenny Frankel, which are also available to stream on AcaciaTV. She has trained celebrities such as Tina Fey, Savannah Guthrie, and Steve Martin. kristinmcgee.com
AcaciaTV is a leading subscription-based streaming fitness service easily accessible on a variety of platforms/devices. Members have complete access to more than 100 workouts in a diverse range of disciplines which they can stream anywhere at any time. AcaciaTV now features new themed 20-minute workouts each month from trainers Kristin McGee, Amanda Young, Deazie Gibson, Gerren Liles and Liz LeFrois. Consumers can visit Acacia TV at US.Acacia.TV and easily try out the service with its 10-day free trial. The channel is for all fitness levels, offering workouts from beginners through advanced. SparkPeople members can receive 25% off any membership for a year with the code ACACIASPARK. 

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints



easy peasy Report
Thank you! Report
THINCPL2004 12/14/2020
I love doing yoga, I should do more Report
CECELW 11/16/2020
I love yoga and pilates. I don't do them very often though Report
DISNEYLUV1 7/13/2020
I am not that into yoga but I tried out these poses.
Maybe if I get more flexible lol Report
KATHYJO56 7/11/2020
I don't like yoga, but these are good poses and I have used them Report
PATRICIAANN46 6/13/2020
Thank You................ Report
Love yoga. Can never do the tree. Always have to hold something Report
thanks Report
Spark People is a good resource but the descriptions would be better served with videos as not to cause injury~ Report
Thanks for the article and the knowledge you shared. I am a beginner and reading this article has given me confidence to further continue practicing Yoga. Report
All the poses are good. Test is a hard on especially for anyone with foot problems. I can only do it on one side Report
Honestly I need to start doing yoga. This may give me the start I need. Report
I do yoga at home 3 times a week Report
Good article to generate curiosity, but this former athlete and dancer needed to connect with Silver Sneakers yoga instructor to learn these poses. After a year, 3x per week classes, almost 100% on poses, except tree. No one in my class can do tree either. Balance takes longer as we age. Half Sun salutations and breathing would have been good to include here, even Mom 80yrs old does those. Report
Absolutely great Report
Interesting article, would love to learn more about yoga Report
Slow and steady. Report
Great Blog very relaxing.good stretches for the body & mind. Report
To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first.
- William Shakespeare Report
I needed these. Thanks! Report
Great! Thank you Report
Interesting read. As a major newbie I have learned all of these but I do struggle with tree. Hey the learning is in the struggle. I do triangle but as a part of the Warrior series, which feels very good on my legs, arms, and chest. Just a friendly suggestion. Also my Tree pose is improving thanks to doing Yoga in a therapy pool at a local aqua center. Of course downward facing dog isn't so great in a pool........ Report
Ha ha, another “celebrity” instructor. Sigh......... Report
Seriously? I can think of other poses that are better for beginners and people with flexibility issues. Report
I agree that these are moves to master. My tree pose right now has my "free" foot at my ankle not my knee but hey at least I'm working on balance. Are you going to write a "so you want to learn these poses" follow-up? Report
I like this article, it's very helpful to have an idea of where to start. Thanks!

The descriptions are difficult - "lift up through the inner thighs", "lift your hips as you draw them back to your heels" ... ??!? - but that's probably because details like that are very difficult to describe.

The flock of "but this is not beginner!!!" irks me a little bit. It says right at the top learning these is a good starting point to learn; not that a beginner would be able to perform them right away. Measuring a beginner article by "can I do them if I am 80 years old and have a variety of health problems" strikes me as very unfair. By comparison: I'm 40, clearly overweight, had to keep away from strenght training for months due to some joint problems, and I can stand with my feet apart, lift my arms and lean to the side just fine.

What really, really irks me are comments like "get real" or "get a clue". One of the things I always liked about sparkpeople is that the comments and discussions were always polite and objective, without those youtube-comment style polemics.

Please stay polite. Report
I think that these are great beginner poses. I do not do a lot of yoga, but many of these poses are also incorporated into other strength training programs. A true beginner will not be able to do these PERFECTLY right away; like any exercise, it takes practice! I can do these with no problem, and I will be 60 next month! Flexibility is very important for older people, it helps prevent falls and injuries. Age is not a reason to avoid challenges and trying new exercises.. Report
Seriously?? "Beginner"?? NOT...!! (Well, maybe if you are a 20-something and already in excellent shape as far as flexibility and strength goes....
As many others have stated, there need to be modifications listed, and even then...the help of a good instructor would be invaluable. And many of us simply can't do some of these even with help.... Report
I totally agree with the last 2 comments that a lack of modifications for beginners or people with mobility, joint or other issues is really inappropriate. Actually almost all the comments say the same thing. Hey, Spark People and Kristin, get a clue would you?! Report
I actually do all of these (except mountain, which they cover as "deep breathing") on my wii fit, with some modifications. Tree pose I have to put my foot on my calf; Triangle is difficult for me, as I have a bad hip; and when I do planks I do elbow planks, because full plank hurts my wrists (as do pushups). I think modifications should have been shown if these are actually for "beginners". Report
I am surprised by this list. Tree and triangle are both tricky poses to get right on your own. Without focus on form and correction you aren't going to get the benefit of the stretch. If this is for beginner's why not mention modifications like foot to calf for tree. I would add forward fold and child's pose if I could expand this list. Report
Yay! I started with a beginner's class through our community college in November 2015. After that class, I joined a yoga studio in January. I tried out 3 different classes to find which fit, certainly not yoga 2. I've maintained much of my flexibility since ballet as a kid, so that wasn't much of an issue. However, at the age of 63 having retired from a desk job, I'd lost a lot of strength and balance, both really necessary to us older folks. In my morning yoga class, we do all of these poses, some of us having to modify them as encouraged by our instructor. For Tree, we can place one foot on the other ankle and hang onto a wall if we need to. We have other people my age in class, including a fellow with Parkinson's and 2 women in foot braces. in addition to the strength and balance I'm gaining, I've pretty much eliminated my back pain and my knees are better than when I did physical therapy. By the way, I'm no skinny minnie either! Report
Mountain I can do. The rest... ain't gonna happen. Report
use fulinformation Report
These aren't beginners poses. And they are not for people who are older or who have some physical ailments. Report
Excellent article! I am 70 and with some minor adjustments, I was able to do them all - Plank is the hardest for me (I can't do push-ups either) and in Tree I have to place my foot just below the knee, but they are great for flexibility and balance! Report
These are good ones to know but, some of them you don't have to 'MASTER' to enjoy yoga. Report
I just started doing yoga (day 4) and I'm actually feeling a little more flexible. I hate to admit it but I've been feeling old in the body. When I wake up, putting on my pants standing up was not that easy :(
I would put one leg in then try to balance while "fishing" around with my other leg trying to shoot it through the other pant leg quickly before losing my balance. This morning I woke up and just bending over to put my pants on the first leg was so much easier. When I went for the second leg, I lifted it and brought the pants up, when I lifted my knee up it just went in without that effort before?!! REALLY?! In only 4 days!!!I like that!!!! The video I am doing has the first 3 poses. My chest feels more open, breathing more full and deep :) Report
I'd like to thank the author for this article. I am an intermediate yoga practitioner. All of the poses listed above are what our Hatha Yoga instructor introduced to us 6 years ago when we were just beginners. The goal when starting anything new is to start small doing what you can while gaining increased flexibility (and confidence) as you continue to practice. With an experienced instructor in the room, beginners can do all of the above poses - even if they have to modify. Report
I have done yoga for many years and only the first pose is for beginners. If you have esophageal reflux, downward facing dog could cause acid to back up your throat. The tree pose is shown as the most advanced way to do it. Many yoga teachers show this pose for a beginner with the foot on your ankle and your hand or fingers on the wall. Does anyone read these articles before they are put on line? Report
hahahhaaaaaaaaaaaaa I can do the first one, but haven't been able to do any of the others for like....30 years??? LOLOLOLOL Report
I do most of these during the week. I practice yoga to maintain my posture and peace of mind. The only yoga positions I have problems with are kneeling . Since my knees were replaced that is painful for me.

I can do all but the last which I will never be able to do without breaking a bone. My balance is awful. Report
LOL...seriously? I can do the first one. After than, no way, no how! Can we get serious about beginning Yoga? Report
Sorry but I think this is an oversipmplification of yoga. Some of these are difficult poses that only a more experienced yogi can do safely. I think this is misleading. Report
Can we get real? Those poses are not for beginners, except maybe the first one. And certainly not for people who have limited mobility or not flexible. I'm glad I don't do yoga. I'd be in physical therapy for the rest of my life. Report
I need to work on my flexibility! My "tree" was in danger of toppling over. LOL! Report
I'm surprised that Child's Pose wasn't on here instead of Tree. I feel like I'm too big to do the Tree pose because I can't get my foot on my inner thigh and get it to stay there. Report
Thank you for the great article! I love how you walked us through how to do the poses. i heart you! Report