Woman Exercising Yoga on Beach at Sunset

The Different Yoga Poses And What They Achieve

With hundreds of variations and styles available for how you can practice yoga, there are thousands of poses to try. Yoga poses have unique benefits to each of them, so whether you want to lose weight, improve your balance, or strengthen your core, there are bound to be poses right for you.

These poses can go all the way from basic to advanced, depending on your skill level. Although at first, you might only be able to perform simple yoga poses, with regular practice you’ll be able to push yourself further each time so that you become a master at the advanced yoga poses too.

Woman Doing Outside Yoga

Beginner yoga poses generally make up the foundation of all others, so even if you’re wanting to do just difficult yoga poses you need to learn the basics first. Yoga isn’t something to be rushed, so you should have a deep understanding of all the different styles of poses first.

Here are just a few categories of yoga poses and what each of them can help you achieve. You’ll find that whatever you’re looking to achieve with this ancient system of exercise you can generally do with a few basic yoga poses, and it’s amazing to consider just how many benefits they have.

Yoga Breathing Basics

Before attempting any poses, you should first be aware of your breathing. As the central most important part of yoga practice, how we breathe affects the entire process of this exercise. In hatha yoga, the breathing is referred to as ujjayi. This type of breathing is steady and deep, and the aim is to keep it at the same level through all of your poses.

Couple Doing Yoga Breathing

Begin by breathing normally and taking the time to focus on how this is. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breaths, in particular how long you inhale and exhale for, the rhythm, and sound. Paying close attention and observing our breath is fundamental to yoga and is one of the key ways we connect and calm our body and mind.

Once you have an understanding of your natural breathing state, try to adjust the length of your inhales and exhales so that they match. Notice that as you breathe out of your nose you can try to shift where this breath is coming from. Try breathing from the base of your throat instead and notice how soothing it is when compared to your nose.

This should be just loud enough for you or someone very close to you to hear, but no louder. Try to keep your breathing steady as you perform the moves. If you find yourself unable to keep it steady, this might indicate that you’re pushing yourself too hard and you need to rest.

Popular Yoga Poses

When you think of this exercise there are some popular yoga poses that spring to mind. Usually, we hear these names dropped in movies or television shows but aren’t aware of just what’s involved. The most popular pose by far would be a downward facing dog which offers a stretch for your entire body, and here’s how you can achieve it.

Woman Doing Downward Facing Dog Yoga Pose

Start on your map on hands and knees, keeping your knees in line below your hips and your hands just slightly ahead of your shoulders. Exhale and slowly lift your knees from the floor as you keep them bent.

Lengthen your tailbone and lift your sitting bones up and towards the ceiling, then exhale and stretch your heels so that they’re flat on the ground as you straighten your knees. Firm your outer thighs and arms and bring your shoulder blades in towards your back. Now widen the shoulder blades and draw them into your tailbone, ensuring your head is kept face down but between your upper arms.

Standing Yoga Poses

These standing yoga poses usually act as a foundation for other moves, and they’re great at improving your overall posture. Mountain Pose is perhaps the most popular of standing moves, and quite easy to master.

Women Doing Yoga Outside Next to The Ocean

Start in a standing position on your mat and keep your feet hip-width apart. Spread out your toes and put them on the floor so that they provide a solid anchor for your body. Pick up your kneecaps and squeeze your thighs tight, ensuring that your hips are lined up over your ankles.

As you inhale, lift your body up by the crown of the head and imagine that it’s trying to reach the ceiling. Exhale now and drop your shoulders down to the floor, imagining your fingers are reaching for the floor also. Inhale again and draw your arms up, turning your palms out, and making an H shape with your body.

Exhale, relax your shoulders, but keep your crown and fingers stretched to the ceiling. Breathe for 4-8 breaths as you hold the pose and then exhale to bring your arms back down to your side.

Yoga Twists

Known for their ability to help with lower back pain and aid digestion, yoga twists can be either simple or hard to achieve. These poses help to stretch your hips, shoulders, and spine, so they’re effective in pain relief especially. Bharadvaja’s Twist is a simple yoga twist that can be performed even by beginners.

Woman Exercising Bharadvajas Twist Yoga Pose

Sit on your mat and keep your legs straight in front of you. Place your weight on your right buttock, bend your knees, and move your legs to the left of your body. Rest your left ankle in the right arch of your foot and lay your feet outside of your left hip. Inhale and lengthen your torso, then exhale and twist to the right. Lengthen your tailbone to the floor and keep your belly relaxed.

Tuck your left hand under your right knee as you press your right hand into the floor next to your buttocks. Pull your left shoulder back gently and press the shoulder blades against your back as you twist. From here, you can twist your torso to the right or left to achieve a different stretch.

Each time you inhale, lift more through your sternum so that you twist more with each breath. Hold the pose for a minute and release as you exhale so that you can return to the start position. Repeat these moves again on the opposite side.

Forward Bends

Just as the name suggests, forward bends involve bringing your body forward to achieve a deep stretch. These moves are great for improving flexibility in your lower body as well and helping you to achieve alignment. The Bound Angle Pose is performed sitting down and can open up your hips significantly.

Woman Doing Bound Angle Yoga Pose

Start by sitting on your mat with your legs straight in front of you. As you exhale, bend your knees and pull your heels in towards your pelvis. Press your feet together and let your knees drop to the sides. Pull your heels in together to your pelvis and grab your big toe with each hand.

Sit so that your perineum is parallel to the floor and your pelvis is kept neutral. Keep your shoulder blades first against your back and pull your torso up to lengthen it. Release your thigh bones towards the floor and allow your knees to gently follow. Keep this pose for a few minutes and inhale to lift your knees up from the floor and back in front of you.

Restorative Yoga Poses

These restorative yoga poses are essential for coming back to base and spending some time to calm your body and mind. Child’s Pose is a popular restorative pose which massages internal organs and increases blood circulation.

Woman Doing Yoga Child Pose

As you kneel down onto your mat, make sure your big toes are together and touching. Sit back onto your heels and separate your knees so that they’re hip-width apart. Exhale and lay down so that your torso is resting in between your thighs. Narrow your hip bones and widen your pelvis so that your hips can nestle into your inner thighs too.

Draw your tailbone back and away from your pelvis as you also lift your skull from your beck. With palms down, place your hands on the floor on either side of you and allow your shoulders to gently drop towards the floor. Hold the pose for a minimum of 30 seconds to enjoy its restorative powers.

Yoga Poses For Two People

If you’re tired of practicing alone and want to try yoga poses for two people, there are some great partner poses available. These can be performed with your lover, friend, or partner in a class, and they’re a great way to connect with someone else through the power of yoga. Triple Hill is a simple partner pose that allows you to gaze deeply into someone else’s eyes.

Two Girls Exercising Yoga For Two

Start by facing your partner on the mat, standing a foot apart from each other. Both of you should raise your hands over your heads so that your palms are touching, keeping your arms shoulder-width apart. With your palms together, slowly walk backward at the same time so that your hips are aligned over your heels and your foreheads are together.

Keep your cores tightened and arch your back so that you achieve a deep stretch in your chest, shoulders, and hamstring. Hold the pose for five breaths and then lower your heads down together so that your chin touches your chest.

Hold this again for five breaths until you’ve achieved an adequate stretch in your neck. Lift your heads back up as you look at each other and then slowly walk together until you’re both standing upright again.

Yoga Balance Poses

There are many yoga balance poses that work at improving your natural ability to balance, which can then be used to perform all other poses. The handstand is a common yoga pose that also forms parts of other poses, so it’s a great beginner move to master.

Woman Exercising Yoga Handstand

Start with the downward facing dog pose to ready yourself. Rotate your upper arms outward and your outer arms inward. Spread your fingers out and push your index finger into the floor firmly.

Bend your left knee and step in towards the wall to launch yourself up. Sweep your right leg around in an arc and bring it up towards the wall with your other. Engage your core muscles as you pull your hips up over your shoulders. At first, you may only be able to hop up and down without achieving a handstand, but practice makes perfect.

Once you can get into the pose completely, you should try to stay there for at least 15 seconds as you breathe deeply. The more experienced you become, the longer you can hold the pose until you’re able to stay for a full minute. Ensure you take turns with each leg as the kicking off leg so that your body stays balanced in strength.

A Yoga Pose For Every Occasion

Thanks to the unique diversity of this traditional exercise system, there is literally a pose to suit every need and occasion. Whether you’re looking to provide yourself with pain relieving moves or just want to improve your core strength, it’s simple to find a pose to suit what you’re after.

Woman Doing Upward Facing Dog Yoga Pose

As you learn the various poses and master the alignment and breathing, you’ll find even more benefits from these moves. Yoga can always pose a new challenge for the participant, so there’s no need to feel bored with traditional poses once you have them mastered.

There is always a way to make something harder or easier depending on your needs, adding again to the versatility of this amazing system. Whether you want to incorporate props and equipment or let your own body do the work, there’s so much enjoyment to be had experimenting with these cool yoga poses.

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