Every yoga discipline is different in what asanas (positions) they use, and how they use them. Some forms require a set series of predetermined poses, while others are more adaptable. What they all have in common are the asanas themselves: the library of postures that form the basis of hatha yoga styles.
In this article, we’ll be discussing five of the most commonly used asanas among yoga styles, so that you can be a little better prepared for your first day in a yoga class.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
The simplest of positions, many yoga classes start in mountain pose, and with good reason. It’s a neutral pose that opens up your airways and makes it easy to transition to other poses. Here’s how it’s achieved.
Begin with your feet either together, or shoulder-width apart. Leave your arms by your sides, but turn your palms toward the front of the room. Keep your back straight—roll your shoulders back, stand up straight, and lift your head. Relax your jaw and face muscles, pull in your stomach, and breathe. This is where it all begins.
Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
This one is easy to transition to from mountain pose, though it may take some practice to find your balance. Start in Mountain pose, and find a fixed point of reference to stare at to assist with your balance. Then, shift your weight to your left foot, and bring your right foot up to rest either on your shin or your inner thigh on your left (pro tip: don’t place it on your knee). From there, bring your hands in front of your chest in a prayer position. Congratulations! You’re in tree pose.
The primary benefit of this pose is practicing and improving your balance. A lot of the more advanced positions in yoga require you to be stable on your feet (or just one foot), and this is a simple way to get better at that.
Adho Mukho Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
The names of asanas, even the english names, are not usually well known outside of those who use them. Downward dog is an exception, for some reason. It seems everyone’s heard of it. Part of that may be due to its simplicity. Here’s how you do it.
Start on all fours, and slowly move your hands out in front of you. Turn your arms so that your biceps are facing inward. Stretch your hips up and out, keeping your knees bent if your hamstrings are too tight. If you can, push with your thighs as if pressing them against the wall.
This position is an excellent stretch for your spine and hamstrings. It can also slow your heart rate and help you relax.
Balasana (Child Pose)
Not all poses are intended to give you a workout. Child pose is designed specifically to help you relax and to ease strain in your hip, back, and neck. Getting into it is fairly straightforward: start by kneeling down, and resting your hips on your heels. Then lean forward and press your forehead against the mat. Finally, stretch your arms out in front of you, with palms touching the mat.
Get used to this position; you’ll likely be returning to it often.
Setu bandha sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
A slightly more advanced pose, the bridge pose stretches your spine, opens your hips and chest, and can improve flexibility on all three fronts. It’s most easily achieved from the corpse pose (lying flat on your back with arms at your sides). First, bring your arms past your head, then place your palms against the mat. From there, lift yourself up, pushing your belly button towards the ceiling.
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t stretch very far at first. Flexibility comes with practice.
And there you have it: some of the most frequently used asanas in yoga. Hopefully, this rundown will help you get started on your journey towards yoga-fueled fitness. Remember to wear an outfit that promotes flexibility and movement (and comfort). And don’t forget, yoga is a journey, not a destination.