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12 Basic yoga poses for beginners

Maggie Giuffrida is a graduate of The University of Arizona where she earned a degree in journalism. She is a contributing writer for SheKnows, specializing in health and fitness. Maggie is a certified yoga instructor and health and well...

From newbie to yogi!

Am I wearing the right clothes? Why are these blocks made of foam? What language is she speaking? And do I really have to "OM?"

Those were a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind when I stepped barefoot into a yoga class for the very first time. Between the poses, props and pranayama, I was more than a little perplexed by this practice they called an "asana."

Nearly 10 years, too many classes and one instructor certification later, I feel pretty confident in saying that almost all yogis, both young and old, have shared these same sentiments. Trying something new is always a bit intimidating, even when it comes to yoga. But it's important to remember that regardless of how long you have (or haven't) been practicing, we all come to class with the same intention — to better our mind, body and soul.

So if you're just starting out, kudos to you! Welcome to the world of yoga, and here are 12 basic poses for you to do!

1. Mountain pose

From newbie to yogi!

Standing straight up, feet about hips-width distance apart, let your hands hang alongside your body, palms facing forward to receive more energy, or bring your hands to a prayer position at your heart. Gently closing your eyes, begin taking deep breaths in and out through your nose, releasing any tension in the body and face and calming the mind.

2. Downward-facing dog

From newbie to yogi!

From mountain pose, reach your hands down to the floor, bending your knees if need be. Walk your hands out about three to four feet in front of your toes. Pushing into your palms, lift your hips up toward the sky and press back into your heels, pressing them flat into the ground. Keep your gaze toward your legs and continue pressing your chest toward your thighs to create a nice flat back.

3. Plank pose

From newbie to yogi!

From downward-facing dog, press up onto your tiptoes, and rolling over them, come into a high push-up position. Hold here for a few deep breaths, making sure your wrists are directly in line under your shoulders, heels are lifted towards the sky and hips are lowered and in line with the rest of your body. Keep your gaze a few inches in front of your finger tips, creating one straight line with your head, neck and back.

4. Cobra

From newbie to yogi!

From plank pose, slowly lower your body down to the ground either by lowering your knees, chest and then chin, or lowering straight down through the push-up position (chaturanga). Press your palms into your mat alongside your chest, roll your shoulders back and begin to lift your chest up off the ground while keeping your hips firmly planted. Keep a slight bend in the shoulders to avoid injuries.

5. Child's pose

From newbie to yogi!

Sitting back on your heels, keep your big toes connected as you separate your knees about mat-width distance apart. From here, begin to walk your finger tips forward until you can't reach any further. Once you are there, begin to lower your forehead and chest down to the floor while your hips continue to push back onto your heels, releasing any tension and allowing your body and mind to relax.

6. Warrior 2

From newbie to yogi!

From downward-facing dog position, step your right foot through and rest it in between your hands at the top of your mat, aligning your front heel with the inside of your back foot (front toes should be facing the front of the room, while the back toes are facing the side). Keeping a deep bend in the front knee and making sure the knee is directly in line with your ankle, cartwheel your arms up as you raise your chest off your thigh, reaching your arms in opposite directions. Hips face the side of the room while your gaze remains over your right shoulder, toward the front of the room.

7. Triangle pose

From newbie to yogi!

From warrior 2, keep your feet where they are and extend your front leg so that it's nice and straight. Reach your front fingertips as far forward as they can go and when you can't reach any further, slowly move them to come down to the ground, resting alongside your front ankle. Raise your back hand up toward the sky, following it with your gaze.

8. Tree pose

From newbie to yogi!

Starting off in mountain pose, clasp your hands around your right knee and bring it in toward your chest. From here, grab a hold of your right ankle and rest the inside of your foot along the inside of your supporting leg, either up above the knee on the thigh, or down below the knee along your calf. Bring your hands to a prayer position at your heart or raise them up towards the sky, creating branches with your arms. Hold for four-eight breaths.

*Note: Make sure to avoid resting your foot directly on your knee cap as this can lead to injuries.

9. Seated forward bend

From newbie to yogi!

Sitting on your mat with your feet stretched out in front of you, reach your hands up toward the sky and begin to hinge forward at your hips, allowing your arms to drop toward the ground, reaching forward to your toes. When you can't reach any further, plant your palms and lower your forehead down toward your legs, with your nose toward your knees.

10. Seated twist pose

From newbie to yogi!

Again, sitting straight up with your feet extended out in front of you, bend your right knee and bring it in toward your chest, crossing it over your left leg and pressing your right foot in to the ground. Either keep your left leg extended out in front of you, or for more of a twist, bend it underneath your body in the opposite direction. Taking your left arm to the outside of your bent right knee, begin to twist to your right, bringing your gaze over your right shoulder and toward the back of the room.

11. Bridge pose

From newbie to yogi!

Lying flat on your back, arms by your sides, feet out in front of you, bend your knees, pressing into your feet and bringing your heels as close to your bottom as you can get them. With your palms pressing into the floor, lift your hips off the ground and up toward the sky. Hold here for four-eight breaths, continuing to push through the feet and lifting the hips as high as you can get them. When releasing, gently and slowly roll your spine back down to the floor, one vertebra at a time.

12. Savasana (relaxation)

From newbie to yogi!

Lying flat on your back, arms by your side, legs extended out in front of you, allow your palms to face up to the sky and feet to turn out to the opposite sides of the room. Close your eyes and release any tension from your hands, feet, face and body. Try to bring your focus back to your breath, taking deep inhales and exhales through the nose. Lay here for a few minutes, thanking your mind and body for all the hard work it just did!

From newbie to yogi!

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