7 Easy Yoga Poses For Beginners

Illustrated by: Paola Delucca
The benefits of yoga are constantly touted by fitness gurus and scientific researchers alike: practicing yoga has been linked to reducing stress, boosting flexibility, an even helping with back pain. We know you've heard this before — and yet, we also know how intimidating it can be to walk into a class full of headstand pros.

For a lot of people, yoga's reputation as an elite club for the effortlessly bendy and hopelessly Zen keeps them from ever trying a class. But it doesn't have to be this way.

"The yoga you see in [certain] magazines aren’t the reality of 95% of the people practicing yoga," Andrew Tanner, chief ambassador for Yoga Alliance, tells Refinery29. "Because people associate the look of the poses with yoga, they assume that their bodies will never do those things and therefore they’re not good at yoga."

The most important thing to know about yoga, Tanner adds, is that many of the benefits come from the focus on your breath and your body's abilities, not about how well you can do a fancy pose.

Plus, you don't even need to go to an actual class to do yoga — there are plenty of moves that you can do at home.

With that in mind, we got Laura Ahrens of Ahrens Yoga (and author of Mat As Mirror) to show us a few key yoga moves that are great for anyone who's just starting out. These poses are best done in order, but you're welcome to mix it up once you get the hang of them. Doing five of these moves for just 10 minutes in the morning (holding each for 30 seconds to a minute and breathing) can work wonders for your stress levels, strength, and flexibility.

You don't even have to do them every day — start with just two or three times a week. Click ahead to check out some moves that might turn you into a yogi.
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Illustrated by: Paola Delucca
Upward Salute

Every yoga pose starts somewhere, and this is the perfect move to get you centered and to build the foundation for the rest of the moves you'll be learning.

How-to: Start in a standing pose. Inhale, and stretch the arms up alongside the ears.
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Illustrated by: Paola Delucca
Forward fold

How-to: Fold forward over the legs. If the hamstrings are tight, the low back is tender, or the floor feels far away, bend the knees. Keep the spine lengthening towards the earth by reaching the collarbones towards the floor, pressing the shoulder blades into the chest. Feel the sit bones and sacrum reaching up skywards. Relax the neck. Breathe out to initiate this pose.
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Illustrated by: Paola Delucca
Plank Pose

The plank pose is a great starting point for any beginner.

How-to: Stack the shoulders right over the wrists and stand strongly onto the balls of the feet, pressing the heels back in space to energize the legs.

To tailor this pose to meet your growing strength or to respect an injury or sensitivity, put the knees down on the ground for more support underneath the pelvis so you can grow this pose organically over time.
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Illustrated by: Paola Delucca
Cobra Pose

This is a great beginner's pose for anyone looking to counteract the effects of sitting for hours at a desk job, Ahrens says.

How-to: Lie face-down on the ground with the tops of the feet pressing into the floor. Place the hands underneath the elbows or slightly forward and press down into the floor equally from toe to toe.

Lift the chest up away from the ground and roll the heads of your shoulders away from the floor so that the chest can open. Press down through the tops of the feet to root and anchor.
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Illustrated by: Paola Delucca
Downward-Facing Dog

"This posture is considered foundational to the yoga practice," Ahrens says. "It might feel challenging, as it has many components that are complicated and require integration," she admits, but again, keep in mind that it's not about making it look perfect.

As a beginner, your heels may not reach all the way to the floor, but as long as they're reaching toward the floor, you're doing it right.

How-to: Starting from the cobra's pose, tuck or curl your toes under and use the strength of the arms to push the hips up and back.

Strengthen through the arms, pressing the hands into the ground and pushing the forearms forward.

Spread the fingers generously but keep some softness about the webbing. Press down through all parts of the palm, especially the index finger knuckle and thumb, to protect the wrists. Be sure the wrist creases are parallel to the front edge of the mat space — make that your focus, rather than trying to direct any particular finger to point forward.
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Illustrated by: Paola Delucca
Modified Low Push-Up

The modified low push-up is a bit more of a challenge for when you're ready, Ahrens says. It's a position in which a plank pose is shifted forward and the elbows bend to hover the shape up off of the floor.

How-to: Come to plank pose and place the knees on the ground right under where they were hovering previously.

Next, slowly bend the elbows until they are in line with the ribs, tracking straight back from the shoulders so the elbows just barely graze the rib cage and are not trapped underneath it or splaying out to the sides.

Broaden through the collarbones (imagine the sensation of pressing the elbows back in space) to keep the chest open. Roll the shoulder and head up, away from the ground.
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Illustrated by: Paola Delucca
Child’s Pose

"This posture is excellent for resting or for coming back to center and equilibrium," Ahrens says.

How-to: From a kneeling starting position with the knees on the floor, sit the hips back to the heels and ground the forehead to a block, blanket, or to the mat. If you’re working with a knee injury or sensitivity, place a blanket underneath the knees to protect them from the hardness of the floor or roll a blanket or place a bolster between the calves and thighs to increase the angle of the knee joint.
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