Basic Yoga Poses: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced

Yoga can reduce stress, increase flexibility, and help people maintain a healthy weight. There are many simple yoga poses that beginners can benefit from.

Basic poses like the kid pose and the cat cow pose are good options for those new to yoga. Over time, regular yoga practice will increase a person’s strength, balance, and flexibility. An individual can then try intermediate poses, which will be an additional challenge.

Advanced yoga poses, like Headstand, don’t have to be rushed. Trying difficult poses early on could increase the risk of injury. A person should start with poses that they are comfortable with. As they progress, they will gain the strength and flexibility to safely try these poses.

Read on to learn more about basic, intermediate, and advanced yoga poses.

If someone is new to yoga, they should be familiar with a few basic poses. Developing a solid foundation is essential for safe progress in a person’s yoga practice.

Some beginner yoga poses that a person can try include:

Child posture

Child pose is a comfortable position that releases tension in the back, shoulders and neck.

  1. Kneel down with the big toes touching. The knees can be close together or wide, depending on a person’s comfort level.
  2. Sit with your hips on your heels, resting your forehead on the mat.
  3. Extend your arms forward or down to the sides.

Modification: If the forehead is not touching the floor, reposition the arms in front of the body. Rest your head on your arms or use a pillow for extra support.

Corpse pose

yoga cadaver pose

The corpse pose is a relaxing position that calms the body and mind. It’s a great way to end a yoga session.

  1. Lie down gently on your back with your arms straight out to each side.
  2. Press the pelvis down to the floor and extend the legs.
  3. Take deep, slow breaths.
  4. Relax completely and remain in the pose for several minutes.

Modification: Place a pillow, blanket, or yoga block under the knees to relieve lower back pain. Use an eye mask or eye pillow to block sunlight and relax.

Cat-Cow Pose

Yoga teachers often combine the cat pose and the cow pose in one fluid motion. The movement helps to increase the flexibility of the spine and to release tension in the back and shoulders.

yoga pose on table
  1. Place your knees and hands on the mat.
  2. Keep the hands directly under the shoulders and spread the fingers apart.
  3. Keep the knees directly below the hips and place the tops of the feet on the mat.
  4. Tilt the chin towards the chest so that the spine and neck are straight and aligned.
  5. On an inhale, drop your stomach and arch your back looking forward.
  6. When exhaling, round your back, drop your head and tuck your stomach in.

Modification: If your knees hurt, use a thicker blanket or yoga mat for extra cushioning. If your wrists start to hurt, make a fist. This will take some of the pressure off.

These poses are suitable for people who are a bit more advanced in their yoga practice and build on the basics established with the beginner poses. Intermediate poses further improve a person’s balance, flexibility, and core strength.

Some of these poses include:

Tree laying

The pose of the tree calls into question the balance of a person. It strengthens the leg muscles while engaging the trunk.

  1. Stand up straight and find a focal point to maintain balance.
  2. Shift the weight to the left foot and begin to bring the right foot to the inside of the left thigh.
  3. Keep a slight flexion of the left leg all the time.
  4. Press the right foot against the inside of the left thigh.
  5. Push the left thigh against the right foot for more stability.
  6. Place the palms together in front of the chest or elevate them above the head.
  7. Repeat on the other side when you are ready.

Modification: If a person cannot hold the pose or has difficulty bringing the foot to the inside of the thigh, they may instead place the foot on the side of their shin. Do not put your foot on the knee.

Rested half-pigeon pose

The rested half-pigeon pose is a deep stretch that releases tension in the hips.

  1. Start laying on the table. Bring the right knee to the right wrist.
  2. Push the left leg back so that it is extended and straight.
  3. Move the right shin so that it is parallel to the top of the mat.
  4. Bring your hands in front of the mat and rest your forehead on the floor, or rest your head on a pillow or blanket if it is difficult to reach the floor.
  5. Repeat on the other side when you are ready.

Modification: If a person has trouble with this pose, they can try bending their back leg.

Boat pose

The boat pose strengthens the trunk and hip flexors while challenging a person’s balance.

  1. Sit on the mat. Bring your knees up to your chest, keeping your feet together on the mat.
  2. Inhale and contract the abdominal muscles.
  3. Begin rolling back over the sacrum (the middle of the back of the pelvis).
  4. Exhale and hold the back of the thighs to support yourself. Start lifting the feet off the mat.
  5. Inhale and extend your arms out in front of the body. Slowly lie down and extend your legs at a 45 degree angle to the floor.
  6. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths.

Modification: If a person finds it difficult to hold this pose, they can keep their feet on the ground.

When people have built a solid foundation of experience, strength, balance, and flexibility, they can be ready to try advanced yoga poses.

Some of these poses include:

Firefly pose

The firefly pose strengthens the trunk, arms and wrists. It also builds core strength and improves balance.

  1. Stand still with your feet hip-width apart. Descend into a low squat.
  2. Place the hands shoulder-width apart just behind the feet. Spread your fingers apart and place your hands firmly on the floor.
  3. Shift the weight onto the hands and lift the hips. Then lift the legs off the ground.
  4. Stay in the pose for a few breaths, then come back down.

Supported pear tree installation

The supported pear tree pose strengthens the shoulders and trunk while lowering blood pressure. People with neck or back injuries, high blood pressure, and those who are pregnant should avoid this pose.

  1. Starting with the tabletop pose, place the forearms on the floor. Tie the fingertips together.
  2. Place the top of the head on the floor between the hands and use the palms to support the head.
  3. Lift the knees. Slowly bring your feet up to your head. Inhale and transfer the weight to the hands and forearms, but not to the head.
  4. Exhale, engage the trunk and thighs and lift the feet. Press the feet above the head, stacking the feet on the hips.
  5. Hold for several breaths, then lower the feet in control.

Modification: For more stability, try this pose against a wall when you are starting out.

Research suggests that people who practice yoga regularly may experience health benefits. However, more research is needed to fully understand these benefits.

It’s also important to note that while much of the research shows a correlation between yoga and health benefits, it doesn’t show that yoga leads to health benefits.

People who practice yoga may see improvements in the following areas:

Pain management

A 2017 study found that yoga was similar to physical therapy in treating chronic lower back pain. This randomized controlled trial studied 320 adults of various races mostly from low-income backgrounds.

These findings suggest that people with chronic low back pain might benefit from structured yoga classes, alongside physical therapy and education, as part of an effective treatment plan.

Learn more about the poses that help relieve back pain.

Weight management

Introducing yoga as part of a weight management program can help a person maintain a moderate weight. According to a Study 2021, Vinyasa, and Hatha yoga were equally effective in helping obese people manage their weight.

However, it is important to note that the participants in this study also ate a diet low in calories and fat. It is likely that this also contributed to their weight loss.

Mental Health

Yoga supporters promote its many benefits for mental health, and some research supports their claims.

Recently, researchers wanted to know if mental health clinicians can use yoga as a complementary treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). A Study 2021 examined the benefits of Kundalini yoga, a type of yoga involving singing and breathing exercises. While yoga reduced the symptoms of GAD, it was not as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

As a result, yoga cannot replace CBT as the first-line treatment for GAD. However, it may be suitable as an additional treatment in some cases.

Learn more about the benefits of yoga for body and mind.

Basic yoga poses are a great introduction to yoga. They help people develop the strength and flexibility needed for more complex and physically demanding positions.

If a person has any underlying health issues or is recovering from a wrist or back injury, they should talk to their doctor or health care professional before starting yoga.

If a person practices yoga frequently, they can experience mental and physical health benefits.

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