One of the greatest aspects of yoga is the idea that we can take the lessons learned on the mat off the mat. Sure, you might lose weight, tone up, or become more flexible, but the deeper things you learn on the mat, like focus and strength, can be translated into your daily life in a variety of ways. Take my story for example.

The Power of the Poses

I have always been pretty strong. However, I have also been incredibly shy my entire life, and those two things never seemed to go together. But when I started to practice the poses, I suddenly found myself feeling strength in talking with others that I never had before. This change became apparent to me the first time I stood in front of a class full of students and taught yoga. It was then that I found my new voice, which was not the shaky one I always had since I was a shy young girl. It was the one that matched the strength of my body. Suddenly, all that I had learned on the mat spilled into my personal and professional lives. While this took years of practice to find, it is the reason I believe so strongly in the power of the poses.

This power is also why the poses tend to be the core of many yoga practices today. Practitioners use the movement of their bodies to learn the subtle and not-so-subtle lessons in life. As long as you can move your body in some form or another, even if it’s just to sit comfortably and breathe, then you too can learn these. But to really grasp these lessons from the yoga poses, there are five key things to take note of as you move on your mat:

BREATH: Are you still breathing? Is it forced, or can you maintain that smooth, even ujjayi breath?

ALIGNMENT: Is your body properly aligned in the pose?

Are your limbs in the right place?

ATTENTION: Where is your attention? Are you thinking about what you are going to have for dinner? Or, are you focused on relaxing the parts of your body that need to relax and engaging those that need to work?

GAZE: Where are you looking? Are you looking at the clock wondering if it’s over yet, or are you focused on a singular point that’s appropriate for the pose?

TRANSITIONS: What are you doing to get to the next pose? Are you moving mindfully with intention, or are you flopping out of the last pose quickly get to the next?

It might seem overwhelming to focus on these five things as you’re learning the poses. It will get easier with practice, and soon you will reap the wide range of benefits that yoga has to offer you.

Practicing the Poses

The following pages describe 36 essential poses. They are meant to teach the fundamentals from which other more advanced poses can be built upon. Learning and practicing these poses prepares you to move on to other ones.

I have broken down the poses into these four sections:

  1. Warm-Up
  • Standing Poses
  • Back Bends
  • Cooldown

Under each pose you will find several different categories, most of which are self-explanatory. The Preceding pose is like the warm-up to the described pose, and the Counterpose is the cooldown to the pose.

CorpseCorpse  PosePose

The Essential Yoga Poses 1
  1. Lie on your back. Place your arms alongside you, palms face up. Stretch out your legs, slightly spread apart so that you’re com-fortable, straight in front of you on the ground.
  • Let your feet flop out to the side naturally.
  • Let your body be heavy. Relax completely.

GAZE: Close your eyes.

PRECEDING POSES: At the beginning of practice, none. At the end of practice, everything.

COUNTERPOSES: All poses

PRECAUTIONS: To modify to avoid lower back pain, you can place a blanket or bolster underneath your knees.

TIP: Relax your jaw and let your tongue fall away from the roof of your mouth to help settle deeper into the pose.

ReclinedReclined  TwistsTwists

The Essential Yoga Poses 2
  1. Lie on your back in Savasana. Bend your right knee and draw it into your chest. Keep your left leg relaxed on the ground.
  • Let your right knee fall over to the left to create a twist. Your right arm can come out to the right. Twist only as far as you can while keeping the right shoulder on the floor.
  • If it doesn’t strain your neck, turn your head to the right. Repeat on the other side.

GAZE: Toward the ceiling or, if neck is turned, to the side

PRECEDING POSES: Savasana

COUNTERPOSES: Knees into Chest

PRECAUTIONS: If the twist bothers your lower back, try placing a block under the bent knee once you’re in the twist. This will prevent you from placing strain on your lower back.

TIP: Another version of this twist is to do it with both knees bent.

DownDown  DogDog

The Essential Yoga Poses 3
  1. Come to your hands and knees. Spread your fingers wide. Make sure your hands are shoulder-distance apart and the creases of your wrists are parallel to the front of the mat.
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back to create a “V” shape with your body.
  • Straighten your arms and roll the inner part of the elbow forward while pressing evenly through all ten fingers. Press your heels toward the mat.
  • Spin your inner thighs toward the back wall so that your heels disappear behind your second and third toes.

GAZE: Between your feet or at your navel

PRECEDING POSES: Cat/Cow,

Plank, Forward Fold

COUNTERPOSES: Mountain pose, Extended Mountain pose

PRECAUTIONS: If this pose pulls too tightly on your hamstrings or bothers your lower back, bend your knees to create a sense of ease.

TIP: Don’t worry if your heels do not reach the ground quite yet. One day they will get there. Keep pressing evenly into your hands. Press your heels toward the mat.

Mountain  Pose

The Essential Yoga Poses 4
  1. Stand at the front of your mat, your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart. Spread the weight evenly through all four corners of your feet.
  • Stand up tall. Spin your inner thighs toward the back wall. Engage your belly and draw your navel in. Relax your shoulders.
  • Let your arms relax along-side you. Your palms should face toward your body.

GAZE: Forward

PRECEDING POSES: Savasana

COUNTERPOSES: Down

Dog, Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: None

TIP: This is a great time to focus inward on an intention for your practice. This can be one word or a simple mantra.

Extended  Mountain  Pose

The Essential Yoga Poses 5
  1. From Mountain pose, turn your palms to face away from you. Reach through your fingertips.
  • Keep your elbows straight and slowly circle arms up overhead. Bring your palms together to touch above you, slightly in front of your head.
  • Stand up tall. Spin your inner thighs toward the wall behind you and draw your navel in.
The Essential Yoga Poses 6

GAZE: Up toward the space between your hands

PRECEDING POSES:

Mountain pose, Savasana

COUNTERPOSES: Standing

Forward Fold, Down Dog

PRECAUTIONS: If you have any shoulder issues, keep a little bend in your elbows or do not lift your arms at all.

TIP: If your palms do not yet touch with straight arms, stop at the point where your elbows want to bend. Then, keep working on straightening through your elbows and reaching through your fingertips. This will help open your shoulders, and one day your palms will touch with straight arms.

StandingStanding  ForwardForward  FoldFold

The Essential Yoga Poses 7
  1. From Extended Moun-tain pose, reach your arms out to the side like a “T.” Fold at your hips with a flat back.
  • Keep leading with your chest as you continue to fold. When you cannot go any further, release your hands toward the ground.
  • Relax your neck. Shift your weight from your heels to the middle of your feet.

GAZE: Eyes closed or toward knees

PRECEDING POSES: Mountain pose, Seated Forward Fold

COUNTERPOSES: Cobra, Sphinx

PRECAUTIONS: If you have any lower back issues, bend your knees.

TIP: Do not worry if your hands don’t reach the ground. Keep practicing, and one day they will touch.

HalfHalf  ForwardForward  FoldFold

The Essential Yoga Poses 8
  1. From Standing Forward Fold, inhale and lift your torso. Imagine doing Cow pose here. Let your belly drop and your heart lift.
  • If this is difficult to achieve with your hands on the ground, let them slide up your legs until you can open your chest and take any rounding out of your back.
  • Keep the neck and spine long.

GAZE: Forward to a spot in front of your mat

PRECEDING POSES: Standing Forward Fold, Seated Forward Fold, Cobra, Up Dog

COUNTERPOSES: Standing

Forward Fold, Plank

PRECAUTIONS: If there is tightness in the hamstrings or this bothers your lower back, bend your knees.

TIP: Do not just lift your head here; work to find a tiny back bend in your upper back. Imagine pulling your spine through your chest.

Plank

The Essential Yoga Poses 9
  1. Come to your hands and knees. Tighten your belly muscles so that your back is flat and parallel to the ground. Extend your legs behind you. Tuck your toes under so that you end up in a push-up position.
  • Press evenly through

all ten fingers and spin the inside of your elbows for-ward. Draw your lower belly in to avoid dropping your hips. Without moving your hips or legs, gently press your thighs toward the ceil-ing to engage them.

  • Press your heels back as if you’re trying to step on the wall behind you. At the same time, draw your chest forward to lengthen your spine. Hold.

GAZE: Top of mat or tip of nose

PRECEDING POSES:

Mountain pose

COUNTERPOSES: Down Dog,

Cobra, Up Dog, Chaturanga

PRECAUTIONS: If your wrists are sensitive, you can come to your forearms and do the pose there.

TIP: If the pose is too difficult to hold and your lower belly starts to drop toward the ground, lower your knees directly below you, but do not lift your hips up.

FourFour–LimbedLimbed  StaStaffff

The Essential Yoga Poses 10
  1. Start in Plank position.
  • Shift your body forward so that your shoulders are in front of your wrists.
  • Hug your elbows in toward your ribs and bend them to a 90-degree angle. Keep the rest of your body in Plank position.

GAZE: Front of mat

PRECEDING POSES:

Plank, Mountain pose

COUNTERPOSES: Up Dog, Cobra

PRECAUTIONS: If you have shoulder issues or you’re still building the strength in your arms, keep your knees on the mat. Never let your shoulders drop below the height of your elbows.

TIP: To perfect your Chaturanga, try using a strap. Make a loop in the strap so that when it’s flat, the edges of the loop hit the edges of your shoulders. Place the loop around your arms just above your elbows. Shift forward and bend the elbows to a 90-degree angle. You will know you’ve hit 90 when the strap hits your sternum and reaches across your rib cage.

Cobra

The Essential Yoga Poses 11
  1. Lie facedown on your mat. Bend your elbows and place your hands alongside your lower ribs so that your elbows are stacked directly over your wrists.
  • Press the tops of your feet into the mat. Roll your inner thighs toward the ceiling as you hug your outer ankles in. Relax your glutes.
  • On an inhale, press

into your hands and use the muscles of your lower back to lift your chest off the ground. Keep your shoulders relaxed away from your ears as you draw them back and down. Start to work your arms toward straight, but stop as soon as you feel your shoul-ders bunching up toward your ears.

GAZE: Slightly up

PRECEDING POSES: Plank,

Chaturanga, Sphinx,

Half Forward Fold

COUNTERPOSES: Down Dog,

Standing Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: If you have lower back issues, keep your chest low and do not fully straighten your arms.

TIP: This pose can be a pretty deep back bend if you straighten your arms all the way. Only lift so high that you can keep your chest wide and your shoulders relaxed. FYI: I’ve been practicing for a long time, and I still don’t straighten my arms all the way in this pose.

UpUp  DogDog

The Essential Yoga Poses 12
  1. Lie facedown on your mat. Bend your elbows and place your hands alongside your lower ribs so that your elbows are stacked directly over your wrists.
  • Press the tops of your feet into the mat. Roll your inner thighs toward the ceiling as you hug your outer ankles in. Relax your glutes.
  • On an inhale, press

into your hands to fully straighten your arms. Keep pressing the tops of your feet into the mat so that your thighs lift off the ground. Keep your shoul-ders relaxed away from your ears as you draw them back and down.

GAZE: Slightly up

PRECEDING POSES: Cobra, Sphinx

COUNTERPOSES: Down Dog,

Standing Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: If you have any lower back issues, stick to Cobra with the arms bent.

TIP: Make sure to engage your legs here so that you don’t let the weight of your body sink into your lower back.

Warrior  I

The Essential Yoga Poses 13
  1. Stand at the front of your mat. Take a big step back with your left foot. Line up the heel of your right foot with the inside edge of your left foot. Turn your left toes slightly forward toward the left-front corner of your mat. Make sure your right toes point straight ahead.
  • Bend your right knee, working toward getting your thigh parallel to the mat. At the same time, press the pinky-side edge of your left foot into the mat and keep straightening through your left leg. Spin your left inner thigh toward the back of the room.
  • Extend your arms over-head. If elbows are straight, you can touch your palms

together; otherwise, keep

the arms apart. Spin your

left ribs forward to square

off your chest with the front

of the room. Repeat on the

other side.

GAZE: If palms are touching, gaze up toward your hands. If not, keep a soft gaze looking forward.

PRECEDING POSES: Low

Lunge, Crescent

COUNTERPOSES: Down Dog,

Standing Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: To protect your knees, always keep your front bent knee directly over your ankle.

TIP: It is more important to keep the back leg straight than to get the front thigh parallel to the mat. Keep rooting down through the pinky side of the back foot and straightening the back leg. If you can keep that leg straight, then you can bend deeper into the front thigh.

Chair

The Essential Yoga Poses 14
  1. Stand at the top of your mat in Mountain pose.
  • Bend your knees and drop your hips as if you’re sitting back in a chair.
  • Reach your arms up alongside your ears. If your elbows are straight, touch your palms together; if not, then keep your arms sepa-rated. Lift your chest as you draw your abs in.

GAZE: Slightly forward or up to hands if palms are touching

PRECEDING POSES:

Mountain pose, Warrior I

COUNTERPOSES: Standing

Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: If you have any lower back issues or are pregnant, separate your feet hip-distance apart.

TIP: Look down at your toes; if you can’t see them, shift your shins backward until you can. The weight of your body should be in your heels.

DownDown  DogDog  SplitSplit

The Essential Yoga Poses 15
  1. Start in Down Dog. Lift your right leg up toward the ceiling.
  • Continue to press evenly into all ten fingers and keep your elbows straight. Press your left heel down toward the mat.
  • To keep a square hip, keep your lifted toes facing the ground. To open your hip, turn your toes toward the side wall and bend your knee. If opening the hip, keep your shoulders square by drawing both armpits toward the ground. Repeat on the other side.

GAZE: Between feet or navel

PRECEDING POSES: Down Dog

COUNTERPOSES: Mountain pose

PRECAUTIONS: Opening the hip here may cause lower back pain; to avoid that, keep your lifted toes pointed toward the ground.

TIP: This is a great pose to use for transitions. It will help you step your foot forward when moving to standing poses.

Crescent

The Essential Yoga Poses 16
  1. From Mountain pose, separate your feet hip-distance apart. Take a big step back with your left foot and bend your front knee to a 90-degree angle.
  • Draw your left hip for-ward to square your chest and hips off toward the front wall.
  • Extend your arms up overhead. If arms are straight, touch palms; if not, keep arms separate and reach through fingertips. Repeat on the other side.

GAZE: At hands if palms are touching or straight ahead if they are not

PRECEDING POSES:

Low Lunge, Chair

COUNTERPOSES: Down Dog

PRECAUTIONS: If this pose pulls on the front of your hips, bend your back leg to ease the tension.

TIP: If it is hard to balance, try stepping your front foot toward the outside edge of the mat a few inches.

Warrior

The Essential Yoga Poses 17
  1. From Crescent pose, lean forward 45 degrees over your front thigh. Engage your belly as you reach your arms forward alongside your ears. Pause there.
  • Transfer your weight onto the front leg and lift your back leg.
  • Work to get your chest parallel to the ground. Flex through the lifted leg as if you’re trying to step on the wall behind you. Repeat on the other side.

GAZE: Beyond the hands

PRECEDING POSES: Crescent, Tree

COUNTERPOSES: Standing Forward Fold, Mountain pose

PRECAUTIONS: If this pose bothers your lower back, try modifying the position of your arms by bringing hands to prayer at your heart or alongside you, reaching toward the back of the room. If it is difficult to hold your torso up, modify the pose by placing two blocks under your shoulders at their highest height. Tent your fingers on top of them and draw your chest forward.

TIP: To improve balance, press your big toe into the mat and your standing thigh toward the wall behind you. Draw the navel to the spine, but relax your shoulders.

Standing  Splits

The Essential Yoga Poses 18
  1. From Warrior III, keep your spine long as you tilt your chest forward to bring your hands down to the ground.
The Essential Yoga Poses 6

22.. Lift your back leg up to theth ceiling by lifting from your inner thigh. Keep your lifted toes pointed toward theth ground to keep your hips square.

33.. Draw your torso back

toward your standing thigh.

GAZE: Down past tip of nose

PRECEDING POSES: Standing

Forward Fold, Warrior III, Crescent

COUNTERPOSES: Mountain pose

PRECAUTIONS: If this pulls too deeply on the hamstring of the standing leg, bend your knee or use a block or two under your fingertips to get closer to the floor.

TIP: To deepen the stretch and improve balance, try placing one or both hands around your ankle.

Virabhadrasana

The Essential Yoga Poses 20
  1. Stand and face the

left-side wall so that your feet are wide on your mat. Turn your right toes to face forward and your left toes at a slight angle toward the left-front corner of the mat. Line up your front heel with the arch of your back foot.

  • Bend your front knee to a 90-degree angle. Aim it straight ahead over your second and third toes. Press through the pinky side of your back foot to straighten through the back leg. Keep your hips at a slight angle toward the left-front corner of your mat, but turn your chest to be parallel to the side of the mat.
  • Take your arms to shoul-der height and reach them forward and back. Relax your shoulders. Keep your torso directly over your hips. Repeat on the other side.

GAZE: Middle finger of front hand

PRECEDING POSES: Warrior I,

Crescent, Mountain

COUNTERPOSES: Down Dog,

Standing Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: If the front knee juts ahead of your ankle, step your front foot forward until the knee stacks over the ankle.

TIP: Do not try to square your hips off toward the side wall; keep them at a slight angle forward so that you can bend deeper into the front thigh.

Reverse  Warrior

The Essential Yoga Poses 21
  1. Start in Warrior II. Reach your front arm up toward your ear as you lean back.
  • Gently place your other hand on the top of your back thigh. Keep length in both sides of the waist.

GAZE: Up toward lifted hand

PRECEDING POSES: Warrior II

COUNTERPOSES:

Extended Side Angle

PRECAUTIONS: Make sure to engage your lower belly so as not to overarch your lower back.

TIP: Keep the front leg bent as you reach back.

STANDING POSES

The Essential Yoga Poses 22
  1. Start in Warrior II. Reach your front arm forward as far as possible.
  • Place your hand on the outside of the front foot. Turn your top palm toward the front of the room and reach it forward alongside your ear.
  • Roll your chest open as you hug your bottom hip underneath you.

GAZE: Top hand

PRECEDING POSES:

Warrior II, Triangle

COUNTERPOSES: Mountain

pose, Standing Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: Beware of letting your front knee buckle in toward the middle of the mat. Draw it toward the wall behind you so that it points straight ahead.

TIP: If you cannot reach the ground with your bottom arm, try one of the following arm variations. Take your hand to the inside of your front foot. Place your hand on a block either inside or outside your foot. Put your forearm on your thigh so that it’s parallel to the front of the mat.

Triangle  Pose

The Essential Yoga Poses 23
  1. Start in Warrior II. Straighten your front leg.
  • Shift your hips back and reach forward as far as you can. When you can’t reach any further, leave your torso where it is and let your bottom hand come down to rest either on your thigh, shin, or ankle or the ground. Reach straight up with your other hand. Stack your shoulders on top of each other.
  • Lengthen through both sides of your waist. Repeat on the other side.
The Essential Yoga Poses 6

GAZE: Top hand

PRECEDING POSES: Warrior II

COUNTERPOSES: Down Dog

PRECAUTIONS: If you tend to hyperextend your knees, meaning they go past straight, bend your front leg a tiny bit and press through your big toe to protect your knee joint.

TIP: To lengthen through both sides of the waist, contract the top side of your waist as if you’re doing a tiny side crunch—bringing your lower ribs toward your top hip, relax the lower side waist.

Half  Moon

The Essential Yoga Poses 25
  1. Start in Triangle pose. Look forward, bend your front knee, and shift your weight onto your front leg as you lift your back leg.
  • Place your bottom hand on the ground or a block and extend your other hand straight up.
  • Flex through your back heel as if you’re stepping on a wall behind you. Keep your neck in line with your spine.

GAZE: Top hand

PRECEDING POSES:

Warrior II, Triangle

COUNTERPOSES: Standing

Forward Fold, Down Dog

PRECAUTIONS: If it bothers your neck to gaze at your top hand, look down at your bottom hand.

TIP: The distance between your hand and your bottom foot should be the same between your armpit and the top of your hipbone. If your hand is too close to your foot, it will be difficult to balance yourself.

Revolved  Chair

The Essential Yoga Poses 26
  1. Start in Chair pose. Bring your hands to your heart in a prayer position.
  • Twist to the right, bring-ing the elbow of your left arm to the outside of your right thigh.
  • Press your right palm down into your left palm as you continue to press your left elbow on to the outside of your right thigh. Check your knees to make sure you haven’t jutted one in front of the other. If you have, draw your forward knee back in line with your other knee. Repeat on the other side.

GAZE: Sideways

PRECEDING POSES: Chair pose,

Seated Twists

COUNTERPOSES: Mountain

pose, Standing Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: If you do not have enough space to get your arm to the outside of your opposite leg, separate your feet hip-distance apart and twist with open arms. Your left arm goes to the inside of your right thigh as your right arm reaches toward the ceiling and vice versa on the other side.

TIP: Use your breath to help you twist. Inhale and lengthen through your spine; exhale and twist deeper.

Parivrtta Trikonasana

The Essential Yoga Poses 27
  1. Start in Mountain pose. Step your left foot back about two to three feet (not as far as you would go for Warrior I). Keep your right toes pointed straight ahead, and turn your left toes at an angle to the left-front corner of your mat.
  • Square off your hips toward the front of the room. Take your right hand to your right hip and lift your left arm up alongside your ear.
  • Bend at your hips and start to fold forward. Stop when your chest is parallel to the ground.
  • Set your left fingertips on the ground or a block and twist your torso to the right. Extend your right arm to the ceiling. Repeat on the other side.

GAZE: Top hand

PRECEDING POSES:

Revolved Chair

COUNTERPOSES: Standing

Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: If you hyperextend your knees, put a slight bend in your front leg and press through your big toe to protect your knee joint.

TIP: As you twist, keep your hips square to the ground; do not let your back hip collapse down.

Revolved  Half  Moon

The Essential Yoga Poses 28
  1. Start in Revolved Trian-gle, your right foot in front.
  • Look forward. Bend your right knee and transfer your weight to your right foot

as you lift your back leg up. Place your front hand on the ground or a block as your other arm extends straight up.

  • Keep your hips square to the ground as you continue to twist your chest open to the side wall. Repeat on the other side.

GAZE: Top hand

PRECEDING POSES: Revolved

Triangle, Warrior III

COUNTERPOSES: Standing

Forward Fold, Mountain pose

PRECAUTIONS: If it bothers your neck to look up at your top hand, look at your bottom hand.

TIP: The tendency here is to let the hip of your lifted leg drop toward the ground as you twist. Imagine that your legs and hips are glued in one place, then twist only from your navel.

Wide  Leg Forward  Fold

The Essential Yoga Poses 29
  1. Stand wide on your mat, feet parallel to the sides of the mat.
  • Take your hands to your hips, inhale, and lengthen your spine; as you exhale, fold forward and bring your hands to the ground or blocks.
  • Relax your neck as you draw your inner thighs toward each other and shift your weight to the middle of your feet.

GAZE: Center of your mat or tip of your nose

PRECEDING POSES:

Standing Forward Fold

COUNTERPOSES: Mountain pose, Camel, Bridge

PRECAUTIONS: If you have back issues, when coming out of the pose, bend your knees to rise back up.

TIP: For an added shoulder stretch, you can interlace your fingers behind your back and fold forward from there.

Tree

The Essential Yoga Poses 30
  1. Start in Mountain pose. Turn your left toes out to thethe left and bend your knee asas you bring your left foot upup to the inside of your

rightrig leg.

The Essential Yoga Poses 6

22.. Press the sole of your left footfoo and the inside of your

rightrig leg into each other.

33.. Extend your arms over-

headhe with straight elbows.

Repeat on the other side.

GAZE: Up toward the ceiling

PRECEDING POSES:

Mountain pose

COUNTERPOSES: Mountain pose, Standing Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: Never place the lifted foot directly on the knee joint of your standing leg. Always place it above or below the joint.

TIP: To play with your balance, try this pose with your eyes closed.

Ustrasana

The Essential Yoga Poses 32
The Essential Yoga Poses 33
  1. Kneel on your shins, toes tucked under and behind you. Place your hands on the back of your pelvis; your fingers can point up or down. Draw your elbows toward each other so they point straight back.
  • Press your thighs for-

ward with glutes relaxed as you imagine going up and over a beach ball with your upper spine.

  • Bring your hands to your heels. Keep pressing the chest up and thighs forward.

GAZE: Tip of your nose

PRECEDING POSES: Cobra,

Up Dog, Half Forward Fold

COUNTERPOSES: Child’s pose, Seated Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: If you have any lower back issues, keep this back bend smaller by maintaining your hands on your sacrum.

TIP: If it is difficult to reach your heels, try placing a block on top of them and reach for that instead.

Bridge

The Essential Yoga Poses 34
  1. Lie on your back. Bend your knees. Place your feet flat on the ground, hip-distance apart and parallel to the side of the mat. Stack your knees directly over your ankles. Place your arms alongside you, palms face down.
  • When you inhale, press down into your feet to lift your hips up toward the ceiling.
  • Roll your shoulders toward each other under-neath you. Interlace your fingers. Reach your chest toward the wall behind you and tailbone to the backs of your knees.

GAZE: Up toward the ceiling

PRECEDING POSES: Cobra, Sphinx

COUNTERPOSES: Happy

Baby, Knees into Chest

PRECAUTIONS: If you have lower back issues, try turning this into a restorative pose. To do so, place a block on its low or medium height underneath your sacrum, the boniest part of the back of your pelvis.

TIP: If it is difficult to clasp your hands underneath you, grab the sides of your mat and push down and forward.

Happy  Baby

The Essential Yoga Poses 35
  1. Lie on your back. Hug

both knees into your chest.

  • Place your arms on the inside of your legs and grab onto the outsides of your feet.
  • Draw your knees toward your armpits as you keep pressing your tailbone into the mat.

GAZE: Up toward the ceiling

PRECEDING POSES: Bridge

COUNTERPOSES: Knees

into Chest, Savasana

PRECAUTIONS: If it is diffi cult to get your hands onto

your feet, try grabbing your shins or calves instead.

TIP: To deepen the stretch in the backs of your legs, try straightening your legs.

Seated  Staff

The Essential Yoga Poses 36
  1. Sit on the mat with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  • Take your arms along-side you, palms face down. Sit up tall.
  • Flex your feet, draw-

ing your toes back toward your body.

GAZE: Straight ahead

PRECEDING POSES:

Mountain pose

COUNTERPOSES: Savasana

PRECAUTIONS: If you have a deep round in your back, try sitting up against a wall to help hold your spine upright.

TIP: If your hamstrings are tight and it is difficult to sit up with a straight spine, then place a blanket underneath your sit bones.

Seated  Forward Fold

The Essential Yoga Poses 37
  1. Start in Seated Staff pose. Inhale and reach your arms up alongside your ears.
  • On an exhale, start to reach forward. Lead with your chest and do not round your back.
  • When you can’t reach any further, let your hands come down either to the ground or the outside of your legs or clasp your feet.

GAZE: Toes

PRECEDING POSES: Standing

Forward Fold, Seated Staff pose

COUNTERPOSES: Savasana

PRECAUTIONS: If your hamstrings are tight, try sitting on a blanket.

TIP: If you are super flexible and can easily reach your toes, try placing a block against the bottoms of your feet. Then reach for the top of the block to bring you deeper into the pose.

Half Lord  of the Fishes

The Essential Yoga Poses 38
  1. Start in Seated Staff pose. Bend your right knee and step your foot over your left thigh and set it on the outside of your left leg.
The Essential Yoga Poses 39

22. Bend your left leg and bring your heel toward your right sit bone. Sit up tall.

33. Place your right hand

behind you and lift your

left hand up to the ceiling.

AsA you exhale, twist to the

right and bring your left

elbow to the outside of your

right knee. Repeat on the

other side.

GAZE: Over your back shoulder

PRECEDING POSES: Seated

Twists, Revolved Chair

COUNTERPOSES: Seated

Forward Fold

PRECAUTIONS: When you bend the second leg underneath you, if you cannot keep both sit bones on the ground, then unbend the leg and do this pose with the bottom leg straight.

TIP: If your back hand does not reach the floor, place a block underneath it. Use your breath to twist deeper. Inhale, sit up tall, and exhale as you twist further.

Seated  Wide  Leg  Forward  Fold

The Essential Yoga Poses 40
  1. Start in Seated Staff pose. Bring your legs apart to form a wide “V” shape.
  • Flex your feet and straighten through your legs. Your kneecaps and toes should face the ceiling.
  • Place your hands behind you and sit up tall. Keep length in your spine as you fold forward, walking your hands with you.

GAZE: Forward

PRECEDING POSES: Seated

Forward Fold, Wide Leg Forward Fold

COUNTERPOSES:

Bound Angle pose

PRECAUTIONS: If it is difficult to sit up straight, place a blanket under your hips. Do not fold forward if this causes your back to round.

TIP: To turn this into a restorative pose, place the bolster in front of you, fold forward, and lay your chest on top of it.

Reclined  Pigeon

The Essential Yoga Poses 41
  1. Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet on the mat.
  • Place your right ankle just above your left knee.
  • Slide your right hand through the space between your legs and grab behind your left thigh with both hands. Draw your left thigh toward your chest. Flex your right foot and press your knee toward the wall in front of you. Repeat on the other side.

GAZE: Up toward the ceiling or eyes closed

PRECEDING POSES: Bound Angle,

Seated Wide Leg Forward Fold

COUNTERPOSES: Knees into Chest, Reclining Hand-to-Toe pose

PRECAUTIONS: If your hips are extremely tight, you can leave your bottom foot on the ground and keep your arms relaxed alongside you.

TIP: To deepen the stretch, try grabbing the top of your shin instead of the back of your thigh. This will allow you to draw the top leg closer to your chest.

Recliningeclining  HandHand–toto–ToeToe  Pose

The Essential Yoga Poses 42
  1. Lie down on your back. Lift your right leg up to the ceiling and grab your big toe with your index and middle fingers. Straighten your leg and relax your shoulders. Your left leg should remain extended on the ground. Hold for five breaths.
  • Allow your right leg to fall over to the right, but go only so far as you can while keeping your left hip and left sit bone on the mat. Hold for five breaths.
  • Come back through the center. Grab your right foot with your left hand and allow your leg to go to the left for a stretch and a twist. It is okay to let your right sit bone lift here. Hold for five breaths. Repeat on the other side.
The Essential Yoga Poses 39

GAZE: Big toe

PRECEDING POSES:

Seated Forward Fold

COUNTERPOSES: Bridge with a block under your sacrum, Savasana

PRECAUTIONS: Most people have diffi culty reaching their feet with their hands. You can place a strap around the sole of your foot and place the two sides of the strap into your hands. Move as directed.

TIP: As you take your leg across your body, try going only a few inches at first. This might deepen the stretch along

the outside of the leg. This is especially great for runners.

Corpse Pose

The Essential Yoga Poses 44

We’ve already touched on this pose once before. However, because this is the pose that you’ll end every practice with, it seems appropriate to address how to come out of the pose here.

  1. From Savasana, start to deepen your breath. Wiggle your fingers and your toes and reach up overhead to stretch through your body.
  • Draw your knees into your chest and roll onto your right side.
  • Gently press your way up into a comfortable seated position.
  • Bring your hands to prayer and gently bow your head to your hands, taking a moment to acknowledge all the work you did.

GAZE: Close your eyes.

PRECEDING POSES: At the end of practice, everything.

COUNTERPOSES: All poses

PRECAUTIONS: To modify to avoid lower back pain, you can place a blanket or bolster underneath your knees.

TIP: This is the point of practice where you would say namaste, which means “The divine light in me salutes the divine light in you.”