Last updated on September 25th, 2023.
Do you want to know what is the best thing about yoga? YOGA IS FOR EVERYONE! Whether you’re young or old, ripped or overweight, yoga has the power to strengthen your body and calm your mind. Yoga is the best way to reduce stress while growing strength and flexibility. The main and most important reason to try yoga is to foster harmony in the body, mind, and environment. That is why we gather a complete and comprehensive guide to many yoga poses including the basic, standing, hard, and most difficult poses out there.
What are the poses in yoga called?
The poses in yoga are also called ‘Asanas’. Asana is the physical practice of yoga poses. It is essentially a body posture. Asana is a Sanskrit term which is often translated as “posture” or “pose.” Asanas can be practiced at any level of experience whether its beginners, intermediate, or advanced and they can be altered to suit all practice needs and desires.
The reason why many people practice yoga poses is to unwind, slow down, and help us connect the body, mind, and breath. Asanas also have the ability to increase strength and flexibility, improve balance and core strength, and bring a sense of mindfulness into our daily lives.
Not to mention, scientific studies have shown that hatha yoga poses may bring a variety of health benefits ranging from:
- Relieving chronic pain
- Teaching you to control your respiration
- Improving sleep and self-reported quality of life
- Reducing anxiety and depression
(To find out more about the history of yoga, see that link!)
What are the best yoga poses for beginners?
If you’ve decided to start practicing yoga, there are several yoga poses every beginner should know. There are many yoga poses out there and many even have very weird names, but don’t get overwhelmed because your yoga practice is meant to get better with time and practice. Before attempting more challenging poses, you should first know all the beginner yoga poses so that you have a strong understanding of the foundation yoga is built on.
Before attempting specific poses, you should understand that there are different types of yoga poses. These are the types of yoga poses:
- Standing Poses
- Balancing Poses
- Seated Poses
- Resting or Supine Poses
Moving on to the best yoga poses every beginner should know, these are the following:
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) -
Cobra Pose, also known as Bhujangasana, is a simple backbend pose done many times in a yoga class that involves making sure your pelvis and legs are deeply rooted to the ground as you lift your chest. This pose can help strengthen the back muscles, increase spinal flexibility and stretches the chest, shoulders and abdomen.
Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana) -
Plank Pose, also known as Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana, is a simple balancing pose that essentially involves core strength which is necessary for many yoga poses. It’s a great way to work on your stability and stamina by keeping your hips and spine in a neutral position. Besides strengthening your core, it also strengthens your arms, shoulders, and legs. You should try this pose if looking to tone your abs and build strength in your upper body.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukah Svanasana) -
Downward Facing Dog, also known as Adho Mukah Svanasana, is a standing pose that usually seems simple to beginners, but requires practice. You should remember to keep your weight mostly in your legs and reach your hips high, with your heels stretching toward the floor. You can bend your knees a little to facilitate the move if you have tight hamstrings, but you should keep feet parallel. It’s usually effective at relieving back pain and strengthening the arms, shoulders and back while stretching the hamstrings, calves and arches of your feet.
Child's Pose (Balasana) -
Child’s Pose, also known as Balasana, is a resting pose that is usually done wherever you need a break in any type of yoga class. If you ever feel tired during a class, you can simply try this pose and then rejoin the class when you are ready. It’s a calming pose that can be done instead of completely stopping, an essential pose for Yin Yoga. This pose provides a gentle stretch for the back, hips, thighs, and ankles, but does not challenge strength or balance.
Corpse Pose (Savasana) -
Corpse Pose, also known as Savasana, is a resting pose usually done at the end of a yoga class that involves lying flat on your back. Your body and face should be still and can calm. It usually relaxes people and is especially restful after a long hard flow session. There are some instances where your instructor will end the practice here. You’ll learn much more about this if you pursue more in-depth knowledge on how to be a Yoga Nidra Teacher.
How many yoga postures are there?
Even though there can always be new yoga poses to learn, there are around 84 yoga poses or classic asanas. Lord Shiva, the hindu ‘God of Yoga’, always described 84 poses when he taught yoga.
If you ever feel that you are not in the correct pose or that your form is off, you could check out this yoga adjustment workshop online.
What are the 5 most difficult yoga poses?
Now, we’ll go over the top 5 most difficult yoga asanas out there. It’s important to know that before attempting these poses you should have prior knowledge and experience of basic and intermediate yoga. It’s best to consult with your yoga teacher to see if you’re ready to attempt these advanced asanas. You should also be careful if you have any history of spinal, back, or wrist injuries. If you’re ready and especially if you want to just start learning right away from your home, we recommend checking out are article on the best online yoga teacher training.
Forearm-Stand Scorpion Pose (Vrschikasana)
Forearm-Stand Scorpion Pose, also known as Vrschikasana, is a difficult backbend pose which requires patience and practice to learn. The asana strengthens the torso, back, arms, and shoulders. In order to attempt this pose, there are many other poses you should learn before attempting this one. Asanas to ace before this one are; Downward-Facing Dog, Dolphin Plank, Dolphin, Feathered Peacock, Handstand, Gorilla, Cow, Locust, Cobra, Camel, and Wheel pose. This is why it’s important to have prior experience, before attempting any advanced-level poses.
Crow Pose (Bakasana)
Crow Pose, also known as Bakasana, is a popular balancing asana that looks simple but is difficult to perfect. It’s an arm balancing pose in which your hands are planted on the floor, shins rest upon your upper arms, and your feet are lifted up. This pose helps you build strength, endurance, and focus. It just requires patience and practice.
Eight-Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)
Eight-Angle Pose, also known as Astavakrasana, is a balancing pose that is quite difficult to attempt. You should try it if you want to strengthen your arms and upper back, tone your abs and inner thighs, and stretch your hamstrings. Plus, being able to achieve this asana will mean your becoming a yoga expert!
Yogic Sleep Pose (Yoganidrasana)
Yogic Sleep Pose, also known as Yoganidrasana, is a backbending asana that requires balancing, flexibility, and practice. This asna makes your body look like a knotted pretzel, but ironically promotes relaxation. Benefits of this pose include increasing spinal flexibility, improving digestion, boosts inner strength and concentration levels, improves self-control, and relieves anxiety.
Feathered Peacock Pose (Pincha Mayurasana)
Feathered Peacock Pose, also known as Pincha Mayurasana, is essentially a balancing pose concentrated on the elbows. Benefits of this pose include; strengthens the shoulders, arms, and back, stretches the shoulders and neck, chest, and belly, and improves sense of balance.
Basic Yoga Poses
Along with the best yoga poses for beginners we talked about earlier, there are several ‘Basic Yoga Poses’ every yoga student and teacher should know. These poses are quite important because they build the foundation of yoga and offer a variety of long-term benefits.
These are several basic yoga poses everyone should know:
Cat-Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana)
Cat-Cow Stretch, also known as Chakravakasana, is an essential yoga asana composed of moving the spine from a rounded position to an arched one. It’s important to remember to inhale and tilt your pelvis back for cow pose, then exhale and tuck your tailbone for cat pose. This is called vinyasa yoga, where each movement is synchronized to a breath. You should try this asana as a part of a warm up sequence, a relaxation sequence, or as an exercise to prevent back pain.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Tree pose, also known as Vrksasana, is one of the most recognized balancing poses in modern yoga. While it helps you balance, it strengthens your core, ankles, calves, thighs and spine. While trying this pose, you should focus on your in and out breath while maintaining your posture. Good balance is essential in yoga to maintain a strong core and help you do many other yoga poses.
Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
Side Plank, also known as Vasisthasana, is one of the first arm-balancing poses which is great for all levels of yoga. Benefits of this pose include; strengthens the arms, belly, and legs, stretches and strengthens the wrists, stretches the backs of the legs, and improves sense of balance.
Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
Seated Forward Fold, also known as Paschimottanasana, is a popular backbend asana that helps you unwind and stretch your hamstrings. A partner can even help you try this pose. Benefits of a Seated Forward Fold include; mind relaxation, stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings, improves digestion, helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort, soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue, and it alleviates high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis.
Half Lotus Pose (Ardha Padmasana)
Half Lotus Pose, also known as Ardha Padmasana, is a seated asana that opens the hips and stretches the knees and ankles. It’s a variation of the Lotus Pose (Padmasana), that is more adequate for people who have a little less flexibility. Benefits of Half Lotus Pose include; Strengthens the back, stretches the hips, knees, ankles, and thighs, calms the mind reducing stress and anxiety, and improves circulation and blood flow in the pelvis
Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Butterfly Pose, also known as Baddha Konasana, is also a seated asana that acts as a wonderful hip opener. Physical benefits include; stretches the inner thighs, groins and knees, stimulates abdominal organs, ovaries, prostate gland and bladder, helps reduce menstrual symptoms and discomfort, and soothes sciatica pain. Also, if performed constantly, it can help with childbirth, urinary discomfort, and feelings of pain and heaviness.
Standing Yoga Poses
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Mountain Pose, also known as Tadasanak, is a standing asana done many times in a yoga class. It’s known as the foundation of all standing poses. This asana can be a great starting position, resting pose, or tool to improve posture. Benefits of this pose include; improves posture, strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles, firms abdomen and buttocks, relieves sciatica, and reduces flat feet if performed regularly.
Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)
Standing Half Forward Bend Pose, also known as Ardha Uttanasana, is another standing asana that mainly stretches the spine and legs.Ardha Uttanasana is an essential element of Sun Salutations and helps to prepare the body for more advanced yoga poses. Benefits of this pose include; stretches and lengthens your hamstrings, calves, and front and back torso, strengthens the back and spine while improving posture, stimulates the abdominal organs and belly which help improve digestion, and calms and soothes the mind.
Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
Extended Triangle Pose, also known as Utthita Trikonasana, is a standing pose that can be found in many yoga sequences. This pose helps build strength in the legs and stretches the hips, spine, chest, shoulders, groins, hamstrings and calves. You should try this pose if you want to build strength and endurance. Other benefits include; tones the legs, reduces stress, and increases stability
Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana 1)
Warrior I Pose, also known as Virabhadrasana 1, is a common standing asana that builds focus, power, and stability. There are many follow-up poses after practicing this asana that are good preparation for backbends. Benefits of Warrior I include; stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders, neck, and belly, strengthens the shoulders and arms, and the muscles of the back, and strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Chair Pose, also known as Utkatasana, is another common standing asana that involves low squatting. It works the muscles of the arms and legs. Benefits of the Chair Pose include; strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves, and spine, stretches shoulders and chest, stimulates the abdominal organs, diaphragm, and heart, and if performed regularly it reduces flat feet.
Hard Yoga Poses
Along with the 5 most difficult yoga poses that we talked about earlier, there are several other ‘Hard Yoga Poses’ that are difficult to achieve. These poses are quite advanced and require years of yoga experience and understanding of yoga basics.
These are several hard yoga poses everyone should know:
Firefly pose (Tittibhasana)
Firefly pose, also known as Tittibhasana, is an arm-balancing pose that requires a lot of core strength. Benefits of this pose include; stretches the inner groins and back torso, strengthens the arms and wrists, tones the belly, and improves sense of balance and stability. It’s a difficult pose to attempt and mainly relies on core strength and having great flexibility in the hip flexors and hamstrings. It also requires strong arms and shoulders. A good tip while practicing this pose is to keep your elbows slightly bent with your knees resting on your upper arms.
King Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)
King Pigeon Pose, also known as Kapotasana, is a backbending asana that is designed for advanced yoga practitioners only. Benefits of the King Pigeon Pose include; stretches the entire front of the body, the ankles, thighs and groins, abdomen and chest,
stretches the deep hip flexors, strengthens back muscles, and improves posture. It’s important to be careful while practicing this particular pose and make sure you check with an expert if you can attempt it if you’ve had any low back or neck injury.
Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana)
Lord of the Dance Pose, also known as Natarajasana, is a standing asana that requires balance, flexibility, and practice. Your spine, legs, and hips have to be flexible. Benefits of this pose include; stretches the shoulders and chest, stretches the thighs, groins, and abdomen, strengthens the legs and ankles, and improves balance. This pose also soothes the mind and allows for deep concentration. Some follow-up poses after perfecting this one can be the Half standing forward bend (Ardha uttanasana) and Spinal twist (Jathara parivartanasana).
Peacock Pose ( Mayurasana)
Peacock Pose, also known as Mayurasana, is a hand-balancing asana in which the body is held horizontally over the hands. It requires patience, practice, and arm and core strength. Benefits of the Peacock Pose include; strengthens the wrists and forearms, tones the abdomen, and strengthens the back torso and legs. A cool thing about this pose is that it symbolizes immortality and love.
Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II (Eka Pada Koundinyanasana II)
Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II, also known as Eka Pada Koundinyanasana II, is a difficult balancing pose mainly focused on advanced arm balance. In this asana, your torso is raised parallel to the ground on your hands with bent elbows and your lower body is twisted with one leg extended to the side and the other straight behind you. Benefits of this pose include; strengthens the arms and wrists, tones the belly and spine, and promotes flexibility.
Yoga, as a mindful practice, can help control an individual’s mind, body, and spirit. Physical benefits of yoga include; weight loss, flexibility, improved posture, increased muscle and tone, improved respiration, energy and vitality, balanced metabolism, improved cardio and circulatory health, and better athletic performance. In addition, you’ll just feel so much more present and relaxed once you become more accustomed to the poses and transitions and can get into a flow state in your mind and body. Some of these poses you won’t really start getting feel for until you go through your 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, and that’s ok!
Again, if you’re new, emotional benefits of yoga include; increases body awareness, relieves stress, reduces muscle tension, strain, and inflammation, sharpens attention and concentration, and calms and centers the nervous system. Overall, yoga has the power to improve your quality of life. If you decide to start doing yoga today, or if you are a yoga guru, this Complete Guide to Yoga Poses: Basics, Standing and Hard can help you improve your yogic lifestyle!