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 Child’s pose and Cat-Cow are good options for those who are 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 provide an additional challenge.

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

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

If someone is new to yoga, they should familiarize themselves with some basic poses. Developing a solid foundation is essential to safely progress in a person’s yoga practice.

Some beginner yoga poses a person can try include:

Child’s pose

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

  1. Kneel with big toes touching. Knees can be close together or wide, depending on a person’s comfort levels.
  2. Sit the hips back over the heels, resting the forehead on the mat.
  3. Extend the arms forward or down by the sides.

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

Corpse pose

corpse pose yoga

Corpse pose is a relaxing position that soothes the body and mind. It is a good way to end a yoga session.

  1. Gently lie down on the back with arms outstretched on either side.
  2. Press the pelvis toward the floor and extend the legs.
  3. Take deep, slow breaths.
  4. Completely relax and stay in the pose for several minutes.

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

Cat-Cow pose

Yoga teachers often combine Cat pose and Cow pose into one flowing movement. The movement helps increase spinal flexibility and release tension in the back and shoulders.

tabletop yoga pose
  1. Place the knees and hands on the mat.
  2. Keep the hands directly below the shoulders and spread fingers wide.
  3. Keep the knees directly under the hips, and place the tops of the feet on the mat.
  4. Tilt the chin toward the chest so the spine and neck are straight and in alignment.
  5. On an inhale, drop the belly and arch the back, looking forward.
  6. On the exhale, round the back, drop the head, and draw the belly in.

Modification: If the knees feel sore, use a blanket or thicker yoga mat for extra cushioning. If wrists begin to ache, make a fist. This will alleviate some of the pressure.

These poses are suitable for people who are slightly further into their yoga practice, and build on the foundation established with beginner poses. The intermediate poses further improve a person’s balance, flexibility, and core strength.

Some of these poses include:

Tree pose

Tree pose challenges a person’s balance. It strengthens the leg muscles while also engaging the core.

  1. Stand straight and find a focal point to maintain balance.
  2. Shift weight to the left foot and begin to bring the right foot to the left inner thigh.
  3. Keep a soft bend in the left leg the whole time.
  4. Press the right foot against the left inner thigh.
  5. Push the left thigh against the right foot for extra stability.
  6. Place palms together in front of the chest or raise them above the head.
  7. Repeat on the other side when ready.

Modification: If a person cannot hold the pose or finds it difficult to bring the foot to the inner thigh, they can place the foot on the side of their shin instead. Do not rest the foot on the knee.

Rested Half Pigeon pose

Rested Half Pigeon pose is a deep stretch that releases tension in the hips.

  1. Start in Tabletop pose. Bring the right knee up 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. Walk the hands to the front of the mat and rest the forehead on the floor, or rest the head on a pillow or blanket if reaching the floor is difficult.
  5. Repeat on the other side when ready.

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

Boat pose

Boat pose strengthens the core and hip flexors while challenging a person’s balance.

  1. Sit on the mat. Bring the knees to the chest, keeping the feet together on the mat.
  2. Inhale and tense the abdominal muscles.
  3. Begin to roll back onto the sacrum (the middle of the back of the pelvis).
  4. Exhale and hold the backs of the thighs for support. Start to lift the feet off the mat.
  5. Inhale and extend the arms in front of the body. Slowly lengthen and extend the legs at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
  6. Hold this pose for 5–10 breaths.

Modification: If a person struggles to hold this pose, they can keep their feet on the floor.

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

Some of these poses include:

Firefly pose

Firefly pose strengthens the core, arms, and wrists. It also builds core strength and improves balance.

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

Supported Headstand pose

Supported Headstand pose strengthens the shoulders and core while lowering blood pressure. People with neck or back injuries, high blood pressure, and those who are pregnant should avoid this pose.

  1. Starting in Tabletop pose, place the forearms on the floor. Lace the fingertips together.
  2. Place the top of the head on the floor between the hands, and use the palms to brace the head.
  3. Lift the knees. Slowly walk the feet toward the head. Inhale and transfer weight into the hands and forearms, but not the head.
  4. Exhale, engage the core and thighs, and lift the feet. Press the feet overhead, stacking the feet over the hips.
  5. Hold for several breaths, then lower the feet with control.

Modification: For additional stability, try this pose against a wall when starting out.

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

It is also important to note that while much of the research shows a correlation between yoga and health benefits, it does not show that yoga causes health benefits.

People who practice yoga may see improvements in the following:

Pain management

One 2017 study found that yoga was similar to physical therapy in the treatment of chronic lower back pain. This randomized control trial studied 320 racially diverse adults from primarily low-income backgrounds.

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

Read more about poses that help with back pain.

Weight management

Introducing yoga as part of a weight-management program may help a person maintain a moderate weight. According to one 2021 study, Vinyasa and Hatha yoga were equally effective in helping people with obesity to manage their weight.

However, it is important to note that the participants of this study also followed a calorie- and fat-restricted diet. It is likely this also contributed to their weight loss.

Mental health

Proponents of yoga promote its many mental health benefits, and some research supports their claims.

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

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

Learn more about how yoga benefits the body and mind.

Basic yoga poses are an excellent introduction to yoga. They help people build up the strength and flexibility needed for more complex and physically demanding positions.

If someone has underlying health conditions or is recovering from any wrist or back injuries, they should speak with their doctor or healthcare professional before starting yoga.

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