Here are brief descriptions of some common yoga asanas (poses). These are not intended as complete instructions for performing the poses, but are intended to help you recognize and identify poses you might have done in class. It's always best to work through any pose with an instructor to make sure you follow the proper form and avoid injury.
As you practice asanas, listen to your body. Don't stretch too far or push yourself to the point of pain.
No pain is no gain is NOT yoga's mantra. Work to your limit, and your abilities will improve over time. Use a block or a strap to help you retain form as you improve your
flexibility and to hold poses longer.
Find a Pose
If you have a question about an asana — how to do it, what parts of the
body will benefit from it, what you should be cautious about when practicing it,
how to modify it to fit your level of practice — we recommend a couple of
sources. These sites offer step-by-step instructions, photos or illustrations,
contraindications (cautions), beginner's tips, and modifications. We have chosen
them because they offer a good inventory of poses. Consult these sites when you
need help, but remember that you should never practice yoga to the point of pain
or injury. If you experience pain, consult a qualified teacher near you.
- Cat (Cakravakasana)
- Start on all fours with hands under the shoulders. Inhale as you lower the back and raise the head. Hold. As you exhale, arch the back as high as you can and drop the head between the arms. Hold, then repeat. To finish, move into Child's Pose to release the back.
- Child's Pose (Mudhasana)
- From a kneeling position, sit back on your heels. Bend forward, bringing your forehead to the floor. Arms are back alongside the body, palms up, or, alternatively, arms can be stretched out in front of you,
- Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Starting on all fours, lift your tailbone, and bring your knees off the floor pressing into an inverted "V" position. Stretch the head and shoulders downward while working to bring the heels to the floor and straighten the legs.
The resting partner for this asana is Cobra pose.
- Cobra (Bhujangasana)
- Bhujanga means "serpent" or "snake." In this pose,
the spine stretches in the opposite direction of Downward Facing Dog; that's
why it's such a good complementary pose. Lie on your stomach, flat on the
floor, with legs together. Place your hands on the floor on either side of
your chest and gently lift your upper body until your arms are straight. Hips
and legs remain on the floor. Inhale as you raise the body; exhale as you
- Mountain (Tadasana)
- Stand with your feet together and your weight evenly distributed. Look straight ahead as your arms hang at your sides. Breathe.
- Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
- Start from the Mountain pose. Inhaling, raise arms overhead, palms forward. As you exhale, bend forward. Place your fingers or hands on the floor as your head moves toward the knees.
- Corpse (Savasana)
- The Corpse pose is one of the most popular relaxation poses. It is often
used to wind down your practice. Lie flat on your back with hands by your
side, palms up. Legs are parallel; let the feet fall slightly apart. Close
your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply. Relax everything from your face to your