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What are the Different Types of Yoga Poses?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
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Yoga poses, called asanas, are essential components of the practice of yoga. There are hundreds of different poses that are used in combination to create a yoga routine or practice. Understanding some of the basic ones and their purposes can help both beginning and advanced practitioners practice to the most effective degree.

Some are considered resting or meditative poses. These are generally ones where the body is largely still, and emphasis is placed on breathing, steadying the body, or relaxing, rather than stretching the body. Mountain pose is a resting and readying pose used at the beginning of most standing series of movements, and is meant to bring the body into perfect alignment by lengthening the neck, curving the belly inward, and rooting feet to the floor. Child's pose is performed by resting on the shins with knees far apart and toes close together, while the torso rests on the thighs and arms stretch out to rest on the floor in front of the body.

Balancing yoga poses require the whole body to work together to keep steady and avoid falling into any nearby people or furniture. Tree pose requires the standing practitioner to bring the sole of the right foot to rest on the inner thigh of the left leg, while the arms are in a prayer position over the heart. From this position, it is easy to move into dancer pose by kicking the bent right leg back and grabbing it with the right hand, then bending forward with the torso, stretching the left hand forward, and pulling the right leg high above the body. Performing this series of tree and dancer on both sides of the body can help improve balance and strengthen the core body.

Poses for strength generally deal with shifting body weight around to work certain muscle groups. Plank pose is an excellent move to help strengthen the abs and the arms, and has many variations to increase its difficulty. For a basic plank pose, a person should get into a high push-up position but align the body so that it makes a straight diagonal line from head to heels. After only a few seconds, it will likely become apparent that this is more difficult to hold than it sounds. To increase difficulty, individuals can try rotating the whole body so that only the right foot and arm are touching the ground, while the left arm stretches straight up and the left leg rests on the right leg for side plank. For star pose, the person starts in a secure side plank position, then lifts up the top leg.

Some yoga poses will be easier for some people than for others, depending on how strong or flexible different parts of the body are for them. It's easy to come to hate a certain pose for its difficulty or feel that it is impossible, but it is important for individuals to remember that yoga is about practicing, not necessarily mastering. People should move at a personal pace and hurt themselves by trying too hard.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGeek. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By serenesurface — On Dec 01, 2014

There are many sites explaining various yoga poses and yoga is such an exercise that one can learn them alone. But I still think that it's a good idea to take a yoga class ones to get some one to one direction on the postures. Even though many yoga postures are not very difficult or stressful for the body, incorrect alignment or posture can cause injury. So everyone should ask their doctor first and then learn basic yoga postures from a yoga teacher.

After one has learned the beginning level postures and can do them easily, one can move on to more advanced postures. But it's important not to go too fast. Yoga is never supposed to hurt so if there is pain, it means that one is pushing too far with the poses.

By discographer — On Nov 30, 2014

@fBoyle-- The cat and cow poses are great for the back. They help relax and strengthen back muscles.

Also try yoga poses that are done while sitting down like pavanamuktasana. This is when you lay on your back and pull your legs to your chest as far as possible one by one. This stretches the muscles in the back. I can't remember the names but there are two other postures that I use for my back. One involves lying on the back, putting the feet as close to the buttocks and then pushing the pelvis up. This one strengthens the back muscles because you have to use them to maintain this position. Another postures is just about lying on the back and pushing the back into the floor for a few seconds and letting go.

By fBoyle — On Nov 30, 2014

What are some yoga poses for the back? I had a back spasm a few weeks ago. My doctor said that I'm fine now but I need to strengthen my back so that it doesn't happen again. Which yoga poses should I practice?

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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