With yoga comes choices. You may prefer to practice yours in a pool, hanging from a silk hammock or in a heated room. But every yogi can benefit from returning to the basics and performing the crucial poses that bring your awareness to your musculoskeletal alignment. To prevent injuries and to help you move from pose to pose with fluidity and strength, work these eight must-do poses into your practice as often as you can.
Without Mountain pose there would be no yoga. Mountain is the pose from which all other standing poses are formed. It is also from this pose that you learn how to stand with perfect posture and how to make the micro-adjustments to your limbs, muscles and bones that make yoga such a beneficial exercise. Standing Forward Bend would be your next best choice for a must-do standing yoga pose. From Mountain, you bend forward from your waist and either let your head and arms hang free, or more formally, grasp your ankles with your hands. Besides creating space between the discs in your spine and lengthening the muscles in your back, Standing Forward Bend effectively relieves stress.
When balancing on one foot in a yoga pose, you learn patience, determination and after the battle to stay upright is won, you can find deep serenity. Tree is usually the first standing balancing pose taught to beginners and is a must-do for practitioners of all levels. Standing on one foot, you raise the other foot out to the side, and bending the knee you place the bottom of that foot against the standing leg’s inner thigh. While everyone has a different way they like to express their arms, the main purpose of this must-do pose is to get you used to the act of drishti, which is gazing at a distant object to help steady yourself. Eagle pose is a more complicated arrangement of limbs, and what makes it a must-do pose is that very level of difficulty. To become proficient at yoga, you must always be stretching your boundaries.
Full Seated Forward Bend is the kind of pose that you can work your way up to incrementally; and that’s what makes it a perfect must-do yoga pose. The purpose of yoga is never the end result, but the journey you take. With your legs outstretched in front of you and with a flat back, you begin by reaching forward with your hands toward your feet. Slowly, over time, you may be able to lay your torso atop your legs and wrap your clasped hands around your feet; but until that day comes, you can enjoy the benefits of slowly strengthening and lengthening the muscles in your back and hamstrings. Head-to-Knee pose is a good follow-up to Seated Forward Bend. While bending one knee, laying the outside of your leg on the floor and bringing that foot to the inside of your opposite, outstretched leg, you experience a deeper forward bend over the outstretched leg.
Back bends range from the ultra-simple to awe-inspiring. In your must-do stable of yoga poses however, it’s best to stick to the basics for the reminders about alignment. Locust and Fish are both back bends, but one is performed on your front and one on your back. When you achieve full Locust pose, your head, shoulders, arms and legs are off the floor all at once as you balance on your lower belly. Compression of the lower back is always a risk with back bends, so while in Locust make it your mantra to tuck under your tailbone to get more length in your back. Fish pose begins with you on your back, and after tucking your hands under your sacrum and tilting your tailbone up, you lift your chest toward the ceiling and lay the top of your head on the mat.
- Light on Yoga; B.K.S. Iyengar
- Yoga Journal: Poses
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images