Yoga Poses You Really Need to Know

Yoga Poses You Really Need to Know

— Written by Erin Kelly and Hilary Lebow

Although it’s an ancient practice, yoga has become the exercise du jour in recent years. Everyone from A-list celebs to your coworkers are getting their om on these days — and for good reason.

Practicing yoga has serious health benefits beyond flexibility and balanceTrusted Source, though those are some great perks. Studies show yoga does everything from fighting anxiety, depression, and stressTrusted Source, to reducing inflammation in the body. Trusted Source Yoga can even make migraines suck less.Trusted Source

Plus, striking an impressive asana (yoga lingo for pose) looks ridiculously cool. The only problem? Sometimes our yoga teacher is speaking a different language, which makes it slightly difficult to follow along.

With Sanksrit names like Utkatasana and Trikonasana, yoga poses may sound a lot more like spells you’d learn at Hogwarts than shapes you can actually get your body to make.

To help everyone from yoga newbies to experienced practitioners, we went to Chrissy Carter, a certified yoga instructor, to help put together a definitive guide to yoga poses.

Consider it your cheat sheet to finally mastering the common poses you’re likely to encounter in most open-level classes.

Wheel Pose

How to do it ?

Lie faceup with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, like you’re prepping for Bridge Pose. Position your feet parallel to one another, hip-distance apart, with heels under the knees.

On an inhale, bring your hands to the floor, framing your ears. Your fingers should be facing your heels.

On an exhale, press down into your hands and feet. Lift your hips and chest off the floor. Straighten your arms and lift up through your shoulders.

To come out of the pose, bend your arms and slowly lower your upper back down to the floor.

The benefits

This backbend opens the entire front of the body. It strengthens the muscles in your back, shoulders, and hamstrings.

Crow Pose

How to do it

Start in Mountain Pose. Come down to a deep squat, with your feet a few inches apart and your heels lifted off the mat. Make your knees wider than your hips.

Bring your palms down in front of you between your knees, shoulder-width apart. Hook your shins around your upper arms.

Look forward, shift your weight forward onto your hands, and lift your feet off the floor. Pull up through your arms and abs, and round your upper back. If you can, bring your toes to touch beneath your tailbone.

The benefits

Crow Pose builds (and requires) serious strength in your arms, wrists, core, and hip flexors.

 Plank Pose

How to do it

Start in Downward-Facing Dog. Shift forward so your shoulders are stacked over your wrists. Draw your navel in toward your spine and keep your hips from dropping.

Reach heels back as you lengthen the crown of your head forward. Ground down into hands, pushing the floor away beneath you. Lengthen through the arms and broaden your chest.

Pro tip: Come down to your knees if the pose is too intense.

The benefits

Considered one of the best moves for core strength, Plank Pose strengthens your abdominals and promotes stability.

Seated Wide Angle Straddle

Pose type: Seated

Opening your legs wide creates a slightly different stretch from paschimottanasana. Though it may look like the mandate is to bring your chest to the floor, it’s really not about that. Rather, concentrate on keeping your back flat, rotating the pelvis forward instead of crunching forward through your spine, and keeping your feet flexed. If you do all three of these things, it really doesn’t matter how far forward you lean.

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