For many, yoga is a path to physical health. A solid, consistent practice can improve your strength, flexibility, coordination—and even your mental well-being. While all of these benefits are appealing, it can be difficult to know how to start your own practice. This is especially true if you’re not comfortable going to a studio.
Know that yoga can be done by anybody given the proper modifications. And it can also be practiced in the comfort of your own home. The poses below are some of the most common positions you’ll find in yoga flows, whether you’re in a class or at home. Get familiar with these essential moves (along with their modifications) so when you do hop into a flow, you can be confident that you’re getting a good workout.
1. Downward Dog
This pose—one of the most common in yoga—is an excellent morning stretch. You’ll open up the shoulders, hamstrings, and calves as well as the arches of your feet. Down dogs also help to strengthen your shoulders and upper back. And by bending so that your heart is over your head, you’ll increase blood flow to the brain—a great way to kickstart alertness in the early morning hours.
How to do it: Start in a tabletop position with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Inhale. Exhale and lift your knees off the floor, positioning your butt toward the ceiling. Contract your thighs. Reach your heels to the floor and straighten out your knees as much as you can without locking them up. Press through your fingertips and keep your head between your arms.
Modifications: If you have difficulty opening your shoulders, raise your hands up on blocks or a chair.