When i first moved to Southern California in 1997, I arrived with a simple yet dedicated array of daily exercises that kept me in shape: jogging, weight training, and cycling. One of the first things that i immediately loved about California was the indigenous, organic support for and participation in a myriad experimental sports and hobbies from around the globe.  After a few months had passed and I had settled into my new life here in San Diego, I decided to embrace the world of yoga. What an amazing lifestyle channel to reach your inner zen! While experimenting with the variety of yoga disciplines, i discovered one singular fact as a beginning yogi: it certainly helps to know a few familiar yoga poses BEFORE embarking upon your first yoga class. The following five yoga poses for beginners are ideal for the novice practitioner:
1.) Mountain Pose
  • Stand with your toes together and heels slightly apart. Spread your toes and situate your weight evenly through both feet. Engage your core and tuck your hips under so your tailbone points downward toward the floor. Relax your shoulders and roll them back and down. Slowly inhale and reach your arms overhead while simultaneously pressing down into your feet. Choose either to rest your hands by your sides or clasp your hands in prayer position in front of your chest. Depending on your yoga instructor, you may be given the choice or directed to position accordingly. Proceed with long, slow, and full breaths inward and outward from your nose. Hold this pose position for 4-5 breaths. Keep your arms parallel to your ears and expand the width of arms if necessary. In Sanskrit, the Mountain Pose is called Tadasana.
2.) Warrior Pose
  • Take a large step forward with your right foot to begin in a staggered stance with your feet almost mat-length apart. Extend your arms fully so that they run parallel to the floor. Bend your right knee so that approximates a 90 degree angle. Your thigh should be parallel to the floor and your left leg should remain straight. Point your right toes forward and turn your left foot out to the left so that it is perpendicular to your right foot . Your right heel should be in line with the arch of your left foot. Simultaneously, twist your torso to the left so that your right hip is facing toward the front of the room and your left hip is facing toward the back of the room. Your right arm and your head should both be pointing forward and your left arm should be pointing back. Hold this pose for 2-5 breaths. When performing the Warrior Pose, avoid letting your right knee move past your ankle. If your knee advances past the ankle, then reduce the depth of your lunge to maintain positional integrity.
3.) Downward Facing Dog Pose
  • Begin on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Spread both hands wide and press each index finger and thumb firmly into your mat. Slowly lift your tailbone and press your butt upward and back, advancing your hips toward the ceiling. Straighten your legs and press each heel gently toward the floor. Insure that your head is situated between your arms and facing your knees and that your back remains flat. Hold the Downward Facing Dog Pose for at least 6-9 breaths. If you feel that your wrists are absorbing too much pressure in this pose, then you can spread your fingers wider, grip your mat with the fingertips, and place more weight into the pad where your first finger and thumb insert into the palm.
4.) Plank Pose
  • Start the Plank Pose on all fours with your knees underneath your hips and your hands flat on the floor directly under your shoulders. Lift both knees off the floor and extend your legs out behind you. From this orientation, you should now be on your toes and your hands with the the body forming one long line. Maintain your palms flat on the floor with your hands shoulder-width apart. The shoulders should be stacked directly above the wrists and your core should be engaged throughout the pose. Maintain your neck and spine in a neutral posture by casting your gaze downward upon the top of your mat. Hold the Plank Pose for a minimum of 4-5 breaths.
5.) Crescent Lunge Pose
  • Start the Crescent Lunge Pose by taking a large step forward with your right foot to start in a staggered stance with both feet nearly mat-length apart.  Bend your front knee slowly and keep the back leg straight and the back heel lifted off the floor. Attempt to bend your front leg so that your thigh lies parallel to the floor. Situate your hips toward the front. Extend both arms toward the ceiling on either side of the head and stretch upward as you also press into the mat and feel the extended stretch of your hips. Hold this pose for 4-5 breaths and then repeat on the other side. If you want to move into a lower lunge while attempting the Crescent Lunge Pose, then simply drop your back knee to the floor, with the leg extended and the shin flat on the mat. Throughout this pose, it is imperative to keep your spine straight and long. If necessary, bend the back leg slightly more if it will allow you to lengthen your spine. The Crescent Lunge Pose is also known as the High Lunge Pose.
Yoga is an idyllic hobby to embrace if one wishes to achieve holistic results for the body. Whether your yoga discipline of choice is Bikram, Ashtanga, Hatha, or Iyengar, developing a mastery of basic, fundamental yoga poses is crucial for your success and ultimate enjoyment of this rewarding fitness regimen. The Mountain Pose, Warrior Pose, Downward Facing Dog Pose, Plank Pose, and Crescent Lunge Pose are five, basic yoga poses for beginners that serve as a foundational catalyst for any aspiring yogi. After practicing each of these five, beginning poses, you will feel confident and alert when you ultimately decide to take your first yoga class.