5 Beginning Yoga Sequences You Can Actually Do

If you haven’t caught yoga fever yet, we have a feeling you will soon. Yoga’s popularity is spreading well beyond the realm of vegans and legging lovers. In fact, according to a recent study in The Yoga Journal, 20.4 million Americans take to the mat, up from the 15.8 million about 15 years ago. That sounds like a trend on the rise! From increasing strength to decreasing anxiety, the benefits of yoga last long after the final namaste. Still not convinced? In an article titled “Yoga Benefits: Beyond the Mat,” a little university called Harvard points to the positive benefits of yoga’s focus on inner awareness rather than physical appearance. You might not notice right away, but you won’t usually find mirrors in yoga studios, because the goal is to turn your awareness inward.

Instructor Sigrid Matthews has been teaching yoga for 34 years. Matthews co-owns Black Dog Yoga in Sherman Oaks, California, and she welcomes beginners with open arms. “When you practice yoga, you’re learning how to put yourself into more of a relaxation state. When you do that on a regular basis you get a decrease in blood pressure and an increase in oxygenation in your blood. This leads to better sleeping, loss of weight, more mental clarity and more energy,” she explains.

Ready to Flow?

If you’ve never set foot inside a studio, it’s important to know what to expect before beginning your practice. For example, a typical yoga class uses a series of sequences to “flow” from one pose to another. Instructors typically cue poses both in English and Sanskrit, the language of ancient India, where yoga first began. While it sounds much cooler in Sanskrit (think “tadasana” versus “mountain”), for simplicity sake, we’ll use English translations for these beginning yoga sequences below. Some variation of these five beginning yoga sequences are frequently done as a warm-up in a Vinyasa class…

Tabletop to Cat and Cow

Yoga pose - table pose ( bharmanasana)

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Matthews explains that tabletop pose begins on all fours and forms the foundation for cat pose and cow pose. “Come to your hands and knees (tabletop) press into the hands, press into the shins, press into the toenails; then as you inhale, move your chest forward into cow pose; as you exhale round your spine, draw your belly in, and that’s cat pose. Do this without tension in the upper shoulders or neck,” she instructs.

Yoga pose - cat pose (marjari)

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Yoga pose - cow pose (bitilasana)

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Tabletop to Lunge

Yoga pose - balancing table pose (dandayamana bharmanasana)

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Matthews continues: “From tabletop, step one foot forward, and keep the back knee down to lunge position.”

Yoga pose - low lunge pose (anjaneyasana)

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Lunge to Forward Fold

Yoga pose - standing forward bend pose (uttanasana)

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“Bring the other foot forward and now you’re in a forward fold,” Matthews adds.

Forward Fold to Mountain

Yoga pose - mountain pose (tadasana)

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“Stand all the way up to mountain pose,” Matthews explains. As you stand up, sweep the hands up to over your head or bring them to your sides. Palms face forward or hands can be in prayer position at heart center.

Tabletop to Downward Dog

Yoga pose - balancing table pose (dandayamana bharmanasana)

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Yoga pose - Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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From all fours, tuck your toes and lift your hips while you bring your knees off the mat. Use your core to straighten your legs, and push the tops of your thighs back into downward dog. Don’t push too far, and keep your knees a bit bent.

Yoga pose - child pose (balasana)

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End your practice with Child's Pose.

So What's Next?

We get it, you might still be intimidated at the idea of putting on leggings and setting foot in a studio. But yoga is all about embracing vulnerability and getting to a place of acceptance.

Joanna Sesny, operations manager at Yoga Shanti in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood, encourages anyone interested in yoga to give it a try. “Look up a studio that offers a basic or beginner class. Even if you’re an athlete or your fitness level is high, my suggestion is to find a basic beginner-level class and go. Whatever is holding you back, dismiss those thoughts and go.”

No worries if you don’t own a yoga mat, since most studios have a stash available. They often provide yoga blocks and straps for you to use, too (yoga accessories really aren’t as weird and scary as they sound, we promise!). Bring your favorite workout outfit and you’ll be flowing in no time.

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