The Most Popular Yoga Poses and How to Practice Them

It’s important to practice a variety of poses in yoga.

Even though you may not feel like it, it’s important to practice the yoga poses you hate or aren’t “good” at. That’s because doing those poses usually highlights vulnerabilities in your practice that are all too convenient to avoid, which can lead to injuries. Conversely, if you solely focus on poses you dislike, you become mentally rigid. Eventually your commitment to yoga dwindles, and it can derail your whole practice.

Google search data collected by Delamere, a private rehab clinic in the U.K., revealed the 10 most popular yoga poses. The results provide a list of poses that may be worth practicing regularly for their benefits, as well as just for the fun of it.

Here are the 10 most popular yoga poses:

1. Downward dog

How:

Start in a table-top position with your wrists straight across your mat and shoulder-width apart. Make sure your knees are underneath your hips. Tuck your toes under, lift your knees off the floor and stretch your hips up and back, so that your body makes an upside down “V” shape on your mat.

Step your feet back another three to four inches and make sure your feet are hips-width apart. Press your hands down against the floor, straighten your arms and lengthen your back. Make sure to bend your knees enough to create a lordotic curve, or slight arch, in your low back. Hold this pose for five breaths and gently lower back down into table-top.

Why:

Downward dog strengthens and opens your arms, shoulders and back effectively because you’re bearing weight on your hands. In this pose, your thigh bones root into their hip sockets at a deep level. This helps to create a tilt in your pelvis and an optimal curve in your back that releases tightness. Downward dog also stretches your hamstrings and calves.

2. Pigeon pose

How:

From downward dog, place your right knee behind your right wrist and angle your shin across your mat to the left at a 45-degree angle. Lower your back knee gently and square your hips towards the floor. Lower onto your forearms and as much as you can keep your hips square, slide your back leg and hips back and allow them to release down towards the floor. Hold for five breaths and repeat on the second side.

Why:

Pigeon is an accessible hip-opener because it’s a position that affords you a lot of stability as more of your body is on the mat. By opening your hips, it helps minimize torque on your knee during daily activities, which alleviates knee pain. This forward fold is also very grounding because it doesn’t require much balance or strength to hold it.

3. Side plank

How:

In a high plank, turn your right hand a quarter inch to the right and rotate onto your right hand and right side of foot. Stack your feet, flex your feet and lift your hips up. Reach your left arm straight up towards the ceiling such that your left wrist is directly above your shoulder. Lift your chin enough that your ears are in line with your arms and, as you’re balanced, slowly look up through your left fingertips. Hold for three breaths and rotate onto the left side.

Why:

Side plank builds strength in your obliques and your arms. This strength is helpful to maintain good posture both on and off your mat. It also helps to build focus while you’re facing a challenge.

4. Cobra pose

How:

Lie on your belly with your wrists straight across and under your elbows. Point your feet and engage your legs. Inhale, pull your chest forward towards the front of your mat, lift your whole upper body and broaden your chest.

Rotate your hands out just enough to keep your index-knuckles rooted. Keep your elbows bent enough to set the head of your arm-bones back in their shoulder sockets. As you exhale, roll over your knees, lift your hips back to table top before stepping back to downward dog.

Why:

Cobra tractions your low back long to help reverse compression that occurs from sitting at your desk or on the couch. This pose also opens your chest, shoulders and upper back.

5. Warrior 2 pose

How:

Start in downward dog, inhale, step your right foot forward between your hands and aim it straight forward. Spin your left heel to the floor and place it parallel with the back edge of your mat. Bend your right knee directly over your ankle, with your thigh parallel with the floor. If you were to draw a line from your front heel towards the back edge of your mat, it should intersect with the arch of your left foot.

Come up with your arms extended out to either side of your body, your shoulders stacked over your hips and your hips and shoulders square towards the wall you’re facing. Hold for five breaths and move to the second side.

Why:

This strong, standing pose develops power in your legs, hips and arms. Because your hips are open towards the side of your mat, it also stretches your inner thighs. This pose is crucial to practice correctly in order to advance because it’s the starting point for nearly all other side-plane postures.

6. Child’s pose

How:

Place your knees as wide as your mat, point your feet and bring your big-toes to touch. Set your hips back and down towards your calves. Relax your forearms and forehead on the floor. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths in through your nose and out your mouth.

Why:

Child’s pose is a great “home base” pose, where if you’re ever short of breath or just need a moment to gather your senses, it’s very settling. It is also a good position to help loosen your lower back.

7. Bridge pose

How:

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet placed flat on the floor. Set your ankles underneath your knees and your feet hips-width apart. Align your neck so that the back of your head is on the floor, your chin is perpendicular to the floor and no part of your cervical spine touches the ground.

Inhale, root your feet down to lift your hips and lower-back up. Clasp your hands underneath you or arms alongside you, palms facing up — whichever gives you more leverage to get your shoulders underneath you. As much as your knees point the same direction as your feet, lift your hips up as high as you can. Take five deep breaths and gently lower your hips back to the floor and press your hands against the root of your thighs.

Why:

Bridge pose opens up your shoulders, chest and upper back. It also develops strength in your thighs, hamstrings and glutes as you engage them all to lift your hips up in the pose. Bridge is also a necessary remedial step to progress into deeper backbends.

8. Boat pose

How:

Sit upright on your mat, with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your feet and knees together. Hold the backs of your thighs and lift your chest up. Flex your feet, tilt your weight back on your tailbone slightly to lift your feet up off the mat. As you’re balanced, reach your arms straight out in front of you with your fingers spread wide and palms towards one another.

As much as you can keep length in your back, with your feet and legs together, slowly straighten your legs out in front of you and up towards the ceiling at a 45-degree angle. Hold for five breaths or as much as you can while maintaining good alignment.

Why:

This pose helps to develop core strength, which leads to better postures in general. Challenging poses like boat are helpful to develop confidence and mental strength.

9. Dolphin pose

How:

While lying on your belly, prop yourself up onto your forearms with your elbows underneath your shoulders and palms flat on the floor. Tuck your toes under and lift your hips so your back and hips are in a plank shape. Walk your feet in towards your forearms until your shoulders stack directly above your elbows. Press your forearms down and forward to lift your hips and back.

Step your feet hips-width apart and bend your knees as much as you need to in order to take the round out of your lower back. Look between your forearms and hold for five breaths before you lower your knees gently to the floor for a child’s pose.

Why:

Dolphin is a position where you’re placing a lot of your body weight on your forearms, which builds strength in your arms and back. It also strengthens your quad muscles and opens your lower back while stretching your hamstrings. Dolphin is also a necessary prep pose for advancing in inversions like forearm stand.

10. Crow pose

How:

Face the front edge of your mat, step your feet as wide as your mat and point your feet towards the side walls at 45-degree angles. Bend your knees deeply with your knees pointing the same direction as your feet. Lower your hips until they nearly touch the mat and keep your heels heavy on the floor. Bring your palms to touch in front of your chest and press your triceps against your inner knees and your inner knees against your triceps to create a lift in your lower back.

Place your hands on the mat with your wrists straight across and shoulder-width apart. Keep your knees glued against your arms as you lift your hips high, bend your elbows deeply and shift your weight forward so that your heels are off the mat and your head is in front of your hands. Lift one foot off of the floor and then the other. Bring your big toes to touch and look forward. Grip your fingertips into the floor to prevent your head from touching the floor. For added challenge, straighten your arms, hollow your belly and round your back. Hold for five breaths and gently lower your feet back to the floor.

Why:

This symmetrical arm balance is a fun and effective way to develop the skill of balancing on your hands and develop the strength you need to move into all other arm balances, including handstand. It requires arm and core strength, along with mobility in your shoulders and hips.

10 most popular yoga poses:

— Downward dog.

— Pigeon pose.

— Side plank.

— Cobra pose.

— Warrior 2 pose.

— Child’s pose.

— Bridge pose.

— Boat pose.

— Dolphin pose.

— Crow pose.

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The Most Popular Yoga Poses and How to Practice Them originally appeared on usnews.com

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