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Yoga Poses

Categorized articles on better feeling your body while doing yoga poses
Published: 2015 08 25
Updated: 2021 02 24


Yoga poses

Side plank yoga pose: elbows and knee are straight. Torso is inline with the supporting leg. Supporting shoulder is stacked over support wrist. Top leg is flexed upwards with the big with grabbed by the same side hand. Gaze is directed upwards with head in line with the torso.  Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

Yoga poses grouped by category and action to help you find information on specific yoga poses easily. Learn how to work towards particular types of yoga poses whether they are:

  • arm balances,
  • binding poses,
  • inversions,
  • back bends,
  • forward bends,
  • twists,
  • side bends,
  • balancing poses,
  • or poses where you are standing on one foot.

Also included, poses from the ashtanga yoga primary series.

Yoga Pose Categories Index

Basic Balancing Yoga Poses

Balancing yoga poses (or balance exercises) can be as simple as balancing on your forefeet or heels.

Another simple way to practice balance is while balancing on one foot.

Perhaps the most basic aspect of balance (and this is from a first principles approach) is learning to feel the position of your center of gravity. Read how to do that in Feeling Your Center of Gravity.

For more on balance, scroll sideways in the list below.

For even more on balance, check out the Learning how to balance page.

Yoga poses with a side bending element

Side bending yoga poses are a simple way to mobilize the spine (and to a certain extent, the hips).

When doing yoga poses with a side bending element, you can focus on the long side of the side bend or the short side of the side bend. For the latter, check out the Side bending the spine article. For more side-bending yoga pose options, scroll sideways in the list below.

Yoga poses with a twisting element

Yoga poses with a twisting element can be used to mobilize (and strengthen) the spine as well as the hips.

Currently, one of my favorite spinal twists is the Standing Spinal Twist with Basic Hip Activation.

If you focus on twisting the spine while keeping the hips stable, you have a potential ab strengthening exercise on your hands. So while you can use your arms to help you twist when doing Poses another method is to use the muscles of the torso to twist the elements of the spine relative to each other. In this case you can think of the hip bones, the ribs and even the skull as bony levers that can be worked on by the abs, intercostals and even the spinal erectors.

Scroll sideways in the list below to see more twisting yoga poses for the spine and the hips.

Yoga poses with a Back Bending element

A good way to prepare for spinal back bending yoga poses is to warm up with Spinal Back Bending Exercises.

The idea is to use these exercises to help you feel your spinal erectors and activate them. You can then work at using your spinal erectors to actively bend your spine backwards while doing Spinal Back Bending Yoga Poses.

Spinal back bending yoga poses can also include back bend for the hips.

Scroll sideways in the list below to see more back bending yoga poses.

Yoga poses with a Forward Bending element

Forward bending yoga poses can include a forward bend for the spine, a forward bend for the hips or a bit of both. Forward bends for the hips with the knees straight can be thought of as hamstring stretching yoga poses and they are listed in the next section.

The Yoga forward bends page includes poses like Yoga Plough Pose and shoulder stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) which are forward bends for the neck (and in the case of shoulder stand, also a forward bend for the hips). It also includes forward bends for the spine in general.

Forward bends for the hips with the knees bent can in some cases be used as Hip Flexor Strength Exercises. In other cases they can be used as a warmup or preparation for hamstring stretching yoga poses .

For more forward bending yoga poses, scroll sideways through the list below.

Yoga poses that can stretch the hamstrings

Hamstring stretching yoga poses are poses where you bend forwards at the hips with the knees straight in order to stretch the hamstrings.

Because hamstring stretching isn't always easy, hamstring stretching yoga poses includes different suggestions for stretching the hamstrings effectively.

If you are interested in working towards front to back splits, then check out these hamstring stretches specifically.

For more hamstring stretching yoga poses, scroll sideways through the list below.

Yoga poses with a binding element

Binding yoga poses are those where one hand grabs the some part of the opposite arm, or it grabs a foot or shin. Binding yoga poses also include poses where one foot or leg presses against the opposite foot or leg such as yoga tree pose and eagle pose.

And actually, eagle pose includes a bind for the legs and also for the arms as explained in eagle pose arms.

In binding poses like the marichyasana series you wrap an arm around a bend leg in the process of grabbing the wrist of the opposite hand.

Arm Supported Yoga Poses

Arm supported yoga poses are those where the arms are used to support some portion of the weight of your body. These poses can be used to strengthen the arms and shoulders.

Note that the positions included here include positions with arms in front of the body (Dog, plank, Chaturanga, Upward Facing Dog, Bird Dog Yoga Pose), behind it (Reverse Plank Yoga Pose and Table Top Yoga Pose), reaching past the head (Downward Facing Dog and Dolphin) and to the side (Side Plank).

The arm supported poses where one hand is grabbing a foot or big toe could also be considered as binding yoga poses.

For more arm supported yoga poses, scroll sideways in the list below.

Arm Balances

Arm balances are yoga poses where the weight of the body is supported by the body. They include yoga poses with names like galavasana, eka pada bakasana and astavakrasana.

Handstand is not included in this group of poses because arm balances tend to have one or both legs in contact with the arms. In this regard, because of the inter-body contact, arm balances could be thought of as being similar to binding yoga poses.

One pose that sort of breaks the rules for arm balancing (in that the waist rests on the arms, not the legs) is mayurasana.

Note that arm balances for the most part could also be thought of as belly down yoga poses since the belly does face downwards in most arm balancing yoga poses.

For more arm balancing yoga poses, scroll sideways through the list below.

Yoga Poses using a wall

If you have limited flexibility, or need an easier way to do yoga poses, one special category of yoga poses is yoga poses using a wall.

Inverted Yoga Poses

Inverted yoga poses are yoga poses where you turn your body upside down. This can include standing on your head in some version of headstand, balancing on your hands in handstand, your forearms in forearm stand or even on the back of your head and shoulders in shoulder stand or plough pose.

To get used to giving your body the support it needs you can use a wall to begin with. Once you are used to being upside down in these poses while supported, then work towards balancing in them.

Kneeling Yoga Poses

Kneeling yoga poses are those where one or both shins are on the floor with the knees bent and with some portion of the weight of the body being supported by the shin(s) or knee(s) in question. Kneeling poses also include poses where one or both legs are in the "hero" foot position. This is where the foot (and shin) are positioned to the outside of the thigh.

Kneeling and semi-kneeling yoga poses can include twisting yoga poses as well as side bending yoga poses. Forward and backward bends are also included.

Kneeling poses can be used to stretch the quadriceps. For a deeper quadriceps stretch while kneeling or while in hero pose, you can lean back at the hip joints.

Belly Down or Prone Yoga Poses

Belly down or prone yoga poses are those where the body is positioned so that the belly faces downwards. You could be supporting the torso using arms or legs, or the belly can be in direct contact with the floor. Some of the belly down positions can be used as shoulder stretches. In one case, the shoulder stretch starts from a belly down position, but then as you enter the pose, the belly ends up facing the side, or even upwards.

Prone yoga poses (or belly down poses) include some backbending poses as well as poses that could be considered binding poses since hands are used to grab feet or ankles. In general, the prone yoga poses here can be used for stretching and strengthening quads, hip flexors, outer hips, adductors, spinal twists and shoulder stretches. Note that these poses can combine stretching and strengthening when you resist the stretch by activating the muscles you are trying to stretch.

Prone poses can also include resting poses.

Supine Yoga Poses

Supine yoga poses are poses where the belly faces upwards.That includes poses that are supported by the arms and/or legs. Supine yoga poses can be used to strengthen the abs (by bending upwards) as well as the spinal erectors (by bending the spine backwards).

Note that there are both bound and unbound variations of some supine yoga poses.

With unbound supine yoga poses you use muscles intrinsic to the joint. When bound supine yoga poses, you use muscles that aren't necessarily intrinsic to the joint being worked on.

Seated Yoga Poses

Seated yoga poses are those where one or both buttocks are on the ground and supporting body weight, or poses like table top and reverse plank where you start with the buttocks on the floor. One other exception to this general rule for seated yoga poses is janusirsasana b where you actually place your perineum atop the heel of one foot. Based on this rule of the buttocks being on the floor, some kneeling poses could also be considered as seated poses.

The general complement to seated yoga poses is standing yoga poses. Standing yoga poses can tend to be used to strengthen the legs. In addition, if flexibility is limited, standing poses can be easier.

Because there are a lot of seated yoga poses, the seated hamstring stretches (with counter poses) get their own little mini-grouping.

Standing yoga poses

Standing Yoga Poses tend to be grouped according to whether the reference leg is turned out relative to the pelvis or facing forwards. They could also be grouped according to whether one or both knees is bent or straight. Bent knee poses tend to used to strengthen the thighs. That being said, straight knee standing poses can also be used to strengthen your legs if you make an effort to activate your leg muscles.

Another possible sub-division of standing yoga poses is poses where you stand on one leg.

For a selection of standing yoga poses for dealing with low back pain check out standing exercises for low back pain.

For more standing poses, whether standing on one leg, lateral standing poses or longitudinal standing poses, scroll sideways through the relevant list below.

Ashtanga Yoga Poses

Ashtanga yoga is made up of different series of yoga poses. The Ashtanga yoga page has links to descriptions of most of the poses in this series of poses.

For instructions for learning and doing sun salutes, as well as Ashtanga basics like chaturanga, down dog and up dog, as well as vinyassas in general scroll sideways through the list below.

After sun salutations, the primary series then focuses on standing yoga poses. For more on those, scroll sideways through the list below.

After the standing poses, what follows next in the primary series is a set sequence of seated yoga poses.

To finish of the primary series, there are a set of poses which are termed the finishing sequence. This includes poses like headstand and shoulder stand.

Courses for Learning yoga poses from a First Principles approach

How do you learn yoga poses from a first principles approach? By learning to feel and control isolated parts of your body.

Rather than focusing on specific yoga poses, (or types of yoga poses) the course below teach you how to feel and control specific parts of your body, first in isolation, and then in the context of different yoga poses. The focus is on "proprioceptive muscle control".

The idea here is that the better you can feel and control the individual parts of your body, the better you can feel and control those parts in the context of yoga poses, or in the context of any other activity you choose to do.

Muscle Control from first principles bundle

Get all 8 courses as a bundle.
Regularly $360,
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1 Hip flexors

Improve knee and hip stability via your sartorius, tensor fascia latae and rectus femoris.
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2 Hamstrings

Anchor your hamstrings. Learn to control knee rotation, hip flexion, hip extension.
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3 Thigh muscles

Get a feel for quadriceps, adductors and hamstrings. Improve knee and hip stability and control.
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4 Long thigh muscles

Work towards better knee, hip joint and hip bone control via your long thigh muscles.
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5 Deep Hip muscles

Improve hip joint stability. Get a better feel for your hip muscles and hip joint.
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6 SI joints

Get a taste of coordinating SI joint control with control of your spine, arms and legs.
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7 Shoulders

Improve touch control, basic shoulder blade awareness, shoulder stability.
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8 Spine

Improve spine and ribcage mobility. Improve awareness, understanding and control.
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Alphabetical Yoga Poses

Links to poses sorted alphabetically by name are included in the alphabetical yoga poses page.

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