Walking into a yoga class as a beginner can be intimidating. We get it.
That said, the benefits of yoga far outweigh the fear factor. See: reduced anxiety and stress levels, improved balance and flexibility, and better sleep.
If you need to ease your way in, consider this 30-minute beginner yoga sequence, created by City Fitness’s lead Foundations instructor Olivia Berry, the ultimate gateway stretch session. This yoga sequence for beginners will familiarize you with some of the basic poses you’ll encounter during a yoga class and get you comfortable moving on a mat. If you don’t have the space or equipment to practice, our Focus studios are open for use when classes are not in session.
Not a member? Find your flow with our expert Focus instructors by signing up for a free 5-class pass.
The Ultimate Yoga Sequence for Beginners
What you’ll need: A yoga mat, two yoga blocks (or two books of the same size), a yoga strap or towel, and a blanket.
Directions: Do the following poses in order for the prescribed number of breaths.
1. Easy Seated Pose, 2 minutes or 16-20 breaths
With a folded blanket placed beneath your hips, find an easy cross-legged seat on your mat. Allow your eyes to close and begin to deepen your breath. Focus on grounding down through your seat, stacking your shoulders over your hips and reaching up through the crown of your head.
Stay here for around 2 minutes, or until you start to feel an ease in your breath. If a distraction arises, bring your attention back to the breath.
2. Knees to Chest, 1 minute or 8-10 breaths
Lie down on your back and draw both knees into your chest, keeping your head, neck and shoulders relaxed down to the ground. You can hold onto your knees or shins as you gently rock from side to side, massaging your lower back and sacrum.
Draw your belly button in towards the spine and press your low back into the mat as you move. Try not to lift your head, neck or shoulders.
3. Supine Twist with Blanket, 1 minute total or 4-5 breaths per side
From Knees to Chest position, find your folded blanket and place it lengthwise between your thighs. Take your arms out to your sides, making a “T” shape with your palms facing up or down. On an exhale, drop both knees to the right, stacking the knees and thighs on top of each other with the blanket between them. Keep both arms extended, shoulders grounded, and turn your head over your right shoulder. After 4 to 5 breaths, bring your knees back to center and repeat on the left side.
4. Cat/Cow, 1 minute or 8-10 breaths
Press yourself up to your hands and knees. Position your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Spread your fingers wide and press down through the inner edges of your hands.
On an inhale, arch your spine, expanding your chest forward as your hips reach up for cow pose. On your next exhale, round your spine, pushing the floor away with your hands as your gaze comes to your thighs for cat pose. Continue moving through these two shapes, inhaling for cow and exhaling for cat 4 or 5 more times. Feel free to add any other movements through your spine, hips, head or neck that feel natural.
Note: If your knees are sensitive, place a folded blanket underneath them. When inhaling for cow pose, don’t throw your head back when you arch your spine.
5. All Fours Calf Stretch and Balance, 2 minutes total or 8-10 breaths on each side
Staying in all fours from Cat/Cow, lift your navel towards your spine to engage your abdominal muscles. On your inhale, extend your right leg behind you and bring the ball of your right foot down to your mat. Keeping your hands pressed firmly into the mat, push back through the ball of your right foot and rock forwards and backwards a bit until you feel a stretch in your right calf. Continue for a few breaths before moving onto part two of this pose.
On an inhale, extend your right leg behind you, keeping your heel aligned with your hip. On an exhale, round your spine like cat pose, bringing your right knee in towards your chest and your gaze towards your belly.
On your next inhale, re-extend through your right leg, keeping the leg lifted at hip height. If balance allows, extend the left arm forward when you send your right leg backward, keeping your bicep aligned with your ear. On an exhale, bring the left elbow and right knee together. Repeat the entire pose on the other side with the left leg.
6. Child’s Pose, 1-2 minutes or 10-20 breaths
Place one of your blocks on its lowest height toward the top of your mat. Touch your big toes together and let your knees slide apart to hips-width distance or wider.
Gently sit your hips back towards your heels as your chest comes down towards your thighs and the mat. Extend your arms out in front of you and slide the block under your forehead so your head can rest comfortably.
7. Downward-Facing Dog, 1 minute or 4 to 5 breaths
From child’s pose, inhale and come to all fours. On your next exhale, curl your toes under and lift your hips up to make an inverted V shape. Keeping your hands the same distance apart, push your hands down and forward while reaching your hips up and back.
With your feet about hip-distance apart, allow the heels to fall towards the ground, keeping a small bend in the knees and hips lifted. Drop your head so your ears are aligned with your biceps. If your shoulders are tight, bring your hands a little bit wider and turn your hands out slightly toward the side of your mat. Breathe deeply and hold for up to 5 breaths, resting when needed.
8. Standing Forward Bend, 1 minute or 8-10 breaths
From Downward-Facing Dog, step forward until you reach the top of your mat and separate your feet to hips-width apart. Bend your knees deeply and hinge forward from your hips, letting your arms dangle toward the ground and your neck relax. Grab onto your opposite elbows.
Keeping your knees bent, gently sway side to side, allowing your upper body to be heavy over your legs. After 4 to 5 breaths, release your hands and grab opposite elbows for a second time, this time with the opposite forearm in front. Take another 4 to 5 breaths.
9. Mountain Pose, 1 minute or 8-10 breaths
Keep your feet about hips-width apart and slowly roll up to a standing position. Once you arrive at a standing position, roll your shoulders up towards your ears and then down your back. On an inhale, reach your arms out and up overhead, with your palms facing each other. Bring your hands down together in front of the chest.
Without locking your knees, take a moment to stand in mountain pose, either with your hands at your heart or hands by your side with palms facing forward, and take 4 to 5 deep breaths.
10. Chair Pose, 1 minute or 8-10 breaths
From mountain pose, place a block lengthwise between your thighs and fold your torso forward over your legs, keeping a soft bend in your knees. With your knees positioned behind your ankles and your weight on your heels, squeeze the block with your inner thighs as you sit your hips back, as though you were going to sit on a chair behind you.
Gently lift your arms upward until your biceps are aligned with your ears, lifting up through your chest. Continue to squeeze the block with your thighs as you hold this position.
Tip: Don’t lift your arms overhead if your shoulders are tight. Instead, bring your arms to a goal-post shape or keep your hands on your hips.
11. Low Lunge Pose, 2 minutes total or 8-10 breaths on each side
Place your block to the side and gently lower yourself into table pose, placing a blanket under your knees if they are sensitive. Position a block under each of your hands on their highest height, then step your right foot forward between your hands, keeping your left knee on the floor and your hands on blocks.
With your right knee over your right heel, slide your left knee back until you feel a stretch in the front left thigh and groin, and press all five toenails of your back foot into the mat. On an inhale, lift your torso upright, sweeping your arms up overhead, biceps by your ears. Draw your tailbone down as you bend deeper into your front knee. Let your shoulders relax down on your back as you lift your chest slightly. Hold for 4-5 breaths, resting your hands on your blocks if coming upright does not feel stable. After 4-5 breaths, bring your hands back to your blocks, step your right knee back to table position and repeat on the left side.
12. Prone Thigh Stretch, 2 minutes total or 8-10 breaths on each side
Lower yourself all the way down to your belly with your arms by your side. Bring your left forearm parallel to the top of the mat and rest your forehead on your forearm. Bend your right knee and reach your right arm back to grab your right foot or ankle.
If you cannot reach your foot or ankle, loop a strap or towel around your right ankle and hold both ends of the strap in your right hand. Press both thighs down into the mat and kick your right foot back while still pulling your right foot towards your right hip with your hand or the strap. Hold for another 4-5 breaths, release and repeat on the left side.
13. Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend, 2 minutes total or 8-10 breaths on each side
From a standing position, turn to face the long side of your mat and step your feet out wide so the outer edges of your feet are parallel to the short edges of your mat. Turn your toes slightly inward to find a small pigeon-toe shape in your feet and bring your hands to your hips. On an inhale, expand your chest, and on your exhale fold forward and bring your hands down to the floor or blocks under your shoulders. Allow your head to drop down towards the floor as your hips reach up. Hold for 4-5 more breaths, then bring your hands back to your hips and squeeze your thighs together as you come all the way up to stand. Repeat on the left side.
Tip: If your hamstrings are more open and you don’t feel a stretch here, try bringing your feet closer together. If you have tight hamstrings and legs walk your feet a bit wider. Either way, don’t lock out your knees.
14. Warrior II, 2 minutes total or 8-10 breaths on each side
Face the long side of your mat and extend your arms out to the side in a T, with your palms down. Step your feet wide so they are positioned under each wrist and are parallel to the short edges of your mat. Turn your right toes forward to face the top of your mat and turn your left toes toward your body at a 90-degree angle.
On an exhale, bend your right knee deeply, keeping your right knee over your right ankle. Push into the outer edge of your left foot to find stability as you distribute your weight evenly between both feet. Extend through both arms, allowing your shoulders to drop away from your ears. Turn your head and gaze over the middle finger of your right hand. Hold for 4 to 5 breaths, then carefully step your feet together to return to mountain pose at the top of your mat. Repeat on the other side.
15. Tree Pose, 2 minutes total or 8-10 breaths on each side
Return to mountain pose at the top of your mat. With your feet hip-distance apart, shift your weight into your right foot. Lift your left foot off of the mat and bring the sole of your foot to your inner right calf or thigh. Bring your hands in prayer to your chest, let your shoulders drop down your back, and adjust your left hip back so your hips are aligned.
If you feel balanced here, you can reach your arms overhead in a V shape. Engage your core and hold without locking your standing leg. Repeat on the other side.
16. Gentle Spinal Twist, 1 minute total or 4-5 breaths on each side
Find a comfortable seat towards the front of your mat with your folded blanket under your hips. Cross your legs, noting which shin is in front. Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand behind your back on the floor. Maintain a firm foundation by rooting your sitting bones into the floor or blanket. Inhale to lengthen your spine, and exhale to twist to the right, originating the twist from the center of your pelvis and spiraling the twist upward through the spine, turning the neck and head last. Take 4-5 breaths in the twist, and on an exhale gently come back to center. Repeat on the other side, crossing the other shin in front.
17. Supported Bridge, 1 minute or 8-10 breaths
Come down to your mat into a seated position and slowly lower yourself onto your back. Bend your knees, bringing your feet hips-width apart with your ankles under your knees. Press down through your feet to lift your hips up and slide a block under your hips at its lowest setting.
Let your hips rest on the block and release any tension in your glutes and shoulders. Let your arms rest down on the mat by your side, palms down. Keep a space behind the back of your neck and the mat so there is no weight on the cervical spine. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths, then lift the hips enough to slide the block out of the way before lowering the hips back down.
18. Eye of The Needle, 2 minutes total or 8-10 breaths on each side
Stay on your back with your knees bent. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh, making a 4 shape with your legs. Keeping your left foot down, gently press your right inner thigh away from your hip with your right hand. Stay here, or begin to lift your left leg and reach through the legs to interlace your hands behind the back of the left thigh.
Flex the right foot and press your tailbone down towards the mat, finding a slight curve in the low back. Keep your back, shoulders and head down on the mat as you hold and breathe for 8 to 10 breaths. Release your legs back to the mat with your knees bent and repeat on the other side.
19. Supported Corpse, 3 minutes minimum
Slide a rolled blanket under your knees to support your low back and gently lower yourself down into a prone position. Release any tension in both legs, allowing your toes to flop out to the side naturally. Let your shoulders and head release down into the mat and bring your arms by your side, opened to about at 45-degree angle, so your arms are not touching your body. Turn our palms upward and soften any tension in your face.
Gently close your eyes or soften your gaze, and begin to bring more attention to the sound and sensation of your breath. Stay here for a minimum of 3 minutes, bringing movement slowly back into the body when it is time to get up. Roll to either your right or left side and push yourself up to a comfortable seat. Namaste!