If you spend much time on Instagram or following yogis on social media then you’ve likely seen all the different contortionist yoga poses and challenging inversions they put themselves into. While these poses look great on the ‘gram, they’re not accessible to everyone.
And, frankly, they’re simply not necessary.
You can get all the benefits of yoga without doing any difficult or advanced postures. Easy yoga postures are just as good, if not better, at helping to:
- improve joint range of motion
- mobilize your body
- stretch muscles
- improve posture
- stimulate digestion
- boost energy
- calm your nervous system
- increase balance
This set of 20 easy yoga poses can provide you with all of those yummy benefits. You can do a few at a time, pick and choose your favorites to create a little routine, or do them all in order.
This set of easy yoga poses would be great for a pre-bed or wake-up routine. All you need is a comfortable place to practice and comfy clothing.
1. Mountain Pose
We only spend a small percentage of our day on our mat. Meaning, most of our day is spent off the mat. Setting ourselves up with good posture during yoga practice can provide benefits throughout the day.
Mountain pose is all about finding alignment, improving posture, and rooting into the earth to feel grounded.
How to Do Mountain Pose
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed forward.
- Put a slight bend in your knees, gently engage the muscles in your thighs.
- Pull your belly button in and tuck your pelvis to reduce the curve in your low back, if you have one.
- Inhale to lengthen your spine and roll your shoulders down and back to open your chest.
- Extend your arms long, gently reaching towards the floor, palms facing forward.
- Lift your chin slightly, gaze goes soft, eyelids half-closed.
- Breathe! Stay in this posture for 5 long, deep breaths.
2. Cat Cow
Cat cow is a yogi standard. This moving posture has a lot of room for play and discovering what feels best for your body. Cat cow is all about gaining spine mobility and is a great warm-up posture to start off your day.
You can get the same benefits of cat cow while using a yoga ball. Simply fold over the ball belly down, and then switch to a backbend over the ball. You get the same benefits and a little extra intensity.
How to Do Cat Cow
- Come to your hands and knees or all fours.
- Place your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
- As you inhale, drop your belly and look up towards the ceiling.
- On your exhale, round your spine and look towards your belly button.
- Continue this movement for 3 to 5 breaths, or until your spine feels more mobile.
Don’t be afraid to play around in cat cow! To find new sensation in this posture you can:
- Energetically push your knees out
- Squeeze your abs on the inhale
- Rock backward and forwards
3. Child’s Pose — Narrow knees
Child’s pose is known in most yoga circles as a posture of rest. When a class gets too tough, return to child’s pose. It’s a place to catch your breath. But, this posture has benefits all of its own. Child’s pose helps to elongate your spine and creates compression on the front body which can feel good.
How to Do Narrow Knee Child’s Pose
- From all fours, sit your hips back onto your heels.
- Leave your hands extended in front of you.
- Fold over your legs bringing your forehead to the ground.
- If you want, you can leave your forehead on the floor and bring your arms back so your hands rest near your hips.
- Continue to breathe.
4. Thread the Needle
Thread the needle is a wonderful, restorative pose that can help open the muscles in your upper back and provides a gentle, upper body twist to improve spine mobility.
How to Do Thread the Needle
- Start on all fours, hands below shoulders and knees below hips.
- Inhale, lift your right arm up to the side and reach towards the ceiling, gaze follows your fingers.
- Exhale thread your right hand between your left hand and knee, sweeping it along the floor.
- Place your right shoulder and ear gently on the ground, right arm extended long.
- Extend your left arm forward, bicep near your left ear.
- Deeply inhale to feel the stretch along your upper back.
- To increase the upper body twist, reach your left hand around your back towards your right hip.
- Repeat this posture on the other side, by threading the left arm underneath the right side.
- Hold each side for 3 to 5 breaths.
5. Puppy Pose
One of the most common yoga poses is downward-facing dog, or down dog. We’re going to do the mini version: puppy pose.
Puppy pose is a gentle heart-opening posture that will stretch your chest, shoulders, and abs. Heart-opening postures can be emotional and intense, so take your time with this posture. Enter slowly and with deep breaths. Gently exit the posture anytime you need to.
How to Do Puppy Pose
- From all fours, walk your hands forward and come onto your elbows.
- Lean your chest forward, bringing it near to the ground.
- Place your forehead or chin on the ground.
- Extend your arms straight. Press your chest towards the ground.
- Try to keep your hips stacked above your knees instead of pushing them back towards your heels.
6. Child’s Pose — Wide Knees
There are a number of variations of child’s pose. Playing around with these different variations will help you to find what works best for your body. A wide knees child’s pose helps to open up your hips and low back. If this doesn’t feel good, go back to the narrow knees child’s pose.
How to Do Wide Knees Child’s Pose
- From all fours, sit your hips back to your heels.
- Separate your knees wider than hip distance apart. As wide as is comfortable.
- Fold forward, bringing your forehead to the ground.
- Extend your arms straight forward, biceps near your ears and palms to the ground.
- If this is uncomfortable, you can bring your hands back towards your hips, knuckles on the ground.
This posture has a lot of benefits. It requires balance and provides a nice side body stretch while still being an accessible pose. You might also feel a stretch in your inner thigh.
Make sure to perform gate on a soft yoga mat to protect your knees. You might even fold your yoga mat up to provide extra squishyness. This padding can make balance a little more challenging.
How to Do Gate Pose
- Start from all fours.
- Lift your chest so your “standing” on both knees, place your hands on your hips.
- Extend your left leg out to the side, point your toes forward (same direction as your nose) so your entire foot rests on the ground.
- Extend your left arm and place your palm on your left thigh or calf. Do not place it on your knee as this could create instability.
- Lift your right hand and extend it towards the left wall, bicep near your right ear.
- Take 2 to 3 breaths here.
- Lift your chest to return to the starting position, bringing your left leg in.
- Repeat on the other side, extending your right leg.
Lizard pose is simply a deep lunge. This posture is great for improving hip joint mobility and stretching the muscles surrounding your hips. There are a lot of variations on lizard pose and a lot of minor adjustments you can make to find new sensation. Don’t be afraid to play around and try different things. Tune in to your body and what feels good.
How to Do Lizard
- From all fours, lift your knees, straighten your legs, and press into your hands to enter down dog. You can maintain a soft bend in your knees if this puts too much strain on your hamstrings or back.
- Step your right leg forward, placing your foot in between your hands. Bend your right leg to a 90-degree angle.
- Your left leg should be extended behind you. Bend your left knee and place it on the ground. Uncurl your toes so the top of your left foot is on the ground.
- Walk your right foot a few inches to the right.
- Bring both hands inside your right foot.
- If comfortable, come down onto your forearms.
- Hold this pose for 5 to 7 breaths.
- Repeat on the other side by pressing up onto your hands and stepping back into down dog.
This is the full expression of lizard pose. But, you have a few options. You can:
- Straighten your extended leg, lifting your knee off the ground.
- Let your bent knee fall to the side, rolling onto the outside blade of your foot.
- Tuck your chin, looking towards your belly button.
- Squeeze your bent knee into your arm for inner thigh activation.
9. Easy Pose with Neck Rolls
Easy pose is the classic kid’s seated posture. What many kindergarten teachers refer to as crisscross apple sauce.
From easy pose, there are a number of stretches and variations you can take. One of the most relaxing is some gentle neck rolls. Many of us carry a lot of tension in our neck and upper back from sitting and looking at a computer all day. Easy pose with neck rolls is a great way to release some of that tension and ease pain.
How to Do Easy Pose with Neck Rolls
- From down dog or all fours, comfortably transition to a seated position with your bottom on the floor.
- Cross your legs comfortably, one over the other. This should be relaxed and comfortable.
- Drop your right ear to your right shoulder. Breathe here.
- Press your left shoulder down, lengthening the left side of your neck.
- Imagine you have a paintbrush on your chin. Draw small circles with your chin and notice how this changes the stretching sensation.
- If you find something sticky, take a moment to breathe through and relax into the stretch.
- Bring your head back to neutral, stacking your head over your spine.
- Repeat on the left side.
- To stretch the back of your neck, dip your chin, bringing it closer to your chest. Breathe and pause here.
- If you want more sensation, gently place your hands, interlaced, on the back of your head. Don’t pull down, just rest your hands.
- Bring your head back to neutral.
- Lastly, you’ll stretch the front of your neck. Be extra careful and gentle with this stretch.
- Gently lift your chin and shift your gaze to the ceiling. Feel the stretch along the front of your neck.
- Be sure to lift and extend through your neck before dropping your head back.
- If you need more sensation, touch your bottom teeth to your top teeth.
10. Seated Forward Fold
Most people experience tightness in their hamstrings. This is a great, easy stretch to open your hamstrings and calves. Some of the instructions may sound counterintuitive (like bend your knees) but you might just be surprised at how it changes that stretch.
Focus on how it feels in your body and not on “achieving” the pose.
How to Do Seated Forward Fold
- From a seated position, extend your legs in front of you.
- Bend your knees and bring your thighs against your chest.
- Adjust your hips so you can feel both sit bones pressing into the floor.
- Wrap your hands around the outside edges of your feet. Pull your toes back to flex your foot.
- Press through your heels and begin to straighten your legs.
- Maintain contact between your stomach and thighs as you straighten your legs.
- You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings, low back, and calves.
11. Bound Angle
Bound angle — known to most children as butterfly — is a great posture for stretching your inner thighs and glutes. For this pose, you want to start gently and deepen the stretch with your breath. If you start to feel it in your knees, back off the stretch a little and readjust.
How to Do Bound Angle
- From a seated position, bend both knees and let your knees fall open wide.
- Place the soles of your feet together. Your heels can be as far or close to your groin as is comfortable. This will depend on the openness of your hips.
- Wrap your hands around your feet and interlace your fingers.
- Take a deep inhale and lengthen your spine. You should be able to feel both sit bones making a connection with ground.
- Fold forward over your legs, keeping your back flat. Try not to curve your spine as you lean forward.
- Once you feel a stretch, pause and breathe. You may be able to deepen the stretch on your exhale, but be patient.
- Your foot placement can change the stretch. If your feet are close to your groin, back out of the stretch, move your feet about 12 inches away and try the stretch again. You may feel the stretch differently.
- This stretch should feel good to your hips. Don’t worry about your foot placement or how close your knees come to the ground. This is your practice!
12. Head to Knee
This is another great stretch to lengthen the back body, from your calves to hamstrings to muscles along your spine. Unlike the seated forward bend, in this pose you want to round your spine and feel a stretch.
How to Do Head to Knee Pose
- From a seated position, bend your left leg, letting your knee fall out wide.
- The sole of your left foot should make connection with your right thigh, above the knee.
- Bend your right leg and interlace your fingers around the sole of your foot.
- Exhale, round your spine and touch your forehead to your right knee.
- Start to kick through your right heel and extend your right leg.
- It doesn’t matter if your right leg straightens all the way. Focus on the sensation of stretching along the backside of your body and maintaining a connection between your right knee and forehead.
- Hold this posture for 3 to 5 breaths.
- Repeat on the other side by bending your right knee and straightening your left leg.
13. Easy Pose with Seated Side Stretch
So many yoga poses focus on stretching the back side of the body that many people forget the muscles along the sides of their body. They need love too! This is a wonderful side stretch where you can get into the deep side muscles, such as the intercostals, obliques, lats, and the quadratus lomborum or QL.
How to Do Easy Pose with a Seated Side Stretch
- Sit in easy pose, with legs crossed one in front of the other.
- Extend your right arm out and place your palm on the floor.
- Inhale, lift your left arm up, reaching toward the ceiling.
- Exhale, tilt your body up and over, reaching your left arm towards the right side wall.
- You can drop down to your right elbow, if that feels comfortable.
- To get more sensation, press your left sit bone down into the ground.
- After 5 to 7 breaths here, exhale and return to neutral.
- Repeat on the other side by extending your left arm and placing your palm on the floor.
14. Seated Breath Work
For most people, asana, or the physical practice of yoga postures, is the focus of their practice. But, there’s many more aspects to yoga than just postures. One of those is breathing. Practicing your breathing can be a great way to relieve stress and lower anxiety. A great breath exercise is breath of fire, which can be done while sitting down.
Note: this is an intense breath. You may feel slightly lightheaded afterwards, and that’s normal. But if it doesn’t feel good, stop at any time.
How to Do Breath of Fire
- Come to a comfortable seated position.
- Take 2 to 3 normal breaths.
- Take a full inhale and then exhale a burst of short, sharp air.
- Continue these exhale bursts 30 times.
- Don’t worry about the inhale, it will happen naturally. Focus on the sharp exhalation.
- Make a “shh” sound through your teeth as you exhale.
- Your belly should snap up and in with each exhale.
15. Gentle Twist
Twists are a wonderful way to encourage circulation and digestion, giving a light massage to your internal organs. Twists are also a great way to stretch your side body and release tension.
Gentle twist lives up to it’s name. You get all the benefits of a twist, but its supported and gentle to your body.
How to Do Gentle Twist
- Lie down on your back.
- Bend your knees, soles of the feet on the ground.
- Extend your arms out in a “T” position.
- Drop your knees to the right side of your body.
- Try to keep your left knee and hip stacked on top of your right knee and hip.
- Turn your head to look towards your left fingers.
- Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.
- Bring your knees and head back to neutral.
- Repeat on the other side, holding for 3 to 5 breaths.
16. Happy Baby
Many yoga poses are unnatural or take time to get used to. Not so with happy baby. If you’ve ever seen a baby playing around on its back and discovering its feet, you know exactly what this posture looks like.
This posture is a great stretch, but also creates compression in the hips which can release tension.
How to Do Happy Baby
- Start by lying on your back.
- Bend your knees, soles of the feet on the floor.
- When you’re ready, bring your knees towards your armpits.
- Reach up and grab the outside blade of each foot, wrapping your fingers around to the arch of your foot.
- Press your knees down into your armpits.
17. Reclined Figure 4
For extra flexi yogis, pigeon pose is this beautiful, graceful posture. For the rest of us, it’s just uncomfortable. Think of reclined figure 4 as lazy pigeon. It’s more comfortable and better protects your knees while still getting you a good stretch.
How to Do Reclined Figure 4
- Lie down on your back.
- Bend your knees, soles of the feet on the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
- Lift your legs so your left foot is off the ground and left knee is stacked over your left hip.
- Reach your right hand through the hole created by your legs. Straighten your left arm and reach out.
- Interlace your fingers behind your left hamstring, between your thigh and calf.
- Press your right elbow into your right knee to stretch your right glute and external rotator.
- Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.
- Repeat on the left side.
18. Reclined Box Breathing
No matter how much (or little) yoga you’ve done in the past, you can do breath work. Focusing on your breath has been shown to trigger relaxation, slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure, improve mood, and lower stress. The best part? It’s available to you no matter your age, physical strength, flexibility, or where you are.
There are so many different breathing techniques, this one is called box breathing.
How to Do Recline Box Breathing
- Find a comfortable reclined position, laying down.
- Place your hands on your ribs or stomach.
- Inhale for a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for 4.
- Exhale for 4.
- Hold your breath for 4.
- Repeat for 10 breath cycles.
19. Legs Up the Wall
While they look super cool, there’s no reason you need to learn how to do a handstand to get the benefits of an inversion.
An inversion is simply changing your relationship to gravity and shifting your blood flow. That means getting your feet above your heart. The simplest, gentlest inversion is legs up the wall. And really, it’s just all-around lovely.
That is, except, getting into this posture. That’s a little awkward.
How to Do Legs Up the Wall
- Find a wall.
- Lay down as close to the wall as possible, with your head pointing away from the wall.
- Scootch your booty close to the wall and then extend your legs straight.
- The backs of your legs should make contact with the wall. If you need to, adjust so your booty also touches the wall. There’s no graceful or easy way to do this, so don’t feel awkward.
- Relax. Breathe. Stay here as long as you like. (Though, your toes may get tingly)
- To exit this pose, let your legs fall to one side and come into a fetal position.
For some, shavasana is the easiest pose there is in yoga. For others, it’s the most challenging. It’s all about how you define easy. Shavasana is physically easy to do, but mentally challenging.
How to Do Shavasana
- Lie down on the ground.
- Let your toes naturally fall out to the side.
- Places your arms on the ground, palms up, separated away from your body at a 45-degree angle.
- That’s it! Simply focus on your breath.
- If your mind wanders to your grocery list, redirect back to your breath. This is normal. You may have to redirect your thoughts multiple times.
- Some like to focus on a mantra, repeating it over and over to focus their thoughts.
There you have it! That’s 20 easy yoga poses that you can do to benefit your body and mind. Try these out to wake up your body in the morning or to calm your nervous system at night before bed. Pick a few that you like or do them all together.
And, as always, if something doesn’t serve you, leave it. Yoga is your practice.