Master the ‘Big Five’ yoga poses to set the foundation for your entire practice

Looking around a yoga class can often feel like you’re at a circus, watching people contort themselves into literal pretzels or lift themselves into the air with nothing more than a few fingertips. If you’re a beginner, it can feel intimidating and frustrating, but remember: Every handstand-holding yogi had to start somewhere. So, if you’re hanging out in child’s pose wondering why you can’t flex your body into these positions, it’s time to master “the big five” yoga fundamentals.

“Developing a yoga practice is just like building a house: You need to start with the foundation before you can begin adding furniture and decor,” says Los Angeles-based yoga master Claire Grieve, who’s been practicing for over a decade. To build that foundation, she says that you need to perfect Warrior I, downward-facing dog, forward bend, boat, and savasana, which help to deepen your practice for more adventurous poses in the future.

“Mastering these five poses will help you set a strong foundation for an advanced yoga practice,” says Grieve. “By strengthening your muscles and mind, you can be on your way to an elevated practice.” Here, Grieve breaks down the poses that will set the stage for the entire rest of your practice.

Nail the “Big Five” yoga poses, according to Grieve

1. Warrior I: “Warrior I is a strengthening pose for the entire body,” she says. “Practicing this pose will strengthen every major muscle group. It will also help you understand the concept of extending energy through your whole body, as yoga poses are never truly stationary.”

2. Downward-facing dog: “This pose that you will come back to many times throughout your practice, so it’s important to feel comfortable here,” she tells me. “This pose will also help you increase strength and flexibility.”

3. Forward bend: “This pose provides a deep stretch for your legs. The increased flexibility will eventually help you explore more challenging poses,” she says. “Don’t worry if it’s hard at first, practice every day and you’ll begin to notice a difference in how you feel and move.”

4. Boat: “This challenging pose is all about core strength,” according to Grieve. “Practicing boat pose regularly, even for 60 seconds a day, can prepare you for difficult poses like headstands, handstands, and arm balances.”

5. Savasana: “While this end-of-class pose may seem like a resting pose, many people actually find it difficult to calm their minds and bodies long enough to stay still for an extended period of time,” says Grieve.

To up your flow factor even further, try this series specifically designed for beginners:

Use your yoga practice as a way to chill out? Try one of these Mandala flows. And if you can’t touch your toes (… me either), up your flexibility factor with a yoga-inspired stretch