Ashtanga yoga for beginners

Easy 30-minute Ashtanga yoga practice for beginners. By Joseph Armstrong

Approaching the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series may seem intimidating to beginners. It is a challenging sequence packed full of many poses. When you're starting out, you can approach the sequence a little at a time. As you practice shorter versions of the series you will come to know and understand the poses and work up the strength and endurance you need to complete the entire Primary Series. Follow this short sequence as a quick and easy introduction to the Primary Series.

Ashtanga yoga for beginners

1. Sun Salutation A

Stand on your mat with your big toe mounds touching and your heels slightly apart so your feet are parallel. Your arms are at your sides. Inhale and reach your arms up, bring the palms together overhead. Look up at your thumbs.

Exhale and fold forward, dropping your hands to the ground. Bring your nose toward your knees. If you have to bend your knees a little, you can.

Inhale flatten your back and look forward. Extend and lengthen through the spine. Keep your legs strong and your knee caps lifted. Your hands can remain on the floor or come to your shins depending on your flexibility.

Exhale and step back into high plank. Your hands are under the shoulders and your legs are straight out behind you, like you are about to do a push-up. Make sure your core is strong. Don't let your back bow. Aim to make a straight line from your heels to the top of your head.

Immediately lower down to low plank keeping your elbows close to your torso. Keep the line of your body as straight as possible. You can lower your knees to modify the pose if you are still building the upper body strength to support yourself.

Inhale and straighten through the arms, bringing your chest up. Your legs are straight out behind you with your feet pointed. Your thighs are up off the ground and your back is arched. Open through the chest and widen the collarbones. This is upwardfacing dog.

Exhale and roll your toes over and push your hips up and back into downward-facing dog. In downward dog, your hands are about shoulder-width apart and your feet are about hip-width apart. Your legs and arms are straight. Your heels are pressing toward the ground. Try to evenly distribute your weight between your hands and your feet. Make sure your shoulder blades are down on your back and your shoulders are away from your ears. Relax your neck and look toward your navel. Settle into downward dog and stay here for five deep even breaths.

Shift your gaze toward the front of your mat. Step forward so your toes are behind your hands. Exhale and fold forward. Inhale and stand up straight. Reach your hands up. Your palms touch overhead and look up to your thumbs. Exhale and bring your arms back down to your side.

Repeat this entire Sun Salutation A sequence two more times.

Ashtanga yoga for beginners
Ashtanga yoga for beginners

2. Navasana (Boat Pose)

From a seated position sit back on your sit bones and lift your legs up in front of you. Keep your legs close together so the knees are touching. You can have your knees bent with your calves parallel to the floor or you can straighten your legs so your body makes a ‘V’ shape. Hold your arms straight out in front of you. Keep your chest up and focus on your toes. Breathe deeply.

Hold this pose for five deep breaths.

Ashtanga yoga for beginners
Ashtanga yoga for beginners

3. Marichasana A (Sage Pose A)

Come to a seated position with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and place the sole of your foot on the ground in front of your right hip. Lean forward bringing your right shoulder to the inside of your right knee. Internally rotate your shoulder and wrap your arm around your right leg. Your elbow is coming around the shin and your right hand is reaching toward your waist. Now bring your left hand around your back and try to clasp your right and left hands together in a bind. If your hands do not come together, use a strap or hold your shirt instead.

Exhale and fold forward. Keep your belly sucking in. Draw your left toes back toward you. Press the back of your left knee down into the mat. Pull your right knee in toward your torso.

Stay here for five breaths.

Inhale and lift your head. Come out of the pose and repeat on the other side.

Ashtanga yoga for beginners
Ashtanga yoga for beginners

4. Marichasana C (Sage Pose C)

Come into a seated position with your feet straight out in front of you. Bring your right knee up with the sole flat on the ground in front of your hip. Take your right hand and put it down behind you and lean your torso back a little bit to create space so you can get into the twist. Reach your left arm up like you are doing a nice big stretch.

Exhale and bring your left arm down and press your left elbow into the outside of the right knee. Twist through the spine and look over your right shoulder. Breathe deeply and with each exhale try to twist a little bit more.

If you want to, you can reach your right arm around your back and your left arm around the outside of your right leg to grasp your hands together in a bind.

Stay here for five deep breaths.

Ashtanga yoga for beginners

5. Janu Sirsasana A (Head-toKnee Pose)

Come to a seated position with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee. Let your knee fall out to the side and bring the sole of your foot to the inside of your left thigh. There should be a 90 degree angle in your hip joint.

Line your sternum up with your left knee. Exhale and fold forward. If your hands reach, grab your ankle. If you can, grab your foot.

Inhale and look forward with your back flat. Then exhale and fold bringing your forehead toward your shin. Gently press the heel of your right foot into your left thigh. Continue to extend through the crown of your head as you fold forward.

Stay here for five breaths. Inhale lift up and come out of this pose.

Repeat on the opposite side.

Ashtanga yoga for beginners

6. Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)

Lay flat on your back. Bend your knees and draw your heels in close to your hips. The soles of your feet are flat on the ground. Your feet should be parallel to one another.

Inhale and lift your pelvis. Roll your shoulders under and clasp your hands together beneath you.

Press down through your heels and lift your hips up high. Lengthen through the neck.

Stay here for five breaths.

Exhale and lower your pelvis slowly. Repeat this pose one more time.

Ashtanga yoga for beginners

7. Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)

Lay on your back and lift your feet up toward the ceiling so your legs are at a 90 degree angle to your torso. You can stay here if you want to or you can do a half shoulder stand.

To do a half shoulder stand, lift your hips off the ground and put your hands on your low back for support. Your legs are pointed over your head at an angle toward the wall behind you. You can stay here or transition into a full shoulder stand.

To move into a full shoulder stand, bring your hands further down your back so your torso is vertical to the floor. Extend your legs straight up toward the ceiling. Try to get your elbows as close together as possible. Once your elbows are in position, move your hands down your back a little lower. Squeeze your legs together. Breathe deeply and stay here for five breaths. With control, slowly roll out of this pose.

Play Video

For more video tutorials visit:

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.