The first poses I mastered were Down Dog and Up Dog. They both feel so good, and are so energizing. While Down Dog and Up Dog seem so basic and simple, they’re really at the core of a good practice. You’ll practice both at least twice in every yoga class.

Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog is great for strengthening your legs, easing stiffness in your arms and shoulders, and relaxing.

You can get into Down Dog any number of ways, but one of the most popular is to start in Child’s Pose.

  1. In Child’s Pose with your arms in front of you. Tuck your toes under, and – on an inhalation – press into the earth with your hands drawing yourself up onto your hands and knees.
  2. Exhale, and bring your hips back and up towards the ceiling, reaching high with your sit bones.

Watch Gigi Yogini demonstrate Downward Facing Dog.

Downward Facing Dog

Three Legged Dog

Three Legged Dog is an awesome Down Dog variation that really opens up the hips. Make sure to do it on both sides!

  1. Start in down dog. On an inhale extend one leg up and back.
  2. Reach through the heel of the foot towards the ceiling, and hold while you press into the earth with the other foot and your hands.

Watch Anita Goa instruct Three Legged Dog.

Three Legged Dog

Upward Facing Dog

Upward Facing Dog is a very popular pose, and will come up in your practice time and time again. While Upward Facing Dog looks simple on the surface (and resembles Cobra), it’s actually a complex pose.

During a sun salutation you’ll end up in Upward Facing Dog after Four Limbed Staff Pose, or Plank, but you can certainly start this pose by lying on your stomach flat on your mat.

  1. Press the tops of your feet into the mat, and place your hands on the mat, palms down, alongside your waist. Try to keep your arms perpendicular to the floor at this stage.
  2. Inhale and press into the floor. Lift your torso up and back until your arms are at a 90 degree angle to the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back opening your chest.
  3. If this is challenging enough, you can stop here. If you would like to go deeper, lift higher until your legs are a couple inches off the floor.
  4. Look straight ahead or look up. If you look up, take care to keep your neck long and do not allow your neck to compress into your shoulders.

Watch Kino MacGregor demonstrate Upward Facing Dog.

Upward Facing Dog