Build a Strong Foundation by Practicing Yoga Standing Poses
Learning and practicing the yoga standing poses (asanas) builds a strong foundation for the rest of our asana practice.
We practice these postures as a way to develop better awareness and control of our own bodies. We learn how to extend, contract, expand, and rotate different parts of the body to move safely into various positions. This helps us to correct structural problems in our bodies and to develop better posture.
The standing asanas teach us how to move the spine in all of its directions; forward extensions, back extensions, side-to-side extensions, and lateral, or twisting motions. This prepares the body for all the other types of yoga asanas.
The standing yoga postures help us to develop greater physical strength and stamina, flexibility and balance. while bringing us more vitality and clarity of mind. Almost anyone can practice these standing asanas in some form; young and old, beginners and more experienced yoga practitioners. They can be modified so that most people can safely enjoy their benefits. Those who have balance problems can do them against a wall or with the support of a chair.
Learn These Seven Yoga Standing Poses
Watch the videos below to learn the following basic standing asanas:
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
- Utthita trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
- Utthita parsvakonasana (Side-angle Pose)
- Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose 2)
- Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose 1)
- Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch forward bend)
- Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-stance forward bend)
All of the videos are of Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher, John Schumacher of Unity Woods Yoga, clearly and succinctly teaching each pose.
Tadasana – Mountain Pose
Tadasana is the Sanskrit word for “Mountain Pose”. This pose is also called Samasthiti, or “Equal Standing” pose.
Tadasana is the basic yoga standing pose. Because it looks simple, beginners often don’t want to spend much time in it, but practicing Tadasana teaches us to stand evenly on both feet, and to bring the rest of the body into alertness. We start to learn better posture in this position, and we take what we learn in Tadasana and apply it to the other yoga poses, including the standing postures.
None of us are perfectly even on each side. Unevenness can eventually lead to injuries. Practicing Tadasana helps us to move toward a better, more even posture.
Utthita trikonasana – Extended Triangle Pose
“Utthita” means “extended”; “Trikonasana” means “Triangle Pose” (Tri = three, kona = angle)
In Triangle Pose, we practice keeping the even extention through the legs, trunk, and arms that we learned in Tadasana, even though now we’re bringing the body into a different position.
As you can see from the video, the main “triangle” shape is formed from the position of the legs and the floor.
This pose stretches and tones the legs and the arms while bringing more flexibility to the hips, shoulders, and spine. It’s an excellent pose to help relieve backaches.
Note that while John Schumacher tells you to move your legs in a certain direction, he is “mirroring” what you would be doing as he demonstrates. This is a very common teaching technique in Iyengar Yoga classes. When he repeats the pose to the second side, he adds a little more information to refine the pose even more.
You can do this pose with your back against a wall or your hand to a chair to give you more stability.
Utthita Parsvakonasana – Side-angle Pose
“Utthita” = “extended”; “parsva” = side; “kona”= “angle” “asana”=pose, posture
In Extended side-angle pose, the front leg bends, keeping the shin vertical, while the back leg extends strongly, and the top arm extends fully over the ear.
This pose will stretch open your hips very quickly and effectively!
Note that John shows how to use a block to make the pose a little easier. If you can’t easily take your hand to the floor, and still maintain an open chest, then taking the hand down to a block or a chair is a good modification for you. You can also rest your forearm on your bent leg.
If your hips are tight, keep the feet closer. If you have balance problems, do this pose with your back against a wall.
Virabhadrasana II – Warrior Pose 2
“Virabhadrasana” = “Pose named after the mythological HIndu warrior, Virabhadra”
In my experience, Warrior Pose 2 is introduced before Warrior Pose 1 (shown next), because it is less complex.
Note that the leg position is the same as in the previous pose, Parsvakonasana, while the trunk stays upright and the arms stretch to the sides.
Practicing Warrior Pose 2 is a great way to strengthen the legs, including the knees, and to build stamina.
Virabhadrasana I – Warrior Pose 1
This Warrior Pose also helps us develop strength and stamina, while improving flexibility in the hips and shoulders.
Just as in Warrior Pose 2, the front leg is bent, keeping the shin vertical, the back leg is straight, and the trunk is upright. Here the final pose is shown with arms stretching straight up. If you have difficulty with that, you can stretch the arms out to the side, or keep the hands on your waist.
John Schumacher’s pose, as shown in this video, is awe-inspiring! Notice how his arms are in line with his spine, and his low back isn’t over-arched. He has a strong, steady, beautifully extended pose!
Parsvottanasana – Intense Stretch to the Side – Forward Bend
“Parsva”= “Side” or “Flank” ; “Uttana”= “intense stretch”
So “Parsvottanasana” is a pose that intensely stretches the sides of the trunk (not to mention the legs!)
In the forward bending poses, we’re first taught to fully extend the sides of the trunk, which is much more effective than hunching the shoulders to bring the head to the legs. It’s this strong side extension of the trunk that’s being taught here. After students can do this part of the pose, then they might complete the forward-bending action and take their head and trunk down.
You can take your hands to blocks, or to a chair or to a wall to make it easier to stretch the trunk while keeping the legs straight. These modifications are especially helpful for those with stiff hamstrings, hips, and backs.
Prasarita Padottanasana – Wide-stance standing forward bend
“Prasarita” = “Expanded” or “extended wide”; “Pado” = “foot”; “Uttana” = “intense (forward bend)”; “Asana” = “pose, posture”
Prasarita Padottanasana is a standing forward bend with the feet placed wide apart. As was shown in Parsvottanasana (Side stretch pose), John Schumacher takes time to extend the trunk forward before taking it down into his final pose.
Note that John suggests using the blocks under the hands if it’s difficult to take the hands to the floor while keeping the legs straightr, as he did in Parsvottanasana. Hands can also be taken to a chair.
Your Turn to Practice!
Now you have a few pointers for practicing these invigorating and beneficial yoga standing postures! So start practicing!
You could do a sequence of all of the poses above, in order. Hold each pose for 5 – 20 seconds per side if you are new to yoga, or for 30 – 60 seconds if you’re more experienced.
If you are stiff, weak, or have balance problems, use the support of various props such as blocks, a chair, or the wall, to help you do the poses safely and with control.
More Resources to Help Your Standing Pose Practice
While I think that taking yoga classes from an experienced yoga teacher is the best way to learn these poses, you can supplement your practice with the videos above, and the following excellent books.