Twist yourself into a pretzel while doing a headstand without using your hands for balance, and don’t forget to breathe. Learning how to practice yoga can be intimidating at first for any beginner. But rest easy, the ancient spiritual discipline is all about patience. As long as you can maintain the discipline necessary to develop flexibility and strength through beginner routines, you’ll be able to do those more advanced poses like Half Lotus Crow or King Pigeon Pose one day.

Yoga dates back to 3000 B.C., with focus on applying and understanding your place in the world and how to live harmoniously with others in it. Poses and meditation weren’t implemented until the sixth century B.C., when Buddhist teachings became incorporated into the five basic principles used today. Modern yoga still revolves around proper relaxation, exercise, breathing, thinking and meditation, and diet. Don’t be overwhelmed, though. It’s still only practiced one step at a time.

There are six fundamental types of postures: forward bends, back bends, twists, balances, and inversions. Within each of those postures are thousands of potential variations designed to emphasize stamina, strength, stability, concentration, and structural body alignment. Yoga is not a quick fix for mental and physical aches, but instead a lifelong process of transformation.

It's useful to have a few essential and basic moves under your belt worth knowing when starting out in yoga, although they vary from instructor to expert. Moves that open up muscles, allow for carefully measured breaths, and target various muscle groups will help improve mood and energy levels, according to previous studies. These five we chose to focus on were based on the yogi’s ability to adapt to each move through the poses’ simplicity, muscle engagement, and flexibility.

Beginner Yoga Moves
Yoga moves for beginners. Photo courtesy of Yoga Body Flow Series

5 Need-To-Know Yoga Moves

1. Triangle

Stand with your feet wider than hip length apart. Turn your right toes forward and left toes outward at a 45-degree angle. Keep both legs straight as your torso hinges at your hips toward the left leg as far as possible. Place your left hand above or below the left knee and extend your right up straight into the air and follow it with your eyes. You may feel tightness in your right oblique and abdomen. Hold for 10 deep breaths on each side.

2. Warrior II

Stand with your feet wider than hip length apart. Turn your right toes forward and left toes outward at a 45-degree angle. Bend your left knee so the thigh comes parallel to the mat. Keep right leg straight. Extend your arms directly out from your shoulders and follow the tips of your fingers with your eyes. They should be facing straight ahead, hovering over your left thigh. Hold for 10 deep breaths on each side.

3. Warrior III

Come into a lunge position with your right foot forward and knee bent. Put your left leg straight back and push your hips forward to bring your torso parallel with the floor. Slowly kick your left leg up to hip-height and form a straight line from the top of your head to your toes. Hold for 10 deep breaths on each side.

4. Dolphin

Forget the popular downward facing dog and try this one out. Come into a straight-arm plank with wrists under your shoulders and forearms flat on the mat. Step back and extend your legs straight back. Keep your hands in place and shift your hips up toward the sky and back. You may feel tightness in your hamstrings. Hold for 10 deep breaths.

5. Cobra

Lie face down on the floor with your hands flat and thumbs directly under your shoulders. Legs should be extended back with the tops of your feet on the floor. Press shoulders down away from your ears and raise your chest toward the wall in front of you. You may feel tightness in your abdomen. Hold for 10 deep breaths.