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10 Difficult Yoga Poses For Beginners

I know I may be biased because I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly 25 years now, and teaching for 10 years, but I have to say- this is truly one of the most transformative practices out there. 

One of the things I love the most about yoga is that it’s truly an exercise for the mind, body, and heart. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t yoga just a bunch of bendy poses?

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Why? Because yoga is definitely made up of pretzely poses, but it also has to do with mindfulness, constraint, patience, and inner awareness, too. 

This is why people don’t just refer to yoga as a workout, but also a work in

That being said, having physical challenge in your yoga practice can certainly help you to achieve more flexibility, strength, and mobility. And, those more advanced yoga poses can also help to pique your creativity, keep your practice interesting, and test your mental and emotional reaction to physical challenge. 

Today’s post will share a round up of 10 difficult yoga poses for beginners that all level practitioners can start adding into their yoga routines today in order to deepen your understanding of your body, mind, and heart. 

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Learn more difficult yoga poses with this post on advanced backbend yoga poses.

10 Difficult Yoga Poses For Beginners

Here’s the thing, while you might glance at this list of poses and think that they look like pretty straight forward yoga postures…the truth is that most yogis can benefit from refining these shapes. 

Yes, even yoga instructors themselves!

While some of these shapes seem to be quite foundational and common, there’s actually a lot going on in the body to stay in that position. And due to the time restriction on studio classes, usually these nitty gritty tips get bypassed. 

So no, you might not see Bhairavasana (Destroyer of the Universe Pose) in this list. And you might not see Chinstand (Formidable Face Pose), or Sirsa Padasana (Head to Foot Pose) in the list below. 

But that’s because sometimes you don’t need to have insane hip opening or core strength to put your leg over your head in order for a pose to be challenging. It’s really about mental focus, subtle engagements in the body, and sustainable opening without injury. 

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Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog is an all levels pose that provides yogis with a supported inversion with the hands and feet on the ground. This posture is great for lengthening the spine, opening hips and hamstrings, and building strength in the shoulders and hands. 

Remember, you can always bend your knees a lot in this pose. Try to focus more on lifting your tailbone high (think a slight Cow tilt of the pelvis), rather than getting your heels down to the mat. Work on spiraling your outer arms in towards the center without dumping weight into the pinky side of your hands. 

Try my 21 Day Chakra Reset series to learn more about foundational postures. 

Upward Facing Dog

Upward Facing Dog can be an intense backbend, and should be avoided altogether if you have pain when doing it. Try Low Cobra or High Cobra, instead. 

This pose requires a ton of activation in the legs, so squeeze your glutes, press down through your feet, and engage your thighs by lifting your kneecaps up towards your hip bones. Let the strength of your legs help to open your chest with ease and support. 

Try my Heart Medicine series to learn more about backbends.

Standing Backbend

Standing Backbends are intense backbends that require a lot of activation in the legs and length in the spine in order to practice safely. Remember, you can always find more support by pressing your hands to your low back, rather than lifting them up. 

Do your best to keep your legs straight as you lift up and out of your waist. Imagine you can elongate the space between your lowest ribs and the tops of your hip bones first, then start to incorporate the backbend. Maintaining length first is important. 

Try my Heart Medicine series to learn more about backbending safely. 

High Plank

High Plank is a great entry point to arm balance postures (like 8 Angle Pose Astavakrasana) in the future. This position helps to tonify and strengthen the entire body. 

Remember, you can always modify by lowering your knees to the ground for more support. Modified High Plank looks a little different than Table Top, in that your knees are actually behind your hips, rather than underneath them. This will encourage more core activation as you maintain a Cat scoop of the pelvis. 

Try my How To Handstand series to learn more about building upper body strength.

Side Plank

Side Plank has to be one of my favorite poses, because there are so many ways to do them. That being said, all Side Planks can benefit from a proper wrist warm up first. Or, make sure to place your hand in front of your shoulder to put less pressure on your wrist. 

You can always modify your Side Plank by lowering your bottom knee to the ground, or by staggering your feet. This will help with balance as you work on gaining more strength in your shoulders first. I personally love lifting my top knee in Side Plank, because it almost feels like a one handed Tree Pose.

Try my No Time For Yoga series to see a million different version of Side Plank woven into creative flows. 

Crow Pose

Crow Pose is one of the most foundational arm balancing postures for beginners to play with as you get comfortable balancing on your hands. 

The most important thing to remember in Crow Pose is to keep your gaze forward, rather than looking back at your feet once they start to lift. Looking forward helps you from somersaulting out of the position. 

Try my How To Handstand series to learn more about how to balance on your hands. 

10 Difficult Yoga Poses For Beginners

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose is the perfect preparatory posture for King Pigeon Pose down the line. It’s a shape that requires quite a bit of hip flexibility, and one that should be avoided altogether if you have pain in your front knee. Try Reclined Figure Four Pose, instead. 

Many people find that their front hips is still lifted quite high from the mat in Pigeon Pose due to low flexibility. In this case, slide something underneath your glute and the floor (can be a yoga block, or a cushion) so that you can practice squaring the hips and grounding down. 

Try my Journey To Splits series to learn more about hip opening poses.

Bound Low Lizard

Bound Low Lizard is a hip opening pose and a backbending pose that requires a proper warm up beforehand. Remember, you can always use a strap on your back foot if your hand doesn’t quite reach your toes. 

Don’t forget to enter into the posture actively, by flexing your back foot and drawing your heel towards your hips. Only if your hand can connect to your foot from that position, should you place the hand to foot, point the toes, and gently draw the heel in closer to the hips. 

Try my Journey To Splits series to learn more about deep hip openers.

Wheel Pose

Wheel Pose is another intense backbend that requires space in the chest, shoulders, thighs, and hip flexors. If you’re not quite ready for full Wheel Pose, then take time to build strength in your back body in Bridge Pose first. 

Don’t forget that you can always rotate your hands and feet slightly out in order to make more space across your chest, shoulders, and hips. Once you get comfy in the pose, then you can work on pointing all 10 toes forward, and fingers towards the heels.

Try my Heart Medicine series to learn more about backbending safely. 

Camel Pose

Camel Pose is another foundational backbend that allows you to deeply open the frontline of your body, without having to worry about balance. The great thing about this pose is that there’s so many variations to it, so you can really be in control of your depth the entire way. 

Remember, you can always keep your hands behind your back for more support, rather than reaching for your heels. You can also keep your chin tucked and look skyward, rather than reaching the gaze back…particularly if this causes pain in the upper spine and neck. 

Try my Heart Medicine series to learn more about heart openers. 

10 Difficult Yoga Poses For Beginners

How To Do Difficult Yoga Poses

The truth is, doing difficult yoga poses doesn’t have to be super scary and unattainable. You just have to keep a few things in mind before you jump straight into them. 

Let’s dive into the list of tips below. 

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Warm Up Correctly

First and foremost, you always need to make sure you warm up correctly before you attempt new or difficult yoga poses. You can’t go wrong with a few Sun Salutations, as this traditional sequence really warms up the entire body effectively. 

Know Modifications

Next up, you need to make sure you know modifications to the pose you’re attempting. Chances are, you’re not a teacher yet…so that’s really up to your yoga teacher to let you know what the modifications are. This will help to prevent injury. 

Learn How To Use Props

Most modifications that are offered will come with using yoga props like blocks, straps, or bolsters. The good news is that there are many prop replacements you can use when you’re practicing at home. Ask your teacher before class. 

Avoid Passive Stretching

Many challenging yoga poses require deep flexibility. It’s vital that rather than resting in a passive stretching state, you work on active flexibility and mobility, instead. This will reduce the chance of injury, and increase longevity in the practice. 

Enter The Pose Safely

I know how exciting it can be to try a new yoga pose, which is why so many people rush into it. Remember to take things one step at a time, to use the breath, and to ensure everything that needs to be activated is alive first before you attempt the shape. 

Exit The Pose Safely

Exiting the pose is just as important as entering. Don’t forget to maintain a ton of engagement as you come out of the pose, rather than flinging open like a wet noodle. Focus and mindfulness is everything in yoga…even when you’re exiting the pose. 

10 Difficult Yoga Poses For Beginners

Let me know which tip was the most helpful for you in the comments below! I’m so excited for you to elevate your yoga practice. 

Don’t forget to join my app for hundreds of all level classes. 

xx, 

K

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