Yoga Routine Every Beginner Needs!
If yoga has caught your attention, yet you’re unsure how to kick off, then this novice yoga regimen could be your ideal entry point.
Embark on this 20-minute yoga sequence designed for beginners, which blends fundamental yoga positions, aiming to stretch, soothe, and sculpt your entire physique.
No matter what spurred your yoga journey, I’m thrilled you’ve taken the first step, and it’s my pleasure to guide you along this transformative path, showing you the sheer beauty of yoga.
Table of Contents
This novice yoga sequence comprises 16 postures. Strive to maintain each for about 15 seconds (or five measured breaths).
Follow the regimen up until the 13th step (Downward Dog), then mirror the sequence on the alternate side prior to moving into the relaxation postures.
This 20-minute yoga exercise includes:
Cat-Cow – 3 cycles
Downward Facing Dog – 5 breaths
Standing Forward Fold – 5 breaths
Mountain – 5 breaths
Standing Backbend – 5 breaths
Warrior II – 5 breaths
Triangle – 5 breaths
Extended Side Angle – 5 breaths
Chair – 5 breaths
Standing Forward Fold – 5 breaths
Four Limbed Staff – 5 breaths
Cobra – 5 breaths
Downward Facing Dog – 5 breaths
Pigeon – 5 breaths
Seated Straight Legged Forward Fold – 5 breaths
Savasana – 1-2 minutes
This sequence is the perfect stepping stone for building a strong base, toning your muscles, and enhancing flexibility.
Feel free to pace yourself and act in tune with what your body tells you. If sustaining a pose for 15 seconds seems too much, that’s perfectly fine! This is your personal journey. What’s crucial is that you’re in motion, evolving, and acquiring new knowledge!
You might initially perceive some of these poses as too challenging. However, each posture in this yoga routine is tailored for beginners, meaning they’re easily adaptable to match your comfort level. These particular poses were chosen because they’re versatile and form the fundamental building blocks for deepening your yoga practice.
For modifications, I would recommend having a set of yoga blocks and a strap on hand – feel free to visit our yoga tools page for suggestions.
How much energy does a 20-minute beginner yoga session burn off?
Nowadays, many are turning to yoga for weight loss, as mounting evidence supports yoga’s efficacy in promoting weight loss. The fundamental principle behind shedding weight is to burn more calories than you ingest, signifying that incorporating physical activity into your daily regimen is key to expending surplus energy.
You’re likely curious to know the precise amount of calories that a 20-minute yoga session can burn.
By using a basic online calorie calculator, you’ll find that a person weighing 150 pounds expends approximately 62 calories during a 20-minute Hatha yoga session. The yoga variant and the intensity of your practice greatly impact the number of calories burned per session.
In comparison to Hatha, Vinyasa yoga burns off about 198 calories in 20 minutes. That’s a substantial difference! This can be attributed to Vinyasa yoga’s higher intensity, causing a significant spike in your heart rate compared to Hatha, which centers on fundamental alignment and postures.
The following routine is designed to be a dynamic sequence, embodying the fluidity of Vinyasa yoga, yet you hold the reins when it comes to the level of intensity. Start off at a leisurely pace, and once you’ve mastered the correct execution of each posture and integrated your breathing, increase the pace and rounds performed on each side to really begin torching some fat.
Is yoga indeed an effective workout?
A “good” workout isn’t solely determined by the number of calories incinerated. Yes, to shed weight, you need a caloric deficit, but engaging in excessive cardio daily won’t yield sustainable results or make your journey towards your goal any smoother.
One of the key factors in burning fat is muscle development, and luckily, yoga excels in this department! As previously mentioned, choosing the right yoga style and appropriate poses is crucial to muscle building.
Poses like the Child’s pose and Pigeon pose are superb for relaxation and enhancing flexibility, but they don’t offer much resistance, hence you won’t build muscle with these postures.
However, poses like Chaturanga and Warrior III are perfect for engaging your core and pushing your body to its limits, so you will definitely build muscle with these postures.
But why is muscle development so critical?
Muscle demands more energy than fat does, so the more muscle you cultivate, the more calories you burn naturally—meaning your metabolism gets a boost.
And I’m not referring to creating huge, bulging muscles—yoga aids in developing lean muscle mass through strength-building poses. So, you’ll be building muscle, enhancing your strength, and burning fat simultaneously—could it get any better?
So, now that you’ve grasped the fundamental principles, let’s dive right into it!
1. Cat and Cow (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)
This pair of poses forms a “flow”, serving as an excellent warm-up for the spine and a method to detect any areas of tightness.
- Begin in a tabletop position, with your hands directly below your shoulders, and knees spaced hip-width apart. You can opt to keep your toes tucked or untucked, as per your comfort.
- On your next inhalation, lower your belly, curve your back, and elevate your chest. Let your gaze naturally drift upwards. This is the cow pose.
- Subsequently, on your exhalation, gradually start to round your back, tuck your pelvis, and direct your gaze towards your chest.
- This is the cat pose. Spend a moment trying to align perfectly with your body and breath.
- Remain here for 15 seconds, alternating poses on your slow inhale and exhale.
Tip: To further stimulate your spine, consider executing a few dynamic cat-cow poses by slowly moving all parts of your back in both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions, rather than merely arching and rounding your back. This can help you identify any areas of tightness you might have overlooked!
2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho mukha śvānāsana)
- Assume a neutral spine, still positioned on all fours.
- Tuck your toes under and press your hips up and back, straightening your legs and driving your heels towards the floor.
- Anchor your hands and splay your fingers wide.
- Activate your arms and distance your ears from your shoulders. Engage your core and draw your belly button towards your spine.
- Continuously strive to lift your hips up and back while aiming to lower your heels towards the ground. It’s perfectly fine if your feet don’t touch the ground.
- You can also perform a “pedal” motion by bending one leg at a time while straightening the other. This can help alleviate tightness in your hamstrings.
Tip: Ensure to engage your entire body throughout this pose to prevent your upper body from bearing all the weight. If this pose seems too challenging, there are numerous down dog modifications you can try.
3. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- Leaving your arms where they are, gradually walk your feet towards your hands, maintaining them as straight as possible until you achieve your forward fold.
- Bring your feet together and reach towards the ground with your hands, or grab your ankles or legs to fold deeper with each exhale.
- Ensure not to collapse your chest here and keep your whole body engaged.
Tip: If you find it difficult to grasp your legs, ankles or fully fold forward, consider using two yoga blocks and adjusting the height to your liking. Alternatively, you could grab opposite elbows and gently sway from side to side in a ragdoll pose.
4. Standing Backbend (Anuvittasana)
- On your next inhale, with your feet firmly planted, sweep your arms upwards into a prayer position above your head, gently arching your back as you reach your prayer position backwards, letting your gaze follow.
- You can keep this as mild as you feel comfortable with – remember to tune into your body and only stretch as much as it feels right for you.
- This pose opens up your chest and over time, with practice, you’ll be able to deepen this stretch. Spend 15 seconds breathing here.
Tip: If it’s too challenging to raise your arms straight up, adjust them into a goal post shape by bending your arms at 90-degree angles on both sides. Make sure your back is perfectly straight before you start to gently bend backwards.
5. Mountain (Tadasana)
- From your standing backbend, gradually revert to a neutral spine.
- Bring your hands to your sides, with your palms facing forward and arms engaged.
- Ground your feet into the floor and activate your legs so that your kneecaps lift slightly.
- Elevate your chest and drop your shoulders. Take 15 breaths here.
Tip: Keep your body active during this pose, even though it appears to be a simple stance! Your core should be fully engaged, chest forward, and you should be actively pressing all four corners of your feet into the ground.
6. Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
- Move your left foot backwards to establish a broad stance around 3-4 feet apart, making sure that both feet remain firmly planted.
- Have your right foot facing directly forward, and angle your back toes at 45 degrees so they point to the left, grounding through the outer edge of your rear foot. Your body should now be oriented to the left side of the room.
- Start to bend your front knee as far as you can to a 90-degree angle while opening your arms wide so they extend towards either side of the room.
- Maintain your gaze over your front fingertips. Keep your rear heel engaged and your right knee bent. Also, activate your arms and ensure they are aligned with your shoulders.
Tip: Be careful that your knee doesn’t extend further than your front toe to prevent injury.
7. Triangle (Trikonasana)
- Triangle is a straightforward and enjoyable transition from Warrior II and an excellent way to enhance your alignment and mobility.
- From Warrior II, leave your feet where they are and straighten your front leg.
- Gradually hinge your body forward and lower your right hand to the inside of your right foot. If you can’t reach the ground yet, that’s fine! You can also hold onto your ankle or shin.
- As your right hand descends, your left arm rises into the air, with your gaze following it. Feel free to use a block instead of reaching for your shin. If you’re not as flexible, this will help you achieve better alignment and open up your chest more.
Tip: In this pose, your body should be perfectly linear, as if sandwiched between two walls. So ensure your chest is elevated, your heels are aligned, and your shoulders and hips are in line with each other.
8. Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
- From Triangle, maintain the same foot position and start to bend your front knee again, as you did in Warrior II. Remember, your back foot should be completely flat on the ground and angled as in Warrior II.
- Your right knee should form a 90-degree angle and your hand should be flat on the ground. Don’t hesitate to use blocks here if necessary!
- Keep your left arm elevated and extend it towards the front of the room, creating a straight line of energy down to your left heel.
- Take a moment to breathe and hold this pose for 15 seconds. You’re almost done with the sequence!
Tip: Avoid collapsing into this pose; actively lift through your chest to get a good side-body stretch.
9. Chair (Utkatasana)
- To transition into Chair, return briefly to Warrior II for one breath.
- Keep your right leg bent, then slowly bring your left foot to meet your right as you rotate your torso towards the front of the room and raise both arms by your ears.
- Your feet should be together, with most of the weight on your heels, enough so that you can freely wiggle all ten toes.
- Sink your hips deeper with each exhale and lift up through your chest.
- Hold this pose for 5 breaths, then straighten your legs to transition into a Standing Forward Fold.
Tip: If this pose feels too challenging, try bringing your hands into a prayer pose at your heart, or even slightly parting your feet from each other.
10. Four Limbed Staff (Chaturanga Dandasana) or Knees-Chest-Chin
- Plant both hands on the ground by your feet, then step back one foot at a time into a plank position.
- Keep your elbows tightly tucked to your body as you bend them and slowly lower yourself to hover above the ground. Hold this position for 15 seconds.
- You should engage your legs and balance on the tips of your toes, while also engaging your core. Make sure to maintain a neutral spine and don’t let your hips rise into the air.
If you’re new to yoga or lacking upper body strength, you have other options. You can drop your knees to the floor for a modified Chaturanga, or opt for Knees-Chest-Chin, which involves lowering the knees, then the chest, then the chin to the floor while engaging the core.
Building a strong foundation is essential, which is why I recommend practicing this pose even in a beginner yoga routine. At the beginning of my yoga journey, I struggled with the amount of upper body strength required for this pose. It was extremely frustrating, but consistent practice allowed me to do it a few weeks later, which greatly boosted my confidence.
Setting goals for your practice and achieving them is immensely rewarding. It motivates you to keep going and continue improving. However, remember to listen to your body. If you’re not ready for a full Chaturanga yet, that’s okay! Perhaps try holding the pose for a short amount of time on your last set before dropping to your knees. You can gradually build strength from there.
Tip: Don’t hesitate to modify this pose, for example, by opting for knees-chest-chin.
11. Cobra (Bhujangasana)
From Chaturanga, slowly lower yourself all the way down to the floor.
Keep your hands where they are, snug against your body. Ensure that your legs and the tops of your feet are in complete contact with the ground.
Plant your forehead on the ground, then on your next exhale, lift your chest and abdomen off the ground. Stay in this position for 5 breaths, then push your hips up and back into Downward Facing Dog.
Tip: If your lower back feels tight, widen your legs slightly more than hip-distance apart to alleviate tension.
**From Downward Facing Dog, go back to step 3 (Standing Forward Fold) and repeat the sequence on the other side
12. Pigeon (Kapotasana)
- From Downward Facing Dog, extend your right leg up into the air, then draw it beneath you so your right ankle aligns with your right wrist.
- The outside of your right shin should be touching the floor. Allow your left leg to rest on the ground, pointing your back toes so the top of your foot touches the ground.
- Sink into the pose and adjust your hips, ensuring they’re balanced and you’re not leaning more on one side.
- The more you bend your front knee in this pose, the less intense the stretch will feel.
- If it’s too much, try bending your front leg a little more until you reach a comfortable position. If you find yourself leaning excessively onto your right hip, consider placing a block underneath for balance.
- Raise your chest and extend your arms upward. You can choose to hold this position for 15 seconds, or you can fold over your right thigh.
- Take deep breaths to release the tension, holding for 5 breaths.
Tip: There are many variations of pigeon pose if you find it too difficult. For instance, you can place a block under the side of your bent leg to reduce the intensity of the stretch.
*From here, transition back into Downward Facing Dog and repeat on the other side!
13. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
- If you opted to fold in your pigeon pose, rise back up to an upright position.
- Carefully swing your left leg around to the front of your body and extend both legs out in front of you. If desired, shake them out briefly.
- With your legs together, flex both feet and elongate your spine. Raise both arms into the air, and using your core, slowly fold over both legs.
- A block can be useful here to deepen the stretch, or if you can’t yet reach your toes, hold onto your shins or ankles, or use a strap if available.
- Avoid letting your chest collapse. Keep your back straight and fold deeper with each exhale.
- Remain in this position for 5 slow breaths.
Tip: Keep your feet flexed and pulled back towards your body throughout the pose to deepen the stretch and improve flexibility.
Remember to aim for holding each pose for 15 seconds, and breathing throughout those 15 seconds. Beginners often find their mind wandering due to the discomfort. Use your breath to bring your focus back to the present.
Repeat this sequence four times, switching sides each time. If your left foot was in front for all the poses that allowed it, ensure your right is in front the next time, then switch. This promotes balance in your body and prevents one side from being more worked than the other.
Allow yourself to rest for one minute between sets, and one minute after, preferably in Savasana, also known as Corpse Pose. This is the ultimate rest pose and can be much more challenging than it appears when first starting out!
After practicing this routine for the next few weeks, you may want to introduce some variation. We highly recommend trying out yoga partner poses for a fun and challenging experience.
Resting Pose: Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common queries we receive from beginners who are starting their yoga journey with this routine. If you’re just starting out, you might have one or more of these questions yourself (I know I did), so we thought it would be helpful to include the answers here for everyone.
How many days a week should you practice yoga?
A good starting point is committing to practicing yoga three days a week at consistent times. The sessions don’t need to be an hour long – you can gradually increase the duration as you go! Starting with a 20-minute session, like this one, will help you see results if you’re consistent. If you’re having trouble sticking to a schedule, you might find our post on how to create a habit out of your yoga practice useful.
When’s the best time to practice this yoga routine?
The ideal time depends on your individual schedule, but as a beginner, it’s recommended to practice around the same time each session, especially if you’re practicing yoga at home. This helps you establish a routine and solidify your practice as a habit.
Many people prefer to engage in their yoga practice first thing in the morning because they like to do yoga on an empty stomach, while others enjoy doing yoga in the evening as a way to unwind after a day’s activities. Ultimately, the timing depends on your preferences and your goals.
If your goal is weight loss, exercising on an empty stomach in the morning is generally considered best for burning fat. However, if weight loss is not your primary goal, the best time for your yoga practice is whenever you enjoy it the most and are likely to stick with it consistently.
Should you warm up before practicing yoga?
Absolutely! You should never engage in any physical activity without first warming up. Even though this routine includes a few poses that can be modified to serve as a warm up, it’s vital to begin your practice with a series of gentle poses that awaken your entire body. This not only helps to prevent injury but also helps to get you in the correct mindset for your yoga practice.
We have a separate article explaining why warming up before yoga is so important, and it even comes with a free printable warm up guide that you can use before or after all your workouts.
Do you need rest days from yoga?
If you feel sore after practicing yoga, or any other workout, it’s a good idea to take a rest day. However, this doesn’t mean you should be inactive all day – in fact, too much inactivity can actually increase your soreness due to lack of movement.
Soreness typically results from the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles. To help disperse this lactic acid, you should engage in light movement and stretching, but without overtaxing your body. Consider going for a leisurely walk or doing a gentle yoga flow instead on your rest days.