Six Yoga Poses Transitions for Beginners

6 min read

In yoga, transitions are just as important as the poses, if not more important. The movement from one pose to the next provides a different kind of physical and mental challenge than holding poses. Because yoga pose transitions are dynamic (versus static), you’re stretching and strengthening the muscles and joints while moving, which results in a wider, more stable range of motion.

You can tell a lot by a yogi’s transition – is it rushed, slow, or choppy? Is it smooth and controlled, or choppy but hurried? You want soft and controlled.

We’ve outlined a few beginner poses with typical transitions. If you haven’t done so already, these poses are likely to be practiced in class. If you’ve already practiced these, we have included some tips on how to improve your ability to transition. The list also presents a complete yoga sequence.

Cow Pose to Cat pose

Start in the Table Top position. The shoulders should be aligned over the wrists and the hips above the knees. Gaze forward and inhale, sinking the belly toward the ground. Shoulders should be drawn back and up (shoulder blades reaching towards each other), and the tailbone should reach high towards the ceiling.

Start by exhaling and tilting your pelvis inward. The gaze follows the body and now looks towards the belly.

Cat pose tip: Engage your core and push the floor away while keeping grounded. You should feel as if you are sucking in your belly while the middle of your spine reaches the ceiling.

Low Lunge Half Split

Start in a low lunge by bringing the sole of your right foot down to the floor in front of you, stepping back the left leg, and lowering the knee of your left leg to the floor. The front ankle and knee should be aligned with each other, and the toes on the back should not be tucked. As you inhale, lengthen your spine upwards.

Low lunge tip: To avoid stretching the hip capsule and get the correct hip stretch, tilt the pelvis forward (posterior tilt).

Transition to Half Split: Straighten the front leg on the exhale. Shift the hips forward. If this is enough to stretch your hamstrings, stay in the position. To make it more challenging, place your fingertips on the ground on either side of your front knee (or blocks).

Tips for the Half Split: In order to prevent the chest from collapsing, keep your back flat and do not curl over the front leg.

Downward Dog to Plank Pose

Plant your hands and feet 3-5 feet apart (depending on height) when you are in Downward Dog. Exhale and create an inverted “V” shape by reaching your chest towards your thighs while pointing the tailbone upwards. As you bring your heels closer to the earth, push the floor away.

Downward dog tip: Instead of focusing on a straight leg with heels on the floor, try to lengthen through the spine and the arms. In the beginning, it can be helpful to bend your knees slightly in Downward Dog in order to feel the true essence of the pose.

Transition to Plank: Using your core muscles, shift your body forward so that your shoulders are above your wrists. Legs should be straight with a good amount of engagement. The hips, while the core is still engaged, should be at a comfortable medium (not too low or high). As the neck neutralizes, reach the heels forward with your gaze focused a few inches above the fingertips.

Chair Folded Forward Pose

In the Chair Position, squat, bring your feet to about fist distance apart, bend your knees, and lower the hips. As you inhale, reach your arms forward and up alongside the ears to elongate the spine. Focus on the front and engage your core to stop the chest from falling forward over the leg.

Chair tip: Often called “Awkward chair,” the pose is meant to feel uncomfortable. Squat in the middle, where you are not comfortable but not uncomfortable. You should bend your knees until you can see the tips of your toes just above the knees.

Transition to Forward Fold: As you exhale, straighten your knees and lift the hips. Start folding the torso down and forward in the same motion. Bend your hips while maintaining a flat back. Relax your neck when you are in the Forward Fold Pose.

Forward fold Tip: Allow your knees to be slightly bent to avoid straining the back.

Warrior II in Triangle Pose

As you step into Warrior 2, spread your legs out a few feet and rotate the heel of the back foot to a 45-degree angle. The toes should be facing the outside. The front and rear heels should be aligned. The front leg bends at a 90-degree angle and faces forward.

Inhale. Reach your arms in a “T” shape, with the front arm reaching over the leg of the front leg while the back arm reaches back. Gaze at the fingertips of the hands and relax your shoulders away from your ears.

Warrior II tip: Try to open your hips and engage the core (which will naturally pull the ribs and tailbone in).

Transition to Triangle: To enter Triangle Pose, straighten your front knee and rotate the back foot to a 90-degree angle (perpendicular to the front foot).

Exhale while keeping the arms in a “T” and move the hips to the back. Reach the front arm as far forward as you can. Continue to keep the hips in a neutral position and tilt the torso forward, bringing the front arm downward and the back arm upward. Begin to lift your gaze past the fingertips and up towards the ceiling.

Triangle Pose tip: Rest the front hand lightly on the shin. OR press the backside of the hand against the inner shin for leverage.

Boat to Savasana

In a seated posture, stretch your spine out to prepare for the Boat pose. Inhale, then raise your legs off the floor and bend the knees. The torso has shifted naturally backward, and the legs are in a V shape. Look forward and extend your arms towards your knees. Draw the shoulder blades down and back, keeping the back flat.

Boat Tip: To make it more challenging, extend the legs long and upwards.

Transition from Boat Pose to Savasana: Exhale while in Boat Pose and begin to straighten the legs. Slowly lower your body to the floor. Savasana, the final yoga resting posture, is a great way to relax the mind, body, and muscles.

Transitions are often difficult and can feel wonky. But always find a stable foundation before moving on to the next pose. Don’t forget to engage your core muscles and let them lead you into another carriage.

The transitions we make on the mat can help us learn how to move gracefully and thoughtfully from one situation to another. Enjoy yourself! Make your movements meaningful and expressive rather than just doing the motions.

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