Master teacher, Yoga Shanti co-owner, and YJ LIVE! presenter Rodney Yee shares his list of must-practice yoga poses, why they’re so important, and how best to sequence them in your practice.
1. Mountain Pose
“Mountain Pose is all about playing with the central axis, which is an approximate plumb line starting at the front inner corners of the heels up to right in front of the tailbone, threaded through the front of the spine to the soft palate of the mouth and the crown of the head,” Yee says. “One gets to play with subtle alignment and sensitivity to postural changes.”
Sprinkle Tadasana throughout your sequence, returning to it in between the main poses of your practice.
“Triangle Pose wakes up your legs and trains them to support and feed your torso,” Yee says. “It teaches you about many complicated relationships between the legs, arms, torso, and head and neck. When you get close to evenness in this pose you have studied deeply.”
Use Trikonasana toward the beginning of your sequence to engage your legs in relation to your spine and arms.
“Half Moon Pose feels like flying when you hover around and through the balance point,” Yee says. “It creates pinpointed focus as you utilize the legs for orientation, grounding and flight, and teaches you the fine alignment of the feet, knees, and hip joints.”
Add Ardha Chandrasana to the middle of your practice for balance and mindfulness after your legs have been utilized.
“Headstand is the ultimate pose to realign head to heart and simultaneously builds the strength of the neck muscles with responsiveness and sensitivity,” Yee says. “Headstands focus and quiet the mind.”
For intermediate practitioners, try Headstand in the beginning of your sequence to center yourself and ignite your fire energy. For beginners, try it in the middle to orient and awaken yourself.
“Standing Backbend builds a profound connection between your feet and the earth,” Yee says. “It brings health to the spine through articulation and awareness, addresses fear of falling backward, and teaches us not to hold our breath when in the beginning throngs of panic.”
Add this pose to toward the middle and climax of your backbend series. You can also sprinkle it throughout your sequence, depending on how far you take the backbend.
“Viparita Karani is my ‘ahhhhhh’ pose of the day,” Yee says. “Your legs are above your heart, which helps with the blood flow back to the heart. Your chest is open because of the bolster under your sacrum, and there’s a Shoulderstand-like cooling of the nervous system from the Jalandhara position of your head. We should all be doing this every day to transition from our work to our personal life. This is the pose that is the change that I want to see in the world.”
Add this pose to the end of your sequence, as a cooling pose.
“Savasana teaches us how to be relaxed while being mindful and integrated,” Yee says. “It teaches us how to let go of stories and drop into the present. Savasana is a great practice for sustaining peace.”
Do this pose whenever you can, but always at the end of your asana practice and before and after Pranayama.
“Full lotus is the best pose for meditation, if perfected,” Yee says. “It teaches us about apana vayu, in perfect relationship to prana vayu, and sets up the suspension of the body so that the postural muscles can work minimally and optimally.”
Use this posture during meditation. Most practitioners need a full hip-opening series beforehand. For experienced yogis, come back to this pose throughout to promote the meditative quality of your practice.
“All spiritual practice comes down to applying teachings to your own self, going inside, and listening to your body and heart,” says Rodney Yee, who has been practicing and teaching yoga for more than 25 years. With more than 30 DVDs and several books to his name, Yee co-chairs the Urban Zen Health and Wellness Foundation, founded by Donna Karan, with his wife Colleen Saidman Yee. He is a former gymnast and ballet dancer, now based in New York, where he teaches regular classes at Colleen’s studio, Yoga Shanti, in the Flatiron District. Follow him on: