The first few sessions of a yoga class can be confusing and difficult for the beginner. It is easy for many of us to get caught up in watching the ways other people are positioned rather than focusing on our own practice. Learning a little bit about some of the more common poses ahead of time made me feel less (ok, a little less!) bewildered and intimidated. Here are some of the terms and the basics that may help.
For this position, the yoga student should begin on hands and knees; the hands should be beneath the shoulders and the knees under the hips. The hands should then be spread wide with the thumb and index finger pressed into the mat. The practitioner lifts the tailbone and presses the butt upward and back, in a fashion that draws the hips toward the ceiling. The legs should be as straight as possible and the heels should press towards the floor. The head should remain between the arms, facing the knees, with a flat back. The student should focus on keeping a long spine; it is acceptable to bend your knees to achieve this if needed.
The yoga student should start by taking a large step forward with the left foot; this beginning requires a staggered stance with almost a mat-length separating the feet. The student should then bend the front knee while keeping the rear leg straight and the heel lifted from the floor. The front leg should ideally be bent so that the thigh and the floor are parallel. The hips should be squared facing front. The student then reaches up toward the ceiling; a stretch should be felt in the hips. After holding for a length of five breaths, the student should repeat this position on the other side.
This pose looks simple but can be complicated to hold properly. The student should begin on all fours; the knees should be under the hips and the hands held flat beneath the shoulders. The knees then lift from the floor and the legs extend out behind the student. The body should form one long line. This pose should be held for three to five breaths.