The 4 Groups of Yoga Poses

The 4 Groups of Yoga Poses

April 13th, 2012 by tanja

The 4 Groups of Yoga Poses When we go through a yoga teaching session or join a yoga teacher training program we follow along and do as instructor. Have you ever stopped to wonder why certain poses are grouped together in a yoga sequence? Your yoga teacher knows that to help make the body feel good they need to keep similar poses groped together in each part of the class.

Once you learn how to group yoga poses yourself you will be able to lead a safe home practice and get the most benefit from it. So, with that in mind which poses are similar? The first thing to consider is how your legs or hands, depending on your pose, are positioned. The position that your legs and feet are in is the basis for the four groups of yoga.

Basic Leg Positions

When practicing yoga your hips could be internally rotated or externally rotated. Most people get confused of this because it is different and we are focusing on finding our proper alignment for the pose. Learning to identify which group a pose may belong to will help you think whether it is internal or external rotation of your hips. Yoga teacher training will help you learn these groups and which poses fall into what grouping. That will help you get started.

Another element in your leg positions is if your stance is symmetrical of asymmetrical. This point is a bit easier to remember because all you need to check is if your legs are doing the same thing or different things. Based on the two elements of internal or external rotation and symmetry or asymmetry you will know how to put your pose into the correct grouping.

Group 1: Tadasana or Mountain Pose

In this grouping both of your hips are internally rotated. Once you have achieved a perfect tadasana you will notice your inner thighs will feel like they are rotating behind you with energy and your shins will feel like that energy is helping them hug to the midline of your body. During tadasana, your legs are symmetrical which gives this grouping symmetrical internal.

Other poses that are included in this group are:

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana-Downward facing dog
  • Prasarita Padottanasana-wide leg forward bend
  • Uttanasana- intense forward bend
  • Utkatasana-chair pose
  • Urdva Danurasana-wheel pose or backbend

Group 2: Virabhadrasana I or Warrior I

During Virabhadrasana both of your hips are internally rotated. This can be strange but this pose will give you the sensation that your inner thighs are reaching back and your shins are coming in. The difference with this group is that one leg is forward with the knee at a 90 degree angle and the second leg is extended back behind you. This means that your legs are asymmetrical. This grouping is asymmetrical internal.

Other poses that are included in this group are:

  • Ardha Chandrasana-half-moon pose
  • Natarajasana-dancer pose
  • Hanumanasana-full splits
  • Utthan Pristhasana-lizard pose

Group 4: Temple Pose

This group of poses is often forgotten. During Temple Pose both of your outer hips are wrapping down and both of your feet are grounded with your knees flexed at 90 degrees. This group is symmetrical external.

Other poses that are included in this group are:

  • Dwi Pada Kapotasana -double pigeon pose
  • Padmasana -lotus pose
  • Kurmasana -tortoise pose
  • Gomukasana -cow face pose
  • Baddhakonasana -cobbler’s pose

There are some poses you will learn about in yoga teacher training where one leg is internally rotated while the other will be externally rotated. This is usually when one leg is lifted off the ground or not bearing your weight. This is what yoga teachers refer to as an open chain position. The basic rule behind this is when your hip is in an open chain position, you can move it between internal and external rotation without causing yourself injury.

Plan your practice

Make sure when you are planning your home practice you think about the 4 groups of yoga poses. Yoga teacher training gives you the tools to be creative with your sequencing and this information of 4 groups give you how to incorporate different poses into your groupings. Try to use all the different groups in your practice. Make sure you allow yourself time to transition between groups with a vinyasa or a return to a neutral pose.

By tanja