Your body and yoga practice will both benefit from mastering these 14 poses.
When people think of building leg strength, they tend to think of the basics: lunges and squats. But yoga takes those fundamental movement patterns, and adds an often very literal twist.
Poses play with what we commonly refer to as isometric movements, or movements where your joint angles remain stationary. The two most common examples in regular workouts are the plank and wall sit. These movements help build strength, not bulk, and will keep you feeling toned, confident, and masterful.
The beauty of these poses is that most of them don’t require insane amounts of flexibility or the ability to twist yourself into a human pretzel (except for eagle pose), so they are easily doable for most beginners. If you aren’t quite there, that’s okay. Just remember to only take the poses as deep as you can today, and work on slowly increasing your range of motion as time goes on.
Here are the 14 poses to incorporate into your yoga practice:
Chair pose is a great way to work your quads. Bring your big toes to touch, slightly separate your heels, and keep your knees behind your toes as you sit your hips back as far as you can. Hold for 3–5 breath cycles and gradually build up your time.
Revolved Chair—Parivrtta Utkatasana
From chair pose, add in a twist. Be conscious of keeping your knees in the same line (don’t let one knee jut in front of the other). Press your palms together to deepen the rotation and keep your hands in the center of your chest.
If you really want to work your calves, quads, and willpower all in one pose, then this one’s just for you. With elements of balance, stability, and strength, this is a pose that you’ll feel from head to toe.
Lift your back heel, pull your gaze up, and drop low into this lunge variation. As your balance increases, shift your weight farther forward on your back foot, so just your toes have contact with the ground. You can even add a twist for another variation.
Bound Crescent Lunge—Baddha Anjaneyasana
If you’re looking to mix up the classic crescent lunge by adding in a bind, then this is the pose to try. The bind forces this pose into a deeper position, which helps stretch and strengthen your muscles.
Bridge—Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Bridge pose is the perfect pose to focus on your glutes and to incorporate a basic backbend into your practice. Try putting your feet together or place a block between your knees to work your inner thighs.
Extended Side Angle—Utthita Parsvakonasana
Work on strengthening your legs and flexibility at the same time. If your flexibility isn’t to the point where you can take your hand to the floor, start with taking your forearm to your thigh or taking your palm to a block.
Bound Extended Side Angle—Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana
Clasp your hands together behind your back to allow yourself to gain extra traction for deepening this pose. Focus on keeping your back foot fully grounded and perpendicular to your front foot. This pose may be easier on one side than the other.
Warrior I—Virabhadrasana I
Take your back foot to a 45-degree angle and be sure to keep your heel grounded (don’t let it creep off the floor like in crescent lunge). Lift your hands high reaching toward the sky with your fingertips.
Warrior II—Virabhadrasana II
Turn your back foot to make a 90-degree angle with your front foot, and be sure to keep your stance wide. I try to take up my entire yoga mat from front to back with this pose. Lift your arms parallel to the floor and cast your gaze over your front hand.
Warrior III—Virabhadrasana III
This warrior is all about balance. Be sure to keep your supporting leg soft through the knee so you aren’t locking it out. Reach your fingertips and your toes as far away from each other as possible to lengthen in this stabilizing balance.
From chair pose, shift your weight onto one foot, and cross the other over the top wrapping your toes around the calf of your supporting leg. As you cross your arms, lift your hands and elbows up and away from your body.
Balancing Butterfly—Eka Pada Koundinyasana
Work your legs, stretch your inner thighs, and increase your balance with this pose that focuses on making you feel like a beautiful butterfly as you master the art of multitasking. Concentrate on taking even breaths and focus on a still object if you need help balancing.
With everything from the basics to fun binds and variations, you can incorporate some very effective movements into your practice to help tone and strengthen your legs. While yoga is not your typical calorie burner, it’s exceptionally good for your body and soul. Continue to make the most out of your practice.
iFit Head Trainer
WARNING: This post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFit assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.