As a follow up to my post on yoga poses for true beginners, I wanted to write a post with some more advanced poses to add to your practice after you’ve started to build a little strength. These are still great poses for any beginner but some will require a little more strength or flexibility than the poses in my first post.
Side note: Please excuse my less than stellar form in some of these photos–they were taken two days after I finished my marathon. It’s a great reminder that every day is different and that we should always listen to our bodies while practicing yoga.
Low Plank/Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
Chaturanga is one of my best yoga poses for experienced beginners because it continues to build the arm and shoulder strength. Many yoga classes flow through Sun Salutations, and the high plank – low plank – up dog – down dog flow is core to many practices, which takes a lot of upper body strength, especially for beginners. You can come to your knees until you have enough strength to stay up on your toes.
Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
Triangle is a lovely pose for opening up the side body. You also get a little bit of twisting action, which is nice. And, if you keep little to no weight in your bottom hand, it’s great for strengthening the core, too. Always use a block beneath the bottom hand if it helps the pose feel better in your body.
Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Raj Kapotasana)
My first Best Yoga Poses for Beginners post included supine/reclining pigeon because it’s not as intense as half pigeon. Once you’ve opened the hip enough in supine pigeon, you can try half pigeon. You should ideally be relaxing into the pose, so if it’s too much, keep working on supine pigeon. Having square hips (not leaning to one side or the other) really helps you get everything you can out of this pose. Sometimes taking your forehead to a block or to your fists helps if your hips are feeling very tight and you can’t completely fold over.
Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
Side plank is great for working those obliques. Until you build up enough strength, you can bring your bottom knee down to the mat. If you’re feeling really strong, you can intensify the pose by lifting the top leg.
Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Side angle pose is a great hip opener. Keeping your bottom elbow on your knee like I’m doing in the photo is great as you start practicing this pose. As you become more flexible, you can take the bottom hand down to a block or to the floor, and you can use the bottom elbow to press your hip open a little more.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Eagle is a great introductory balancing pose because you can always use the foot of your top leg as a kickstand instead of lifting it off the ground or wrapping it around until you feel more balanced. If your shoulders are very tight, keep your arms in a bear hug position. Whichever arm variation you choose, try to keep your elbows at shoulder level.
Chair Pose (Utkatsana)
Chair pose is fantastic for strengthening the quads. Sinking the hips low works the quads even more. Many beginners want to let their butts stick out a bit–what one of the instructors at my studio calls the “duck butt.” If you pull your belly button to your spine, it will help you keep your lower spine in the right position.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
I love melting into Prasarita–for some reason, I find it incredibly relaxing. What’s great about Prasarita is that it has many variations: you can walk your hands to one ankle, then the other, you can reach your hands back between your legs, or you can even take a shoulder rinse to open your heart a little more. If you want a deeper stretch through the legs, bring your legs closer together. If you want to get your head closer to the mat, bring your legs further apart. With so many variations in Prasarita, you can almost always find a variation that feels really great in your body.
Garland Pose (Malasana)
Garland pose is a wonderful pose for opening up the inner hip/thigh muscles and is nice to practice along with half pigeon because it opens the hips in the opposite direction.
Supine Twist (Supta Parivartanasana)
This is a great pose for stretching out the back. The key here is to keep your shoulders on your mat–it doesn’t matter if your knee touches the ground or not.
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Yogis: What are your favorite poses for building strength?
What’s your favorite yoga pose?
What’s your favorite part of the body to stretch?