The work you do in the gym or on the yoga mat prepares you for the remaining 23 hours of your day. Yoga, in particular, promotes physical balance and a balanced lifestyle beyond the mat. So while consistent yoga practice can help you feel more centered and aligned as you float from pose to pose, the benefits of standing yoga poses will follow you for the rest of your day.
Benefits of Standing Yoga Poses
Standing yoga poses can help you develop your body’s balance, muscular engagement and alignment, says certified yoga instructor Remy Park. While many standing poses may seem simple at first glance, they become more challenging and beneficial as you recruit different muscles across your body.
“You can really put as much or as little effort into each standing posture as you’d like,” she says. “But what I love about yoga is there is always room for improvement no matter what your practice looks like.”
And with regular practice, you can develop a heightened bodily awareness, too, says Park. This mindfulness can help improve your posture at your office desk or your gait as you walk down the street.
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
The basics of this pose are simple enough — it boils down to standing. But standing with proper form takes time and patience to retrain your body how to immediately find correct alignment.
- Stand up straight with your spine in a neutral position.
- Roll your shoulders back and down with arms at your sides, palms facing out (or in prayer at the center of your chest).
- For an even greater challenge, close your eyes.
- Hold for at least five breaths (or as long as you’d like).
Muscles used: abdominal muscles, back muscles
2. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
By practicing this pose frequently, you’ll improve your single-leg strength and build hip and oblique strength, which is important in maintaining your balance. When you feel stable enough in this pose, try closing your eyes.
- Begin in mountain pose.
- Reach down with your right hand and place your right foot on your ankle, shin or inner thigh (not on your knee).
- Square your hips forward and place your hands at heart center or above your head.
- Hold for five to 10 breaths.
Muscles used: glute muscles, abdominal muscles
3. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
This pose is a great moment to catch your breath, but be sure to maintain good form as you relax in forward fold. In other words, don’t force anything.
- Hinge at your hips and bend your torso forward, hands reaching toward the ground.
- Bend your knees slightly and soften your lower back.
- For added comfort, lightly sway side to side or reach for opposite elbows.
- Hold for five to 10 breaths.
Muscles used: hamstrings, lower back muscles
4. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
One of the most common yoga poses in any practice, Downward Facing Dog is a great pose to stretch the entire body. It also targets the muscles that keep you upright throughout the day — aka your core.
- From Plank pose, keep your feet grounded as you lift your hips high.
- Keep your back straight and broaden your shoulder blades so that your body forms an inverted “V” shape.
- Spread your fingers wide to keep you grounded.
- Hold for five breaths.
Muscles used: back muscles, deltoids (shoulders), abdominal muscles
4. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
While this pose primarily stretches the hamstrings, hips and obliques, it also puts your head and torso perpendicular to its standard alignment, which is perfect for challenging your balance as well as your perspective.
- Spread your feet two to three feet apart, turning your right foot out 90 degrees and your left foot in just slightly.
- Raise your arms out to the side so they’re parallel to the floor.
- Sideways bend at your waist, resting your right hand on your right foot or shin.
- Keep your hips squared forward and level. If you can, rotate your head to look up at your left hand.
- Hold for five breath cycles on each side.
Muscles used: hamstrings, abdominal muscles, obliques
5. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
For this pose, you’ll need core and quad strength to keep yourself balanced despite your center of gravity being lower.
- Start in Mountain pose.
- Root down through your feet as you hinge your hips back and down as if you were sitting in a chair.
- Tuck your tailbone under so you don’t put any extra pressure on your lower back.
- Raise you arms overhead in line with your ears.
- Hold for seven breaths.
Muscles used: glutes, quads, hamstrings, deltoids (shoulders)
6. Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana)
This is definitely an advanced balancing pose, but you can take it step by step and work on your flexibility and strength before taking it all the way.
- Stand with your feet parallel, a few inches apart.
- Bend your left knee back so your left food is behind your and grab your left foot with your left hand.
- Using your right arm as a counterbalance, lean forward as you kick your left foot into your left hand and lift your left foot back behind you.
- If you’re using a strap, secure one end around your ankle and hold the other end with both hands over your head.
- If flexibility allows, grab your left foot with both hands, arms reaching over your head.
- Hold for as many breaths as possible.
Muscles used: hamstrings, quads, abdominal muscles, back muscles