7. Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Warrior poses are meant to ground you to the earth and build lower-body strength, both of which are important in preventing falls and maintaining gracefulness.
- Spread your feet three to four feet apart, turning your left foot out 90 degrees and your back foot in 45 degrees.
- Bend your front knee to 90 degrees and square your hips to the side (not toward your front foot).
- Lift your arms up so they’re parallel to the ground.
- Hold for five to 10 breaths before switching sides.
Muscles used: adductor muscles (inner thighs), quads, abdominal muscles, deltoids (shoulders)
8. Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Like Tree pose, you’ll be balancing on one leg, but you’ll also need to rely on your hip flexibility and stability to wrap your legs around each other.
- Start standing and slowly shift your weight to your left foot.
- Cross your right thigh over your left and tuck your right foot behind your left calf, if you can.
- Bend both knees slightly.
- Hold your arms out and cross your left arm over your right, intertwining the arms so that the palms touch in front of your face. Remember, whichever leg crosses on top, the opposite arm should cross in front.
- Hold for five breaths on each side.
Muscles used: glutes, quads, hamstrings, abdominal muscles
9. Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
Challenge your single-leg balance as well as your hip strength and flexibility with this pose that takes triangle pose and tilts it to the side.
- Start in Triangle pose (see above).
- Move your front hand out in front of your foot several inches.
- Begin to lift your back leg off the ground slowly.
- Support yourself with your hand and gaze at the floor as you find your balance. Your hips should be squared outward and your back leg parallel to the floor.
- Raise your back arm up to be in line with your grounded hand.
- Hold for five breaths on each side.
Muscles used: abdominal muscles, back muscles, glutes
10. Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
Take what you learned about grounding yourself from Warrior II and take flight in Warrior III.
- Start in Warrior I (feet three to four feet apart, left foot out 90 degrees, right foot in 45 degrees, hips squared over your left leg).
- Raise your arms overhead, and then reach out in front of you as you slowly lift your back leg off the ground. Torso, arms and free-floating leg should be parallel to the floor.
- Keep your arms overhead, out to the side or at heart center.
- Hold for five breaths on each leg.
Muscles used: hamstrings, glutes, abdominal muscles, back muscles
11. Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana)
This one not only requires a lot of stability, but you also need quite a bit of hamstring flexibility.
- Begin in Mountain pose with your feet parallel and slightly apart.
- Reach down with your right hand to grab your right big toe with your thumb and first two fingers of your right hand.
- Place your left hand on your left hip for balance and straighten your right foot out to the side.
- Keep your hip from jutting out and stand tall.
- Hold for three to five breaths on each side.
Muscles used: hamstrings, abdominal muscles
12. Garland Pose (Malasana)
This pose is a fantastic hip opener. Just make sure you don’t let your back round and that you use your elbows to open up your hips.
- Stand with feet hip-distance apart, toes pointing out 45 degrees.
- Bring your body down into a deep squat, hands at prayer.
- Hold for five to 10 breaths.
Muscles used: glutes, adductor muscles (inner thighs)
13. Standing Splits (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana)
This pose is a challenge, so attack it with caution and be mindful of your alignment. If you don’t have the range of motion to raise your leg to the sky, don’t push past your range. You’ll gain flexibility with continued practice.
- Standing in Mountain pose, hinge at your hips and fold forward.
- Simultaneously, raise one leg back and up toward the sky or as high as your flexibility allows without rotating your hip open to the side.
- Bring your hands down to the ground or to yoga blocks in front of you.
- Hold for 5 breaths on each leg.
Muscles used: hamstrings, quads, abdominal muscles