Take your training to the next level with these advanced yoga poses that put a fun, challenging spin on all your favorite moves, from half moon to down dog
Once you start doing yoga, it doesn't take long to get familiar with the basic poses. What was once intimidating is soon fun, and not only can you down dog with the best of them but you can even say "happy baby pose" without giggling. Eventually, you start to want more. Don't get us wrong, you can always work on making your basic poses stronger, but there's nothing wrong with wanting to push yourself a little bit.
"It's the job of a good instructor to remind students they can do more than they think they can," says Kylie Larson, a registered yoga teacher and expert instructor for Yoga Download. Taking a pose to the next level will not only build muscles in places you didn't even know you had muscles, but Larson says it will also give you a mega confidence boost. "Many of my students are surprised at first when they can do the harder poses, but of course they had it in them all along—they just needed someone to give them a little nudge."
Consider yourself nudged! We had Larson take 14 basic yoga postures and demonstrate how to amp them up. Now it's your turn! (So why Om? We can give you 30 Reasons Why We Love Yoga.)
Total Time: up to 45 minutes
1. Pull-Through Tabletop
Begin by sitting on the ground, feet planted, knees bent and hands on the ground just behind your hips. Lift your hips until your torso is parallel to the ground, like the top of a table.
Using your core muscles, lower your hips down and through your hands, careful not to let your bottom touch the ground. Hold for three to five breaths then return to reverse tabletop.
2. Elevated Chair
From a standing position, lower your hips down and back until you are in a squat position. Keep your knees together and abs tight and raise your arms up on either side of your head. Slowly lift up as high as you can on your toes without losing your balance.
Lower down two more inches into your squat. Hold for three to five breaths. For even more burn, squat down until your bottom is almost touching your heels and then move back up to parallel, never letting your heels drop.
3. 90-Degree Extension
Start on your hands and knees. Raise right leg directly behind you until it is level with your hip. Lift left arm until it is even with your shoulder and you are balancing your right hand and left knee.
Slowly move your lifted leg ninety degrees to the right and your lifted arm ninety degrees to the left. Hold for three breaths then return to spinal balance.
4. Airplane Lunge
Standing firmly on left leg, tilt forward and lift right leg up behind you with arms by your side, as if you were playing "airplane."
Bend left knee and lower down as far as you comfortably can into a single-leg squat while still keeping right leg extended. Do five slow squats.
5 slow squats
5. Side Plank Knee Crunch
Lay on left side. Place left hand on the ground and push upper body off the ground, lifting hips until the only things touching are the edges of your feet and your hand.
Lift right arm and right knee, bend, then bring them together until elbow touches knee. Hold the side crunch for five slow breaths.
5 slow breaths
6. Sugar Cane
From standing position, lean to right and reach down. As right hand touches the floor, float your left leg up, keeping it in line with your left hip.
Raise left arm. Then reach back for left foot with left hand, grabbing the foot or the shin. Arch back and press foot into hand. Hold sugar cane for three to five breaths then return to half moon.
7. Handstand Prep
From a plank position, lift hips and push them slightly back. Only your hands and feet should be on the mat, in a down dog position.
Lift right leg as high as you can. You can stop here, for a three-legged down dog, or add a little more challenge by pushing off with left leg so both legs are now in the air. Start with small jumps and work up to getting top leg in line with torso, in preparation for a handstand.
8. Tip-Toe Pulse
Start in a wide legged squat with your toes pointing out and your hands clasped in prayer position at your chest. Raise up as high as you can on your toes.
Pulse gently up and down without lowering your heels. Perform 10 to 15 pulses and then return to goddess pose.
9. Lifted Crescent Lunge
From a standing position, take a large step forward with right leg. Bend right knee until you are in a deep squat, lowering left knee to the ground and raising your arms up by ears. Gently arch your back, keeping your head in line with arms.
Slowly lift up left leg, straightening it behind you. You should be balancing on right foot and the top of left foot. Hold for three to five breaths before lowering back to the ground.
10. Three Point Plank
From a high plank position, slowly lower down until you are hovering two to four inches above the ground, keeping elbows close to sides.
Push back up to plank position. Lift right leg six inches off the ground, straight behind you, and repeat the slow push-up. Hold for three breaths, then push back up to high plank, taking care to keep right leg extended and off the ground through the entire movement.
11. Prayer Lunge
From a chair squat with your hands in prayer position, twist your torso to the right. Bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee, keeping your hands even with your heart. Slowly shift your weight into your right leg.
Without moving your upper body, extend your left leg straight back until you are in a low lunge with a prayer twist. Hold for five breaths. For more intensity, flow back and forth between the chair and the lunge positions.
12. Eagle Crunch
From standing position, bend right knee and lift right leg up to waist. Cross right leg over left thigh, squatting down and wrapping your right toes around your left calf if you can. Extend arms to the sides.
Cross left arm over your right in front of you, then bend both elbows. Wrap your forearms together until hands touch. From this eagle position, lift elbows slightly, contract your abs and crunch forward. Hold for three to five breaths.
13. Revolved Reverse Warrior
Start in a wide stance, right toes pointing out to the side and left toes at an angle. Bend your right knee and lunge forward with arms extended to the sides (warrior II pose). Arch back and lean back over left leg, resting left hand on your calf and raising your right arm over your head at an angle.
Return to warrior II and then switch your hand placement. Rotate torso towards the front and reach back with your right arm until your right hand is touching left hamstring. Lift left arm up. Hold for three to five breaths.
Hold 3-5 breaths
14. Headstand Pike Up
Kneel down and place your head on your yoga mat. Your hands can be cradling your head or in a tripod position.
Extend your legs out straight until you are balanced on your head with your back straight and your toes pointed. Contract your core and slowly lift your toes off the mat until you are in a pike position.
Continue up to a full headstand. Hold for three breaths and then slowly lower your feet back down through pike position until your toes are on the floor.
Hold for 3 breaths