In the world of fitness, legs are probably the most ignored part of the body. While strong legs do not have the kind of visual impact biceps or abs have, developing your lower body builds your overall body strength. Your legs are the foundation of your body and taking care of them will prepare you for a stronger yoga practice and a more stable body. So practice these 5 yoga poses regularly to give your legs all the strength they need.
1. Warrior I
From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands, and lower your back knee to the floor or a blanket.
Line up your front heel with your back heel, or place the feet hip-width apart for better balance.
Plant your fingertips on the ground and shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your left thigh. Stack your front knee over the heel.
Press into your front heel and work the front thigh, drawing your femur into the hip socket. Holding this posture for 5 to 10 breaths will certainly set you up for a little shake-fest!
This pose is great for strengthening the quadriceps while giving you a hip stretch for the back leg. This posture will also challenge your stability due to the slight internal rotation of the back foot.
2. Warrior II
Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Round your right knee toward your nose, and step your right foot in between your hands.
Spin your left heel down with your foot slightly angled out. Windmill your arms open. Your left arm reaches toward the back of the mat and your right arm reaches to the front of the mat, evenly, palms facing down.
Keep your right knee at a 90-degree angle, in line with your right ankle. Drop your shoulders away from your ears, tuck your tailbone, and knit your front ribs in.
Gaze is over the middle finger of the front hand.
This pose also helps to strengthen your quadriceps. Because this posture is externally rotated, you have to engage your back inner thigh muscles to keep you stable.
3. Tree Pose
Start with Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Bring your palms together at heart center.
Rooting through the four corners of your right foot and engaging your right quadricep and your core, slowly lift your left leg and bring the sole of the foot anywhere above or below your right knee.
Inhale and lengthen through the crown of your head. Find your focus directly in front of you and keep it at a soft gaze.
As you take your five deep breaths here, raise your arms over your head and join your palms together.
Slowly release your arms back to heart center and release the left leg. Repeat on the right side.
This balancing posture develops strength all along the standing leg, down into your foot. The constant balance challenge in Tree Pose will engage your lower leg, and help you tone in the arches of your foot.
4. Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
From Tadasana, bring your left knee toward your belly. Reach your left arm inside the thigh, cross it over the front ankle, and hold the outside of your left foot.
If your hamstrings are tight, hold a strap looped around the left sole. Firm the front thigh muscles of the standing leg, and press the outer thigh inward.
Inhale and extend the left leg forward. Straighten the knee as much as possible. If you’re steady, swing the leg out to the side. Breathe steadily; breathing takes concentration, but it helps you balance.
Hold for 30 seconds, then swing the leg back to center with an inhale, and lower the foot to the floor with an exhale. Repeat on the other side for the same length of time.
In this pose, you will be engaging all the muscles in your standing leg in order to hold yourself vertical, and you will be working to open up the hamstrings in your extended leg.
5. Extended Side Angle Pose
From Warrior II pose (with right knee bent), bring the right elbow down to the right knee and inhale the left arm up towards the ceiling and then exhale the arm over the ear, making a straight line with the left side of your body.
Keep the right knee bent directly over the ankle, sink the hips down towards the floor, and reach the left fingers away from the left foot. Breathe and hold for 3-6 breaths.
To release: inhale and reach the left fingers up and back into warrior II or straighten the legs coming into a 5-pointed star. Repeat on the other side.
While this pose does not appear to work on your legs too much. However, if you are able to properly engage both your front and back legs while holding the Extended Side Angle, you will find that it is really all about the bottom half.