By TNT Bureau
Oct 9, 2017: Yoga is a great exercise regime to test and strengthen your entire body. Putting aside the psychological, spiritual applications and benefits of yoga, it can be used to target all areas of the body.
The focus of yoga is often on strengthening your core to enable better overall stability and therefore benefit your ability to practice. However, the core shouldn’t be your only focus. Your legs provide a foundation from which efficient and effective yoga can be practiced. Have a look at the effective yoga poses that help in toning and strengthening your legs to expand your pose portfolio.
Utkatasana or chair pose
This yoga pose tones the entire body, particularly the thighs! It improves balance and posture, while also building heat in the body.
- Begin standing with your feet together and your big toes touching. If that is too difficult, step your feet hip-distance apart. Relax your arms at your sides.
- Inhale and raise your arms above your head, perpendicular to the floor.
- Exhale and bend your knees, bringing your thighs as parallel to the floor as they can get. Your knees will project out slightly over your feet, and your torso will form an approximate right angle over your thighs. Shift your weight into your heels.
- Tilt your head back slightly and gaze at a point between your hands.
- Hold for up to one minute. Then, inhale and straighten your legs, lifting through your arms. Exhale and release your arms back to your sides.
Anjaneyasana or crescent lunge pose
This yoga pose stretches the hip flexors while providing a challenge to the front and back thighs. It also strengthens and stretches the abdomen, chest, and shoulders.
- Begin standing at the top of your mat. Bend your knees, fold forward, and place your hands on the mat. Then, step your left foot to the back of the mat.
- Align your right knee over the heel of your right foot.
- Come onto the ball of your back foot, lifting your heel and drawing it forward so it aligns directly over your back toes.
- Lift your back leg strongly and straighten it completely, drawing your knee and quadriceps up toward the ceiling. Beginners can keep their back knee on the mat.
- Inhale as you raise your torso to an upright position. Sweep your arms overhead. Draw your tailbone toward the floor. Gaze up at your thumbs.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release the pose, step both feet forward to the top of the mat and come to a full standing position. Repeat on the other side.
Virabhadrasana or warrior pose
This popular standing pose stretches the whole front side of the body. It also strengthens the thighs, ankles, and back. Students with neck injuries should keep their head in a neutral position — do not look up at the hands.
- Stand with your feet wide apart. Point your right foot to the top of the mat and turn your left foot slightly inward.
- Draw your shoulder blades in toward your upper back ribs. Keep your pelvis turned toward the front edge of your mat.
- Press your weight through your left heel. Then exhale as you bend your right knee over your right ankle. Your shin should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Reach up strongly through your arms. Ground down through your left foot and keep your left thigh lifting. Broaden across your belly and chest, and lift through your fingertips. Gently tilt your head back and gaze up at your thumbs.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release the pose, press your weight through your back heel, straighten your front leg, and lower your arms. Repeat on the other side.
Utkata konasana or Goddess squat pose
This yoga pose strengthens the entire lower body, including the glutes, hips, thighs, calves, and ankles. It opens the hips and chest, and elongates the spine. It also improves balance, focus, and concentration.
- Stand with your feet wide apart and your hands on your hips. Turn your toes out slightly.
- On an exhalation, bend your knees directly over your toes and lower your hips into a squat. Work toward bringing your thighs parallel to the floor, but do not force yourself into the squat.
- Bring your hands into prayer position at your chest.
- Tuck your tailbone in slightly and press your hips forward as you draw your thighs back. Keep your knees in line with your toes. Soften your shoulders. Gaze softly at the horizon.
- Hold for up to 10 breaths. To release, slowly return your hands to your hips. Keeping your spine upright, inhale as you press firmly into your feet and straighten your legs. Step your feet together and release your arms to your sides.