Yoga is a great way to keep yourself grounded and balanced in both a physical and mental sense. It offers strength, flexibility, focus and mental clarity that can help with everything from stress relief to body awareness. That said, it is important to remember that the practice of yoga is not a one-size-fits all kind of thing. There are yoga poses to suit every skill level, and poses that can push your boundaries when you’re feeling adventurous. Here are some difficult yoga poses, their names and instructions to help you challenge yourself further within your practice.
Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
Starting from Mountain Pose, step your feet apart and reach your arms up above your head, palms facing each other. On an inhale, reach your arms out and up, and as you exhale, pivot your torso to the right and bend your body to the side from your pelvis, spine and waist as your left arm offers support. Your arms should form a straight line from your shoulder to your fingertip, facing the back of the room. When your torso is parallel to the ground and your gaze is stirred up towards the sky, you’re in the full expression of Half Moon Pose. Breathe deeply to open the chest, lift your hips and extend your right leg back, tucking your toes beneath you and pressing your heel towards the ceiling. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then on an exhale, return to Mountain Pose.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Stand in Mountain Pose, inhale, lift your arms and cross them in front of your torso. Take your left arm underneath the right, so that your elbows cross each other and the backs of the hands come together. Lift the forearms away from each other to keep the pose, and then press your palms together. Bend your knees and tuck the right knee into the inner left thigh, then the left knee over the right one. You’ll be balancing on one foot here, so use your arms for balance as well as your core. Lift the inner thighs towards each other, while pressing the tailbone downwards so you can lift the heart up and chest forward. Draw your shoulders away from the ears and hold for 5-10 breaths, then inhale and with an exhale, release the arms, legs and torso.
Headstand is considered one of the most important yoga postures. It is known for helping the digestion, circulation and for calming the mind. To get into Headstand, start in a Table Top position with your knees directly under your hips and your arms beneath your shoulders. Tuck your toes, engage your core, cross your ankles and lift your legs to a 90 degree angle or straight up towards the ceiling. As you’re doing this, focus your gaze forward and press the inner forearms firmly into the ground. Walk your feet forward a few inches and then tucking your chin to your chest, begin to shift your weight forward until the crown of your head meets the ground. If unassisted, support the weight with your hands and arms, then begin to lift your legs up towards the sky by engaging your core. Once your legs reach a straight angle, pause, focus and take three deep breaths. Once you’ve mastered the pose, hold it for 5-10 breaths and then begin to lower your legs on an exhale.
Wether you’re a beginner or advanced yogi, these poses can offer a physical, mental and spiritual challenge. It is essential for your safety and the success of your practice that you make sure to warm up properly, listen to your body, and go as deeply into the poses as feels comfortable. With that in mind, happy flexing!