Yoga is full of challenges and difficulties to overcome, which is why I consider it a journey. Through gradual changes I have seen my body evolve from being tense and tight to being capable of awesome poses. The best thing is that these changes are noticeable: every practice I experience a deeper stretch and can push myself just a little bit further. This post includes some challenging poses and methods to achieve them from Women’s Health Magazine.
The Pose: King Dancer (Natarajasana)
At any stage of practicing this move you feel a stretch in your shoulders, quads, and hip flexors and you will see improvement in balance. To stay steady, focus on a spot on the ground in front of you (Drishti).
Loop a strap around the top of your left foot and holding the strap in left hand, lift left elbow toward the ceiling. Hold, then release and switch legs.
Start in stage 1, then grab the strap with your right hand as well. Push your left foot into the strap, without leaning forward too much. Hold, then release and switch legs.
From phase 2, move your hands down the strap closer to your foot. Elevate the thigh by pressing into your shin. Keep your chest lifted. Hold, then release and repeat with the other leg.
From phase 3, move your hands down the strap and grab your foot with both hands. Draw your knee toward the center of your body so it’s in line with your butt. Press your foot into your hand until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your chest up, hips square, and upper arms close to your ears. Hold, then release and switch sides.
The Pose: Handstand (Adho-Mukha Vrksasana)
This pose strengthens your shoulders, arms, core, and legs. As you work toward it, keep four things in mind: Move slowly and carefully, rotate your triceps toward your body, keep your neck relaxed, and gaze just slightly past your fingertips.
Start in downward-facing dog (an inverted V) with your heels against a wall. Place your right foot flat on the wall, then place your left foot next to your right. You should be in an upside-down L shape with your wrist directly below your shoulder, your back straight and perpendicular to the floor, and you legs straight and parallel to the floor. Hold, then bend your knees and lower one foot to the floor at a time.
Start in Stage 1, then lift your right leg off the wall, straight up toward the ceiling. Your left leg is still parallel to the floor, with your foot flat on the wall. Hold, keeping your core tight, arms straight, and neck relaxed, then bring your right foot back to the wall and switch legs. To release, bring both feet back to the wall, bend your knees, and lower one foot at a time.
Face the wall and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor about 10 inches away from it. Get into downward-facing dog, then walk your feet in a few inches, stacking your shoulders over your wrists. Brace your core and slowly raise your left heel toward the ceiling, leg straight. Keep your hips square, arms straight, and neck relaxed. Hold, gazing toward your fingertips, then lower your leg and switch sides.
Start in downward-facing dog with your hands shoulder-width apart and legs straight. Walk your feet forward, shifting your weight onto your hands and stacking your shoulders over your wrists. With your arms straight and core tight, lift your right leg toward the ceiling, keeping your hips square. Bend your left knee and gently raise your left leg toward the ceiling, bringing your hips over your shoulders. Hold, then slowly come down one leg at a time.
To view Crow (Bakasana) and Side Plank B (Vashistasana B), and a more detailed description of King Dancer (Natarajasana) and Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana), please visit the Women’s Health Website. If you would like a printable pose guide, click here.