Most anyone practicing yoga anticipates learning more advanced yoga poses. To watch a person balance their entire body upon one limb is inspiring. While basic yoga presents obstacles with each new technique, challenging yoga poses require preparation and safety. Read on to learn how to prepare for and perform eight advanced yoga poses.
How To Prepare For Advanced Yoga Poses
There comes a time when a yoga student considers stepping things up mentally and physically. Challenging yoga poses tax the body’s large muscle groups.
BUILD PHYSICAL READINESS
Challenging yoga poses require flexibility, balance, and stamina yet to be acquired by a beginner. If the beginning phases are shaky, the body cannot compensate at a higher level. Be patient.
BUILD MENTAL READINESS
Mental discipline is a quality that refines and builds over time and practice. This development of focus, determination, and willpower comes into play during advanced techniques. Challenging yoga poses can take a mental toll if you aren’t prepared.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Be present in the moment and listen. When breathing becomes ragged and choppy, it’s time to dial the activity back a little or take a rest.
There’s no place in yoga for competition- not even with yourself. This includes the person you were 5, 10, or 15 years ago. If a pose today isn’t feeling like it did a year ago, don’t force it.
RELAX & DON’T FORCE IT
Centering the mind around the pose’s benefits is more important than forcing the pose. If a body signals strain, it needs a rest. If a twist is too much, adapt to half a twist. A body still enjoys the benefits of a pose without perfection if the mind permits it.
UTILIZE HELPFUL PROPS
There are tools that help a student while learning challenging yoga poses. One is the yoga wedge. It provides support when learning how to distribute weight.
Another helpful aid is the yoga wheel. It helps to stretch and open up the spine. The front and sides of the body also benefit from the supported stretch.
The yoga board is another excellent prop when attempting hard yoga poses. It has three rockers underneath. The rocking sensation allows the student to increase stability and balance safely.
ENLIST HELP FROM A REPUTABLE TEACHER
A good yoga instructor challenges a student within their limits.
8 Advanced Poses For Experienced Yogis
The following poses are advanced level. These poses always follow a proper warm-up.
HANDSTAND (ADHO MUKHA VRKSASANA)
BENEFITS – Strengthens core muscles & upper body | Increases energy & circulation
PROCEDURE – Begin in a standing split position with hands on the mat under shoulders. Focus on the space between the hands. Slightly bend the standing foot and bring it under the hip. Use the core to steadily kick up by bringing the thigh up and into the socket of the hip so it leads with the standing leg. Slowly stretch the lifted leg straight up. Bring both legs together until the big toes make contact.
TIP – Use the core to tuck the belly & ribs to avoid too much bend.
BENEFITS – Strengthens core muscles & upper body | Helps digestion
PROCEDURE – Begin in Malasana pose with both hands on the mat under the shoulders. Splay fingers and lift pelvis with bent elbows as forearms rotate towards the midline. Put knees against triceps. Focus just past fingertips. Shift weight forward and lift feet off the mat. Kick heels towards the butt and straighten arms.
TIP – Use a yoga block under the feet or head.
FOREARM HOLLOW BACK (PINCHA MAYURASANA)
BENEFITS – Strengthens upper body | Improves balance
PROCEDURE – Begin in feathered peacock pose with bent knees. Point toes and bring heels towards the butt. Drop the head and push through the forearm. Bring the head and chest through the arm arch. Butt and knees go in the opposite direction. One foot extends to the ground while the other hovers above the hips.
TIP – Keep the spine stretched to prevent over-rounding of the back.
SCORPION HANDSTAND (VRSCHIKASANA B)
BENEFITS – Strengthens core & upper body | Improves balance
PROCEDURE – Begin with legs together in a handstand. Bend one knee. Drop chest while lifting head and simultaneously move bent leg toes to head. Bend straight leg to touch toes. Move your toes to the ground while raising your head.
TIP – Master handstand first
ONE-LEGGED CROW (EKA PADA BAKASANA)
BENEFITS – Strengthens wrists, core, & shoulders | Improves balance
PROCEDURE – Begin in crow pose. Bring heels towards the butt. Tuck in the tummy and pull the right knee to the chest. Shift forward and extend your right leg straight to the sky.
TIP – Keep hands in the proper position for set-up.
FLYING PIGEON (EKA PADA GALAVASANA)
BENEFITS – Strengthens upper body & core | Improves balance | Opens hips
PROCEDURE – Begin standing and lift the right leg to cross the left knee in a figure four. Bend left leg and place hands on mat under shoulders. Splay fingers, put right shin against triceps, and wrap foot around the left arm. Tense core, bend elbows, and lean forward. Lift back foot and leg straight towards the sky.
TIP – Wedge a yoga block under the forehead.
BENEFITS – Strengthens hammies, quad, & groin | Increases hip flexibility
PROCEDURE – Begin in a half-monkey pose. Shift the torso up and flex the front foot. Slide back knee back and front heel forward until the front sit bone contacts the floor. Roll the inner thigh of the back leg up. Inhale and fold over the front leg by bringing the tummy in.
TIP – Use a block or folded blanket if sit bone doesn’t contact the floor.
KING DANCER (NATARAJASANA)
BENEFITS – Strengthens legs & ankles | Improves balance
PROCEDURE – Begin in a standing position. Lift left leg to chest. Lift kneecap and squeeze glutes. Grab the left ankle with the left arm. Bring left knee down with standing leg, foot towards the butt. Lean forward and stretch your left leg behind and up, grabbing the outside of your left foot. Kick up your foot while leaning your chest over a straight leg.
TIP – Focus eyes ahead and not down to keep balance.
Hard yoga poses can be mastered with systematic practice and patience. Each step of yoga builds on the one behind it. Don’t rush it. For more advanced yoga poses or to inquire about classes, click here.