One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is that it’s “just a lot of stretching.” These challenging poses are great for building strength and tone (try holding chair pose and feel your muscles start to quiver), plus the lengthening effect of the stretches ensures muscles remain lithe, not tight and bulky. Practice this sequence to target the powerhouse lower body muscles.
Keeping your feet hip-width apart, take a long step forward with your right foot. Bend your front knee, making sure it stays right on top of the ankle, and sink your hips towards the ground. Keep the left leg as straight as possible and engage your core to protect the lower back. Raise your arms alongside your ears.
Push through the front foot and straighten your leg to rise. Keep the up-down pulse going for one full minute, then switch to the other side. Complete three reps on either side.
Chair Pose (AKA fierce pose)
Begin standing with legs and feet together. Shift your weight into your heels and sink your hips back, as if you were hovering just above the seat of a chair. Raise your arms alongside your ears and internally rotate them from the shoulder joint, so the pinky fingers are moving towards one another. Try to arch your back from the upper spine rather than the lower, so your lumbar stays long and your core is working.
Hold for one minute, take a twenty second break, then repeat.
Lie down and place the soles of your feet on the floor, keeping the knees over the ankles. Peel your hips towards the sky, engaging your hamstrings and glutes. Keep your neck long and push the ground away using your triceps.
Hold for one minute, squeezing your glutes, then raise your left leg to the sky for another minute. Take a brief break if needed, before repeating on the opposite side. You can also lift and lower the hips while one leg is raised to increase the challenge.
Take a wide-legged stance and turn your feet out slightly. Sink your hips towards the ground, making sure your knees track over your toes. Don’t let your pelvis tilt—engage the core and think about keeping a neutral lower spine, as if you were sliding between two panes of glass.
Squat and rise for one minute, take a 20 second break then repeat for three reps total.
Start seated with your legs out in front of you. Press through the palms of your hands and lift your seat off the ground. Supercharge your core, and the whole underside of your body to push your hips toward the sky. Point your toes until your feet find the floor.
Try to hold for 30 seconds. You can also pulse it—keeping the core tight as you lower the hips back to your starting position, then raising them and squeezing the glutes at the top.