Yoga gives us an amazing opportunity to combine spirituality and physical fitness and practice both at the same time. As we’ve seen before, āsana is just one of the eight limbs of yoga, but there are still ways we can maximize that āsana practice to spend more time on our mats and not feel guilty about skipping the gym.
Why Add In A Workout?
Many people view practice and training separately, which would take at least two hours. Add to that any other meditation, journalling or self-care you may want to do and you’re looking at a huge chunk of your day that’s spoken for. Personally, I don’t have that kind of time. Is this sounding familiar to you?
By making changes to ramp up our āsana practice, we can hit two birds with one stone and explore our fitness and meditative sides at the same time! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be developing an efficient program for you to practice that will satisfy both aspects. In most standard workout plans, you have your days and workouts broken down into categories:
Why not follow this model when designing our practices as well? So without further ado…
Let’s Start With Leg Day!
It’s always important to ease into your practice rather than jumping in cold. I’d recommend starting cross-legged and focussing on connecting to your breath for two to three minutes. Once you’ve relaxed into your mat, try three to five Sun Salutations to wake up the body before we move into the practice.
The following six poses specifically target your legs. For many of these days we’ll be doing repetition and static holding in poses, so make sure you pay attention to your body and take your time.
1. Utkatāsana (Chair Pose)
- Starting off with chair pose will help warm up all your muscles and joints. Beginning in Tadāsana, bend your knees and drop your hips, bringing your weight onto your heels. Press your lower legs back so you can see your toes when you look down. Drop your tailbone, firm your front ribs inward, and lift your arms up shoulder-width apart. Keep your shoulders relaxed in their sockets and rotate the outer edges of your arms inward to broaden your upper back. Gaze upward.
- Hold for 10 breaths. This targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus medius.
Amp It Up: Squeeze a block between your thighs or even rise up onto your tiptoes.
2. Añjaneyāsana (Crescent Lunge)
Begin in Tadāsana. Step back about one leg length with your left foot as you bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle. Keep both feet hip-width apart, with your weight resting on the heel of your front foot and on the ball of your back foot. Engage your lower belly to extend your lower back and raise your arms straight over your head, keeping them shoulder-width apart. Repeat on the opposite side.
- We are going to take this lunge to the next level and instead of staying static you are going to bend that back knee and slowly lower yourself to just above the floor and come right back up. Do 10 on each side. This targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus muscles.
Amp It Up: At the end of 10 hold crescent lunge for five breaths. Feel the burn? You’re welcome!
3. Vīrabhadrāsana III (Warrior 3)
- Beginning from Añjaneyāsana, keep your arms extended above your head. Lean forward over your front thigh. Keep gazing forward and lift your back leg off the floor until it is parallel with the floor. Extend your upper chest and gaze forward as you flex your back foot, keeping your leg straight and all of your toes pointing down. Keep your arms extending straight out in front of you and keep them shoulder width apart or join your palms together and your heart. Repeat on the other side.
- In Vīrabhadrāsana III, we are not only working on our balance and core but all our stabilizing muscles in our feet, legs and glutes. Hold the āsana for 15 breaths on each side.
Amp It Up: Slightly pulsate your floating leg up and down for extra booty work!
4. Utkata Konāsana (Goddess Pose)
- Start in Tadāsana at the front of your mat. Step your right foot a stride length towards the back of your mat. Turn your toes out and your heels in, so your feet land on a 45 degree angle. Bend your knees deeply out the sides and sink your hips down to the height of your knees. Bring your arms out at shoulder height and bend your elbows so that your fingertips point skyward. Spread your fingertips wide apart from one another and activate the muscles across your back to hold your arms here. Engage your core muscles and draw your tailbone in the direction of the floor.
- Hold for 10 breaths. This targets your inner thighs, quadriceps, and gluteus medius.
Amp It Up: Rise up onto your toes to really work your calves.
5. Setu Bandha Sarvangāsana (Bridge Pose)
Lie on your back with your arms next to the body palms down. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, close to the buttocks, hip width apart. With the feet parallel to each other, press the upper arms into the floor. Press your feet evenly into the floor and begin to lift the hips up to the ceiling, moving your breastbone to the chin, but not the chin to the breastbone. Firm your tailbone in towards the pubic bone and your pubic bone moves slightly towards the belly. Actively bring the knees out in front of you, to keep the lower back extended. Keep the knees above the ankles.
- Hold for 10 breaths. This targets your gluteus maximus and hamstrings
Amp It Up: Add repetition, lifting up and down for 10. Then hold at the top for 5 breaths.
Even More? Squeeze a block between your thighs to activate your inner thighs.
6. Salabhāsana (Locust Pose)
- From Setue Bandha Sarvangāsana, roll over onto your stomach. Legs stretched out behind you with the tops of your feet pressing against the floor, and your arms beside you, palms face down. Roll your inner thighs up towards the ceiling and firm your legs. Engage your core and draw your tailbone in the direction of your heels as you root your pubic bone into the mat. On an inhale, lift your feet, legs, hands, arms, chest and head off of the mat, lifting as high as you can. Roll your shoulders on to your back and firmly engage your back muscles, while trying to release your glute muscles. Keep the back of your neck long; your eye gaze should be pointing in the same direction as your sternum.
- Hold for 10 breaths. This targets, your core, gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, and hamstring.
Amp It Up: Squeeze a block between your legs to really activate your glutes and inner thighs.
Wrapping It Up
Remember to be aware of your body moving in and out of these āsanas. A good way of doing that is to play some music in the background or place a note or small statue at the top of your mat to remind you to keep your awareness. Once you’re done, rest in savāsana and make sure you drink plenty of water.
How was that? With focus on proper alignment and elongating your breath, these poses should rival your regular leg presses! Did I forget any of your favourite leg poses? Maybe they’re in the Āsana Dictionary? Either way, let us know in the comments, and check back next week for chest and tricep poses!