We’re all about getting strong with yoga. Yoga can be calming and focus on stretching, AND it can also get the burn-so-good of building strength a-flaming. Here are 4 balance poses all in the warrior family that you can take anywhere with you: on a mat in a studio, in a hotel room, out on the trail, and even out on the ski slopes (oh man those skis are heavy!).
These poses are great to do during an at-home yoga practice/gym session, or even just to get a quick leg workout in before dealing with family craziness while traveling. It’s important to remember to listen to your body, to focus on your breath, and to even it out on both sides. So however long you hold a pose or whatever sequence you do on one side, make sure you do the same on the other side.
1. CRESCENT LUNGE
This is essentially a classic lunge, and a basic in vinyasa-style yoga. Start with your right foot pointing forward and left foot placed behind you with your heel lifted. (To modify, bring your left knee down to the mat. You can even pad it with a towel.) Keep your right knee over your ankle, even as you deepen the lunge. It’s easy to focus on your front leg, but try to keep some awareness on your left leg; squeeze your thigh muscles in toward the femur bone. Extending out through your left heel will help this, too. Tuck your tailbone a little and reach long through the crown of your head to elongate your spine, while also squeezing your belly button in. Over time, you’ll widen your stance until your right thigh is parallel to the floor.
2. WARRIOR I
Crescent Lunge is a variation of Warrior I. It’s a great pose to stay in if you have any knee issues. The front leg stays the same from Crescent Lunge to Warrior I: foot pointing forward, knee over ankle, and thigh working towards parallel to the mat. The difference here is your back leg. Bring your left heel to the mat and turn your left foot out at a 45 degree angle. Keep squeezing up and in with your quad muscle as you press out with the outside edge of your left foot. Try to keep both hips facing the front of the room and your core hugging in.
3. WARRIOR II
For Warrior II, you open your entire body out to the left, except for your gaze. Your left hip opens so that your back foot is parallel to the back edge of your mat. Your right knee remains over your ankle and pointing out over the middle of your foot. Your right knee will want to cave in, and your left hip will want to close down. So try to find the balance between the two. And don’t forget about your torso! Tuck your tailbone down slightly and hug your low ribs in toward your spine.
4. WARRIOR III
And now we move to the one-legged variation. I always cue this pose as, “Capital T, Warrior III.” From Crescent Lunge, start to reach your heart out over your right knee, but keep your core engaged. Start to get light on your left toes, so light that they might just float up off the mat. Keep your left leg strong! It’ll be that much harder to hold your leg up in the air if it’s not helping you by staying active. Your right quad is super strong. Try not to let your low back do all the work. Squeeze in firmly toward your spine with your abs. To modify, bring your hands together at your sternum, or rest them on blocks underneath your shoulders on the floor.
Ok, y’all… Now here comes the fun part. After you feel pretty comfortable with these poses, feel free to flow within and between them. Start in Crescent Lunge, and move into Warrior II. Lift from Warrior I into Warrior III and then back into Warrior I. Bring your back knee toward the mat in Crescent Lunge and lift back up, and repeat. Stay strong, stay safe, and have fun with it!
What are your favorite poses and ways to build strength?