We put our legs under a lot of pressure at times. Whether we have jobs where we spend a lot of time standing up, are rushing about our days, or like to run – it can all take it’s toll. One of the many benefits of yoga is that it stretches out and eases sore and overused muscles.
It’s also fantastic for toning certain areas. If you’re looking for a routing that targets your legs in order to strengthen and tone, then yoga is definitely something to consider. The following 9 poses will stretch all muscles located in the legs, as well as strengthen them and build upon your balance. Follow the instructions below and incorporate the poses into your exercise routine.
Triangle Pose – Trikonasana
Description: From the Mountain pose, move your feet until they are roughly three feet apart, with your pelvis, chest and head aligned. Inhale and raise both arms straight out to the side, until they’re parallel with the floor, palms facing down. Exhale, and keeping your legs straight, picot on your heels to turn your right foot all the way to the right and keeping your heels in line with each other.
Lower your torso to the right, as far as is comfortable and keep your arms parallel to the floor. Once your torso is fully extended, drop your arm so that your right hand rests on your ankle and extend your left arm to the ceiling. Extend your arms as far as you can in opposite directions and turn your head to focus on your left thumb. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat instructions with opposite leg.
Common postural errors: Twisting your hips. Tips: Keep your leading knee centred over your foot and if you feel unbalanced, you can practice with keeping your back heel against a wall.
Low Lunge Pose – Anjaneyasana
Description: From the Mountain pose, step your right foot forwards, aligning your right knee over your heel. Then lower your left knee to the floor, making sure you keep your right knee steady and in the same place. Slide your left foot back along the floor until you can feel a comfortable stretch in your thigh and groin, resting the top of your left foot against the floor.
Lift your torso upright while inhaling, sweeping your arms up by your sides until they point at the ceiling. Push your tailbone down toward the floor and lift your pubis up. Tilt your head and gaze upward while reaching toward the ceiling, and hold for 1 minute before moving into the plank pose.
Common postural errors: The knee leans to one side rather than being straight. Tips: If your lowered knee is uncomfortable, place a folded blanket underneath it.
Hero Pose – Virasana
Description: Begin by kneeling, with your thighs perpendicular to the floor and your feet angled slightly wider than your hips. Bring your knees together while pushing your feet into the floor. Lean forward, exhale and sink back so that you are sitting with your buttocks to the floor, in between your heels. Lift your chest and press your shoulders back and down, lengthening your tailbone. Rest your hands, palm down on your thighs, pulling in your abdominals and hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
Benefits: The Hero Pose stretches thighs, hips and ankles and provides a counterbalance to hip-opening postures.
Common postural errors: Lifting shoulders, turning the soles out or sitting on the heels. Tips: If you experience pain then place a folded blanket beneath you and point your big toes inward slightly.
Warrior Pose I – Virabhadrasana I
Description: Starting in the Mountain Pose, bring your left foot back so that is 3.5-4 feet behind your right foot. Align your heels before turning your left foot 45 degrees, keeping your right foot facing forward. Rotate so that both hipbones are squared forward and parallel to the front of your mat. Inhale and raise your arms straight up towards the ceiling, keeping them shoulder width apart, palms facing each other.
Draw your shoulder blades down towards your tailbone. Exhale and lean forward so that your right knee is directly over your right foot, and shin perpendicular to the floor. Gaze forward and hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Move back into Mountain pose and repeat with opposite leg.
Common postural errors: Moving too far forward so your front knee is aligned with toes. Tips: Apply more pressure in your right heel to stay centred.
Tree Pose – Vrksasana
Description: Begin in mountain pose and bring both hands up, pressed together in a prayer gesture and shifting your weight onto your left foot keeping the inner foot firmly to the ground. Bend your right knee, reach down with your right hand and grasp your right ankle, drawing it up and placing the sole against your inner left groin with toes pointing at the floor. The centre of your pelvis should be directly over the standing foot. Straighten your spine and firmly press your right foot into the inner thigh while resisting with your outer left leg and returning your hands to the prayer position in front of you. Gaze at a fixed point directly in front of you and hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Exhale and return to Mountain Pose, repeat again for the opposite leg.
Benefits: The Tree Pose improves your sense of balance and strengthens thighs, calves, ankles and spine. It also relieves sciatica pain and reduces flat feet.
Common postural errors: Misaligning the hip. Tips: You can start by doing this pose against a wall to aid in finding you balance. Keep your hips square and pointing forward.
Standing Forward Bend – Uttanasana
Description: From the Mountain Pose, exhale and bend forward from your hips, sweeping your arms to the sides, with your palms facing the floor. While lowering your torso, keep your back flat and tuck in your abdominal muscles to lengthen your spine. Keep folding your torso forwards until they are parallel to your legs (Or as close as you can get). Grasp the back of your ankles and contract your thighs to keep your knees as straight as possible.
With each exhalation, draw your sit bones upwards, elongating your spine and lengthening the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute before moving onto Standing Half Forward Bend.
Common postural errors: Rolling the spine. Tips: If you find this difficult, then bend your knees as you bring your torso forward, and then straighten on each exhale afterwards.
3.) Awkward Pose – Utkatasana
Description: Begin in the Mountain Pose, raise your hands forwards and over your head, keeping your hands shoulder width apart or clasped, depending on your preference. Exhale and bend your knees and your upper body forward so that it is at a 45 degree angle in relation to the floor. Maintain a straight back and relax your calf muscles, allowing the weight of your upper body to sink into your pelvis instead, transferring the weight onto your heels. Inhale and straighten you knees while lifting strongly through your arms. Exhale, returning your arms to your side and returning to mountain pose.
Benefits: The Awkward Pose strengthens the lower back and quadriceps, stretching the shoulders, arms and hamstrings.
Common postural errors: Having an arched back. Tips: Try to keep your back as straight as possible by performing the lowering motion with your thighs, knees and hips.
Standing Half Forward Bend – Ardha Uttanasana
Description: From the Standing Forward Bend, place your hands by your feet, inhale and lift your head and upper torso away from your legs, until your back and elbows are straight. Lift your chest and elongate your spine into an arch, lengthening your neck so that you are looking straight foward. Hold for 10 – 30 seconds before moving slowly back to mountain pose.
Benefits: This pose strengthens the spine and posterior, while stretching your hamstrings, calves and hips.
Common postural errors: Compressing the neck while looking forwards. Tips: Lengthen your neck forward while arching your back rather than pulling it back towards your body.
Garland Pose – Malasana
Description: Begin in Mountain Pose and keeping your heels on the floor, extend your arms directly in front of you, bending your knees and folding your body forward and downwards by dropping your pelvis and moving your thighs slightly wider than your torso. Exhale and lean your body forward so it fits snugly between your thighs.
Press your palms together as in prayer, and place your elbows against the back of the knees. Press your knees into your elbows, inhale and hold for 30 second to 1 minute. Exhale and straighten your knees, slowly returning to the mountain pose.
Common postural errors: Leaning forward or sinking shoulders. Tips: When you Squat, if your heels come up and don’t lie flat on the floor, try placing a blanket or towel underneath and start again.