4 Challenging Yoga Poses To Help You Find Your Edge & Try Something New

Poses read left to right, beginning at top left.

Sometimes you just need to go there — to that place you don't really want to go because it's uncomfortable. The place you know will make you look ridiculous and feel self-conscious, leading you to total embarrassment.

Yoga was once very much that place for me. I could not touch my toes, was utterly inflexible, and always wore big mesh basketball clothes when I went to work out (which you'll read about in my forthcoming book). But then the day came when I decided to prove myself wrong and actually give yoga a try. And it didn't take long before lo and behold, I was addicted.

It was the best decision I ever made.

Forcing yourself past your comfortable edge is when you discover your true you. For some of us it is yoga, for others dance, or writing, speaking, art, motherhood, math — you name it. It is in that place you do not want to go where the going starts to get really good.

Go out on a limb and give some of these more advanced poses a try. If they're not in your practice you can stick with easier variations until you build up a new strength. And when you're ready to find your edge and really go for it, you might just get an incredible new view of YOU.

Be sure to warm up your body with several rounds of Sun Salutations first.

1. Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

If you do not have a regular handstand practice, place your hands on the floor a few inches away from a wall. Inhale and lift one leg up. Exhale, and hop off the other foot, keeping your core engaged and shoulders aligned over top the wrists. Once you feel solid here, kick both legs up to meet together at the wall with your big toes touching. Keep pressing through your palms and stack the hips over your shoulders. Hold here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

When you're ready to try handstand without the wall, begin in Downward Facing Dog and lift one leg up. Bend through the standing leg and use it to help kick both legs up. Hold for as long as you can and rest in Child's Pose.

2. Yoga Splits (Hanumanasana)

Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Lift one leg into the air as you inhale. Exhale and bring your knee to your nose and then place your foot on the floor between your hands. Slide your front leg forward as much as feels good, keeping it flexed. You can keep the back toes tucked if you like, or untuck to rest the top of the foot long behind you on your mat. Hands can come to blocks at either side of you until your hips become open and flexible enough to let you lower to the mat. Optional: Lift your arms up and breathe. Switch sides.

3. Fallen Triangle (Trikonasana Variation)

From Downward Dog inhale your left leg up in the air. Exhale bring it to touch your right elbow. Inhale extend the leg straight underneath your armpit, place your right heel to the floor and lift your right arm. Stretch and breathe for up to 5 breaths. Switch sides. Modification: Take regular Triangle Pose (Trikonasana) until your spine is flexible enough to "fall" back.

4. Twisted One-Legged Arm Balance (Eka Pada Koundinyasana I)

Only attempt this pose once you've mastered Fallen Triangle. From there, place both hands on the floor in front of you with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, as if for a plank pose. Rest your left thigh on the back of both of your arms. Engage your core and rock your chest forward, lifting your legs off the floor and bending at your elbow. Remember to breathe as you feel yourself fly.

Photos courtesy of the author