5 Poses To Take Your Yoga Practice Up A Notch

Written by Jessi Andricks

After practicing yoga for a while, no matter how devoted you are to a style or practice, your body and mind need a change to continue to gain benefits. By doing the same variety of sequencing or moves, your body can start to slack and “guess” what is coming next. The same happens in your mind. This repetition can lead to less focus, less challenge, and less stimulation of the brain and the muscles involved in the moves.

With just a few tweaks, you can empower your yoga routine, add deep strength and core connection, as well as greater use of breath work. Your body and mind will be focused and challenged, without completely dismissing your beloved yoga style. You'll find a more meditative quality to these strengthening moves through the breathwork. Try adding this empowering practice into your daily yoga routine, or use it as a springboard to incorporate your own variations on the poses.

1. Downward Dog Press

Come into downward-facing dog, with your fingertips turned in slightly. Inhale and deepen into your downward dog, with your heels low and your hips high. As you exhale, bend your elbows, engaging your chest and core further, to lower an inch or two. Straighten your arms to press back up and inhale. Repeat 10 times, for 10 rounds of breath.

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2. Lunge Heel Lifts

Step forward with your right leg, lifting into a high lunge. Reach your arms up to the sky. Engage the core and the inner thighs to find your balance along your midline. Your back leg lengthens, with one heel off the ground, while your front knee is bent over your ankle. Inhale in your lunge. Exhale as you lift your front heel, engaging deeper into your right glute muscles. Inhale to lower; exhale to lift again. Repeat 10 times, for 10 rounds of breath.

3. Warrior Windmills

From your lunge, turn open to a warrior II, pivoting your back heel to the ground, as your arms open to a “T” and hips rotate to the side. Inhale and reach back into a reverse warrior, keeping the legs steady. Exhale into an extended side angle, as you bring your right forearm to your inner thigh and reach your left arm overhead. Inhale to reverse again, and exhale to extend. Continue for 10 rounds of breath, completing this rhythm 10 times.

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4. Triangle Reach

From your warrior II windmills, straighten your front leg, tip your pelvis so that your right hip crease deepens and your left hips pops up. Reach your torso and right arm forward, over your right leg as far as you can go, until your right hand rest on your shin. Reach your left arm to the sky and take a deep breath in. Exhale as your rotate the chest and torso, reaching your left hand to your right foot. Complete 10 rounds of breath and 10 repetitions.

5. Warrior III Knee Pulls

From your triangle reach, bend your right knee and pivot back into a high lunge. Bring your hands together at your heart and engage your abdominal muscles. Slowly lean forward, lengthening your spine, as you straighten your front leg and lift your back foot off the ground. Tip forward to a “T” shape with your body. Inhale in warrior III. As you exhale, tip back up, keeping your standing leg straight as you draw your left knee to waist height. Inhale as you slowly tip back down to warrior III. Exhale back to your knee lift. Repeat 10 times, for 10 rounds of breath.

After your last round, bring your hands to the ground. Step back to downward-facing dog and repeat the entire sequence on the left side. Finish with five breaths in child's pose.

If you're looking for more yoga sequences, check out these stories:

Photos courtesy of the author

Cover photo courtesy of Getty Images

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