Once the breath and the mind are still, the yogi attains fixity. - Hatha Yoga Pradipika II2
From the knees to the spinal column and across the haunches, powered by the breath, yoga is a discipline remarkable in its completeness. Depending on which poses one includes in their session, it is possible to improve one's posture, sculpt one's physique and use one's breath for more than satisfying the body's need for oxygen.
Whichever type of yoga you practice, from restorative yoga for those recovering from injury to hot yoga - vigorous sessions done in a very warm room, there's a good chance that you will become a lifelong devotee. Indeed, the ranks of practising yogis worldwide grow every year!
This growing population of yogis attests to the suitability of yoga for all. So fundamental is the ethos of yoga that it many make it their lifestyle of choice, living in peace and harmony every day. How would that work?
Imagine coming home after a hard day's work. You've spent most of it running around after your clients and your legs are just killing you! You only want one thing: to ease that ache. Putting your feet up might bring a bit of relief but... in the morning, when you have to scurry off again, your legs will not feel refreshed and ready to carry you through the day ahead.
Wouldn't it be better to do a few asanas, then?
Thanks to yoga's rejuvenating properties, you could easily assume a few poses after work and a couple when you wake up. You won't be wrung out dripping sweat as you might after a session at the gym. Instead, you will feel simultaneously relaxed and recharged.
When it comes to working the lower body, particularly the legs, yoga stands out as a discipline the is equal parts mental and physical. If you've been looking for the best way to tone, sculpt and strengthen your legs, your Superprof has a few asanas for you to try.
Your posture and balance will thank you for them!
Downward-Facing Dog, The Fundamental Yoga Pose for the Legs
Yoga brings a days-long sense of contentment that rings from the bottom of the soul like a lucky charm - Eva Ruchpaul
Formally named "Adho Mukha Svanasana", this yoga posture is a very effective way to relax your legs. Consisting of flexing and breathing, it is the quintessential yoga pose. Contrary to what one might think, downward-facing dog is not a passive position. On the contrary, it is very busy, for all that it looks still.
This pose looks like an upside-down 'V'. Beginners may achieve it with bent legs. but remember: keeping your legs straight will be more effective. That's something you can aim for once you get more conditioned. This asana's most important aspect is to distribute the weight of the body evenly to both ends of the yoga mat.
Other important notes: laying the hands and feet flat on the mat and of forming a perfect triangle out of one's body. The pelvis rests at the top of your pyramid shape.
Every muscle, ligament and tendon is worked while in this position, especially in your legs. From this perspective, your spine should be straight. This posture mainly works the hamstrings, the back of the thighs or the calves. To intensify the move and keep a stronger focus, look in the direction of your feet. This will stretch your back muscles out a bit more.
Hold the position for one minute before flowing into your next asana, mindful of your breath throughout.
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The High Lunge Pose, Perfect for Relaxing the Legs
Also known as "Utthita ashwa sanchalanasana", this position flows from downward-facing dog posture, the asana we just detailed. As you ease out of it, you will drop to your knees, effectively assuming the table pose... but only for a moment.
The idea is to bring a knee close to your nose (let's say your right knee), placing that foot midway between your hands. As you kneel - one foot facing back with your head on your upraised knee, this pose is commonly referred to as a low lunge... but we want a high lunge!
To achieve it, put your weight on your right foot and, slowly, rise into the high lunge, still with your knee bent, always careful to not lower it to the mat. flow up with your arms above your head and inhale. Besides working your legs, the high lunge also opens your chest so take advantage of that expansion to breathe deeply, then return to the starting position.
If you started with your right leg, repeat the exercise, this time putting your weight on the left leg. This posture loosens the legs considerably but it also of strengthens the entire lower body. Toned glutes and more supple legs, what more could you ask for?
Finally, a little tip: keep the knee directly above the ankle. Jutting your knee too far forward will reduce the effects of the posture and may cause you injury.
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Warrior Pose I: a Superb Lower Body Asana
In Yoga, do not try to do well, rather try to be well. Each pose should be firm, stable and easy - Patanjali
Among the most effective yoga poses for the legs, thighs, and glutes is the Warrior pose. This asana targets the entire lower body, which is why it is very popular with all yogis, beginners and advanced.
As with the High Lunge asana, this pose flows from the Downward-facing Dog. From there, you only to advance your right foot until it is between your hands, which are still on the mat, acting as stabilisers. Your left leg will then extend back as far as it can go while still keeping your pelvis straight.
As you inhale, straighten your chest and flow upward, extending your arms above your head. At the apex of this pose, your gaze should turn upward. While maintaining balance, make sure your hips stay in line with your body. The challenge is to have the feeling of making a right angle with the legs.
Warrior I and High Lunge poses sound similar - and they are, but for one crucial difference: what to do with your back leg. The High Lunge will see your back foot's heel off the mat while, in the Warrior I pose, your back foot should be turned and remain flat on the mat.
Both of these poses will work your legs like a warrior. Of course, always remember to alternate your legs. If you're like most other people, you have a dominant side. Seeing as yoga is all about balance and harmony, you have to work both sides equally.
And, as long as you're doing yoga, you should also work your abs...
The Warrior II Pose for Great Looking Legs
Also called "Virabhadrasana", this is the second Posture of the Warrior or Warrior II.
Does it strike you as odd that yoga, being all about inner peace and harmony, would have more than one pose invoking warriors? You shouldn't be because yoga is also about discipline - something warriors everywhere know a thing or two about.
This second Warrior can flow from the high lunge pose that we detailed above. As your right foot is forward, inhale deeply as you raise your arms to shoulder height and turn your gaze opposite to the one your leading foot points to. Be sure to keep both arms at the same level, parallel to the floor.
Your legs will be in the same position as they were while in the Warrior I asana, and the gaze is turned towards the hand opposite the bent leg. Hold this position for a few seconds, taking care to breathe well, and your legs will come out stronger.
If you can't master this pose on the first try, that's okay. It may have something to do with your flow out of the Warrior I pose; in time, transitioning from Warrior I to II will come naturally the more you practise yoga.
Finally, it should also be noted that in either exercise, it is essential to feel your adductors stretch. This is a sign that the posture is working well.
Safety note: these two asanas are often not recommended for people suffering from heart problems. Always, before starting any new diet or fitness regimen, check with your doctor... just to be on the safe side of things!
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The Half Bridge Pose to Tone the Legs With Yoga
"Ardha setu bandhasana" (its original name) is a calmer, less dynamic posture than the ones we've discussed so far, at least in appearance.
At its start, you lie on your back, raising your knees to place your feet on the ground. Then, raise your pelvis, placing your hands under your lower back, to relieve any strain. So far, very calm, right?
After a few inhales and exhales, release this position. gently lower your pelvis to the ground, then your back, gradually. The yoga half-bridge promotes tone of the legs, but also of the thighs and glutes. What a way to build muscle without looking strained and overworked!
Wouldn't you also like to know how you can achieve that toned and vibrant look in your arms through yoga?
The Candle Pose to Soothe Heavy Legs
When you hear "Sarvangâsana", does it mean anything to you? It is the formal name for this yoga posture for the legs.
Contrary to other asanas we've already described, this one flows from a resting position, laying flat on your mat. Your legs should be stretched out with feet joined and pointed; your arms are alongside your body.
And then, feet still together, lift your legs in a 90-degree arc. Place your hands under your lower back and lift your glutes. At the height of this move, your head, shoulders and arms - just up to the elbows are the only parts of your body that stay on your mat.
In this asana, your legs will remain in the air and well-stretched. Holding this pose is the challenge that will allow you to work this part of the body as well as possible.
Hold your chin against your chest, and hold in this position for a few breaths. When you return to your initial position, roll down slowly so as not to strain your limbs and especially not your back.
Most likely, you did the Candle pose when you were a child, but only for fun and/or because it was comfortable. Was it? That might have been because not only does this asana help fight against heavy legs but it stimulates lymphatic circulation.
The Candle pose is great to relieve aching legs and boost our immune system. What a 1-2 punch from a single asana! However, you need to master it to derive its full effects. Do not hesitate to call on one of our Superprof yogis to safely guide your progress.
From the lower back to the toes, yoga postures can allow us to work the legs in different ways.
Whether you want relaxation or relief from heavy, aching legs after working all day, or if you want to tone, sculpt or strengthen your lower limbs, carefully choosing the asanas to deliver the results you want will make all of the difference.
It's up to you (and your yogi) to see which ones work best for you. Namaste!
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