When I first started practicing yoga, I was already fairly flexible–it’s just how I’m built–but I was incredibly weak. My core strength left much to be desired, and after only a couple chaturanga dandasanas, my arms were rubber. As a perfectionist who seeks to be good at everything I try, this was a discouraging prospect. But that’s where the real practice of yoga comes in: patience, like flexibility and strength, is inherent in each posture. To master flexibility, we must be strong; to master strength, we must be flexible. And to attain these objectives, we must be patient.
What does all this have to do with today’s post? As you’ll see, although these are strength-building postures, they also require flexibility and patience. It helps to keep this in mind as we attempt each asana!
Targeted areas: arms, shoulders, wrists, core
Start by squatting on the ground, placing your knees as close to your armpits as possible. This requires some flexibility in the hip flexors, but it’s okay if you can’t sit in this posture comfortably.
Next, begin to transfer your weight into your arms. With your palms spread flat on your mat, begin to engage the shoulder girdle while rounding your back and engaging your core. Try to keep your knees as close to your shoulders as possible. Keep your head lifted and gaze a few feet ahead–this will prevent you from falling forward.
Continue to lean into your arms until your feet begin to lift from the ground. Keeping your feet together and heels touching, begin to raise your legs towards your behind. Hold this pose for a few breaths. If you can do this with relative ease, try to jump from bakasana into chaturanga dandasana!
Targeted areas: arms, legs, wrists
Start by standing at the front of your mat. Fold forward and grab your big toes with your forefingers and middle fingers and inhale with a flat back.
Exhale and touch your nose to your legs.
Now, while still folded forward, begin to spread your legs and move your arms underneath them, towards your behind. You to try to get your legs as close to your shoulders as is possible; they will act as a shelf as we move into the full posture.
From here, you can place your hands down on the mat and slowly begin to straighten your legs. Again, this takes some hip flexor and hamstring flexibility, so don’t worry if you can’t fully straighten your legs. Once you are in the full posture, gaze at your nose and hold for a few breaths. When exiting the posture, simply bend your arms until you can sit down.
Targeted areas: core, arms, legs
Start in a seated position with your arms by your side and your legs straight in front on you. Then, while engaging your core and legs, use your arms to lift yourself a few inches off the ground. Try to keep your legs together as you lift up–this will make it easier for you to hold the post for a few breaths. Slowly lower yourself back to the ground.
Targeted areas: core, arms
Start in a seated position. To the best of your ability, move your right leg into half lotus, then put your left leg on top so that you are in full lotus posture (if you are unable to do this pose comfortably, simply sit in a cross-legged position).
Now, using the strength of your arms and core, lift your lotus off the ground and hold for a few breaths. The key to making this posture not feel like the worst thing ever is to maintain a very tight lotus, so squeeze your legs together as much as you can. Hold for a few breaths and slowly lower yourself down.
Have you challenged yourself with these intense yoga poses?
Also by Molly: 10 Minute Beach Yoga Sequence for Flexibility
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Photo: Molly Lansdowne