While many people associate yoga with stretching, a healthy practice also includes elements of strengthening. These two poses are fantastic strengtheners for the muscles of the legs.

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)


Begin by stepping your feet approximately 4 feet apart. In the fullest expression of this pose, the space between the feet should equal the length of your one of your legs from heel to hip. But if you feel unstable, slightly decrease the distance between the feet until your balance improves.

Turn your right foot out (90 degrees) and your left foot in (45 degrees). The right thigh should be externally rotated, so the center of your right kneecap points out over your outer right foot.

Inhale your arms out to your sides at shoulder height, exhale and relax the shoulders and fully extend your arms.

Inhale as you press downward through the heels. Exhale and bend the right knee. The knee should be directly above the ankle and in line with the pinky toe. If you’re right knee moves beyond the ankle, walk the right foot forward a few inches, so that the knee is directly above the ankle.

Keep the torso vertical (perpendicular to the floor). Press out through your left arm to counteract any tendency to lean to your right.

With the pelvis, belly and chest pointing forward, turn your head to gaze out over your right arm.

Take several breaths in the pose before inhaling turning the head back toward the center and straightening the right leg. Turn the feet toward the center and repeat on the left side.

Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side-Angle Pose)

Begin in Warrior II. On an exhale, tip your pelvis to the right, lower the right forearm to the right thigh and extend the left arm overhead to the right.

Experiment with lowering the right hand to the mat on the outside of your right foot. If you have to bend the knee more deeply (thus sending the knee out over the foot, instead of directly above the ankle) to accomplish this, bring your forearm back up to the right thigh.

Make sure your side body is in a straight line and not rounded in a “C” shape. Lower your ribs toward the right thigh if you notice you are sidebending in the torso.

Turn your chest upward as you keep your gaze forward.

Take several breaths in the pose before inhaling back to Warrior II and repeating on the left side.

P.S. This post is part of a series on the basics of many of the most common poses. Look here for additional posts in this series.

Can you feel the muscles of your legs strengthening? Do you appreciate the need to balance our stretching with strengthening?

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