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10 Yoga Poses to Strengthen and Stretch

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This series of yoga poses will help you open your hips, stretch your hamstrings and energize your body. Designed for someone with a basic knowledge of yoga, use these poses to strengthen and lengthen.

You'll need a yoga mat for this practice, along with a block, if you use one. The photos here show the sequence on the left side of the body. Hold each pose for at least five breaths, and repeat on the other side.

Be sure to warm up, either with some cardio or a few sun salutations.

Before you begin, remember these precautions:
  • Do not start a yoga routine or any other workout without clearance from your doctor.
  • These poses are not suitable for pregnant women.
  • Each pose should be done in a slow and controlled manner, without bouncing or forcing, which can cause your muscles to tighten, increasing your risk of injury. Stretch in a slow, steady motion to the point of “mild discomfort.” If you are stretching to the point of pain, you have stretched too far. Learn to "respect your edge"--never go beyond it.
  • A breath is one full inhalation and one full exhalation through the nose. Hold each pose for five breaths, or longer if you'd like.
Start at the top of your mat. Feet together, arms by your sides, belly pulled in. Begin breathing through your nose, using ujjayi breathing.

Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1--photo is above)
Inhale, step your left foot back about four feet, pivoting it to about 45 degrees. Lunge your right leg, keeping the knee directly over the ankle. Bring arms overhead, press palms together, and gaze at your thumbs. Hips stay level and face forward. Press into both feet, and keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears (don't scrunch them).

Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)
Exhale, bring your arms out into a T, opening your hips to the left. Sink deeper into your lunge, and shift your gaze to your front middle finger. Let the shoulders relax; keep the arms active. Press into both feet, paying special attention to the outer edge of the back foot.

Reverse warrior
Inhale, drop the left hand to the left thigh or calf, and extend the right arm overhead, leaning into a slight backbend. Flip the right palm and gaze up to look at it. Keep the abs strong and pull the bellybutton toward the backbone.

Extended side angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Inhale, press into both feet and bring arms back to a T, then drop the right forearm to the right thigh, extending the left arm overhead. Create one long line from the left ankle to the left fingertips. Gaze under the left shoulder to the left palm.

Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)
Inhale, press into both feet to stand tall and straighten both legs, bringing the arms back to a T. Step the back (left) foot forward about a foot, exhale lean out and over the front leg, and reach for the right big toe with the first two fingers and thumb. (Or rest the hand on the shin, ankle, or a block.) Let the left arm extend straight up, and shift the gaze to the left fingertips. Press into the front foot, and keep the body lifted and active (don't collapse into that bottom hip and hand--lift toward the sky and keep abs strong).

Pyramid (Parsvottanasana)
Inhale to come up, then exhale as you turn to face the front leg. Take the hands behind you in "prayer" position or grab opposite elbows with your hands. Inhale stand taller, offering a slight backbend, and exhale, lean over the front leg, centering the chest over the right thigh and being careful not to lock out the front knee. Gaze past the end of the nose and tuck the chin.

Inhale, press into the front foot as you stand tall, and exhale as you undo your hands.

Runner's Lunge
Inhale, step your right foot forward about a foot, coming into a low lunge. Drop the left knee and the top of the left foot to the floor. Keep your hands on either side of your right leg for support, and when you feel steady, bring both hands to your right thigh. Keep the chest as tall as possible, and gaze past the end of the nose.

Lizard (Utthan Pristhasana)
Inhale and carefully place your hands along the inside of your right leg, working your way onto your forearms and interlacing the fingers. Gaze past the end of the nose as you relax into the pose.

Revolved Lizard
Inhale, come back tall, first standing your hands inside the line of the right leg, then bringing them together in "prayer" at your heart. Exhale there. Inhale and twist, placing your left elbow on your right knee. Press hands together and elbow into knee to deepen the twist. Gaze over your right shoulder.

Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Inhale, look forward, place your hands back on the floor on either side of your right foot and press into them as you curl the left toes under and come into a lunge. Step your right foot back and shift your hips up into downward facing dog. (Or come to hands and knees, tuck the toes and shift into down dog.)

From down dog, look up at your hands, inhale and walk your feet up between them and come halfway up, keeping the back flat. Exhale fold forward. Inhale stand tall, bring the arms overhead and gaze at the thumbs, then exhale, relax the arms by your sides before repeating the entire sequence on the other side.

Which pose do you like best? Which is the most challenging for you?

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See more: fitness yoga stretching


Good set Report
Thank you! Report
Thought my poses were okay until I saw these, lol. Report
Sadly, this seems only intended for those with no physical limitations. With no modifications mentioned, a lot of folks will just feel left out and too scared to try, thinking "my body can't do that, so I guess yoga isn't possible for me." A pity. Report
thanks Report
I shall try these. Report
Wish I could do these hope am able to do it in the future Report
Ready to get back into weight has been a deterrent - too embarrassed. I will begin with sun salutations before meditating and take it from there. Thank you so much for the added inspiration! Report
I love all of these poses, and if I do a yoga routine, I include them. I do love the triangle. Yoga, has mellowed me out, and has made me very aware of how my body works, and how it feels. It is one of my favourite things to do. Report
I hope you do like Coach Nicole and make a full-length (but modularized) video with flows--a yoga practice class that is challenging yet very accessible, e.g., "from forward fold, walk, step, or jump back into plank; lower down into a 'yoga push-up' (can do it knees-bent), then from knees-bent plank or push-up, go into baby cobra or up-dog; then flow from up-dog to plank ... or, all the way through, back to down-dog ..." You'd better hurry, though, Coach Stepf ... the chain of studios I'd "borrowed" this from is about to trademark this sequence ... lol Report
GREAT article!

I am SO in agreement with the others who say you oughta' add some yoga videos to the SP library!!!!!! You're looking good with excellent alignment in each of the asanas!

Bright Easter blessings, whatever your path:

This would be a great yoga video! Report
I love Downward Dog!! My head and back feel great when I get up!

Shiva Rhea has some really great yoga DVDs!! I have two!
Check "on Demand" on your TV..they have some great yoga exercises from easy to flow to hard from 10 min to 45min!! Report
Currently all poses are a challenge but I am getting there. Report
Nice. I'll incorporate some of these moves into my workout. Report
This is great! I still wish Spark would make a few 10-15 min. yoga videos, though. An energizing one, a calming one and a cardio/fat-burning one would be great additions to the online video library! Report
Most of these poses were in the yoga video I did this morning! Report
You soooo ROCK! Go Warrior! Report
I love the videos by Rodney Yee who is a Senior BKS Iyengar instructor. Report
Someone would have to call 911 to get me untied from those poses or to rescue me after I broke my hip trying them. Report
Lizard (Utthan Pristhasana) is somewhat of a challenge. Report
Been practicing for about 10 months. I love it but some of the above poses are still very difficult or impossible for me. thats what I love about yoga though: that really is okay and I know I will get there someday! Report
DEWACHA -- I have some Yoga Zone DVDs, they are pretty good at teaching you the basics. The two I have are Yoga Sculpting and Yoga Strengthen and Tone. But I would personally recommend taking at least one or two classes, it's really hard to know if you're doing the poses correctly without feedback! Report
For Dewacha: My fave video is Yogazone "Introduction to Yoga." It is easy yet effective (and 1hour long). I'm not sure if it is available on DVD.
"Yoga Conditioning for weight loss program" by Suzanne Deason is a good DVD. Also an hour long, you can do shorter segments because it is chaptered. I also love "15 minute gentle yoga" by Louise Grime. it comes with a book (from Barnes+Noble). Report
Love it, love it, LOVE IT! Have I mentioned that I love yoga???

We need more articles like these, where anyone armed with a beginners knowledge can put a few moves together into a routine. We also need more articles on how just a "few" minutes of yoga can be incorporated into an already cram-packed day.... Report
The revolve lizard is challenging - sometime hard to keep balanced when twisting. My teen daughter and I sometimes perform beginners Yoga together right in the comfort of our home. Report
I am looking for suggestions for a DVD..... for beginner Yoga. If you have any suggestions Stephanie....I would appreciate it. Meantime.. I love the idea of warrior sequence.... and although so far from perfect... I will try them. THANKS! Report
I just recently started yoga and am amazed at what only 2 classes has already done for me. My most challenging pose is Downward Facing Dog. My arm strength is weak so I have a hard time holding it as long as the instructor & other students can. Report