Advance your yoga practice with this expert yoga routine designed to challenge your skills and build strength. These poses are some of the most technically difficult and physically demanding in yoga, so it’s important that you work your way up to them through other practices like our Full-Body Intermediate Yoga Routine.
As with any yoga pose, if you feel sharp, pulling pains in your muscles, or too much stress on your joints, take a step back and work on other poses and variations to build flexibility or strength in those areas before attempting the advanced pose again. If you are having sustained difficulty in achieving a certain pose, reach out to a yoga instructor to see if there is a variation that could help you bridge the gap.
The compass pose, also called Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana or sundial pose, seems like it would be a leg-focused exercise as you’ll need to lift one leg over your head, but it actually strengthens your upper body while also stretching your whole arm from your shoulders to your wrists. When working your way up to compass pose, using a strap to help pull your leg up straight can be incredibly useful.
Even after you have achieved compass pose, warming up with a few other poses is still a good idea to ease your body into the difficult position and avoid injury. Stretch your hamstrings with a standing forward fold or a heron pose and prep your shoulders with extended puppy pose and tiger pose.
- Start in a seated position facing your yoga mat’s long edge.
- Bend your left knee as you bring the heel of your left foot towards your pelvis.
- Bring your hands to the ground for support as you shift your weight onto your left sit bones allowing your right hip to lift off the ground slightly.
- Grab your right foot with your right hand and slowly start to lift your right leg out and up. This is a point where you might want to take some extra time to loosen your hips and hamstrings by bending your knee and folding the lower part of your right leg toward your torso.
- Keep your right leg bent and angled toward your torso as you shift your right sit bones back down, take a moment to ground them down and square your hips.
- Grab your right foot with your left hand.
- Tuck your right arm under your right knee and place your right hand on the ground as you use your left hand to lift your foot up over your shoulder.
- Bring your right foot all the way up over your head so that your right leg is straight, at the same time, rotate your ribcage and lift your chest.
- Let your gaze shift upward as your chest opens and flex your right foot and left arm as you lean into the tension of the pose.
- Hold the pose for 10-20 seconds.
- To release the pose, shift your torso back straight and bend your right knee before slipping your shoulder back out from under your leg and releasing your hold on your heel.
- Repeat the pose with the opposite leg elevated.
Crow pose or Kakasana is a great pose to incorporate into your practice for strengthening your whole body from head to toe. It incorporates everything from your upper back, shoulders, chest, and core to your hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, and even into your arms and your wrist extensors. This is also an excellent pose to work on if you are looking to achieve a full handstand.
- Start in a mountain pose, standing tall at the head of your mat with your feet about hip-width apart facing your mat.
- Bend your knees and come into a low squat allowing your knees to point out to the sides.
- Lean forward and place your hands on the floor in front of you, shoulder-distance apart and about seven inches in front of you.
- Shift your weight into your hands and the balls of your feet as you lift your hips toward the ceiling and let your legs come to the outsides of your arms.
- Continue to tilt forward until your shoulders come close to being between your knees as you reach your chest forward so that your elbows stack over your wrists.
- Once you feel your center of gravity shift, lift your feet off the ground and bring them up to your buttocks.
- Hold the pose for 15-30 seconds, trying to hold it a few seconds longer each time.
- Release your feet back down to the floor and come back up to a mountain pose.
Astavakrasana or the eight-angle pose is an energy-boosting, posture-improving, full-body strengthening pose that incorporates your core, chest, arms, thighs, and wrists.
- Start off in a staff pose with your legs straight out in front of you on the yoga mat then bend your right knee and bring your foot up in front of you.
- Grab your right foot with your left hand and bring it up by your head so you can slip your right shoulder under your right knee.
- Place your hands on the ground about shoulder-width apart on either side of your left leg and start to shift your body weight forward into your hands.
- Engage your core and lift your hips and leg off the ground with your leg straight.
- Cross your left foot over your right and flex your feet to hook your feet into a lock.
- Press your feet out through your heels to bring your legs into a straight line and squeeze your trapped arm with your thighs.
- Bend at the elbows to tilt your torso forward and bring your face toward the mat.
- Reverse the pose by bringing your head back up then releasing your feet and lowering back to the mat.
- Repeat with the opposite leg on top.
Mermaid pose, or Pada Rajakapotasana, is one of those yoga poses that really challenges you to take note of the minute changes in posture and how those can impact the pose. With mermaid, you will stretch your arms, shoulders, and chest in the final pose, but you will be working your hips down through the entire setup so if you are still lifting off the ground with pigeon pose, you might want to do some intentional work to get your hips squared to the ground before attempting mermaid.
- Start off by getting into a plank pose with your hands under your shoulders and your back straight.
- Bring your left leg forward and fold it at a 90-degree angle in front of you then drop your hips down as far as you can as you uncurl the toes on your right foot and bring your right knee to the ground.
- Lift your chest and take a moment here to ground yourself down and shift your torso so your chest is pointing straight ahead as much as possible.
- Bring your right arm up over your head as you inhale and then let your hand come behind you as you exhale keeping your thumb pointing up.
- Lift your right foot up as you bend at the knee and grab your foot with your right hand. Take another moment here to stretch the shoulder and realign your torso toward the front of your mat again.
- Bring your foot closer to your body and hook it between your bicep and your forearm to hold it in place with your elbow.
- Reach your left arm up and over your head and grab your other hand behind your head without letting go of your foot and stretch through the right chest and side.
- Release your hands and bring your left arm down then release your right foot from the elbow back to your hand and slowly lower it to the ground.
- Place your hands in front of you, come up onto your toes on your right foot then lift yourself up and bring your left leg back to the starting plank position.
- Repeat the pose with the opposite leg.
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