Whether you’re cross training, preparing for a marathon, or just looking to build strength across the legs, doing yoga for lower body strength can build endurance and stability across your thighs and glutes, improve your overall balance, and even increase flexibility.
Below are yoga poses for lower body strength.
1. High Lunge
Also known as Crescent Lunge, this simple but challenging pose integrates all the muscles in your legs. It also helps strengthen and stabilize the core muscles and the spine, and promotes heat and energy across the body.
From Downward Facing Dog, step your right leg forward in between your hands. Perch high onto your fingertips, stack the right knee above the ankle, and actively reach the arms forward. Bracing your core, come upright and reach your arms up towards the ceilings.
As you press down onto the right foot, squeeze the inner thighs together. Draw the right hip back and the left hip forward, in order to even out the hips. Straighten out the left leg just a bit more, to help activate the left quadricep.
Pull the lower belly away from the right leg, hug the ribcage in, and then continue to lengthen the spine. Relax the shoulders away from the ears. Hold this pose for 5 to 8 breaths, before bringing the hands down to frame the right foot and stepping back to Down Dog. Repeat on the other side.
2. Warrior 2
Virabhadrasana 2 strengthens and creates mobility across the hips, particularly the gluteus medius and external rotators. It also helps build endurance across the upper body, especially in the deltoids and the triceps.
From Downward Facing Dog, step your right leg forward in between your hands. Ground down onto the right foot, then press the outer edge of the left heel onto the mat. Windmill the arms up, and extend them out into a T. Keep the shoulders stacked on top of the hips. Brace the core.
Energetically reach across the room with your fingers, while keeping your gaze steady on your right fingers. Breathe, and stay in this pose for 5 to 8 breaths. Bring the hands down and step back to Down Dog. Repeat on the other side.
3. Half Moon
This major glute burner also helps challenge your balance, build focus, and enhance proprioception. It also promotes flexibility across the entire body, from the hips up to the shoulders. In Sanskrit, you can also call this pose Ardha Chandrasana.
From Warrior 2 or Triangle Pose on the right leg, hinge at the hips and take the right hand down to the floor. Walk the hand forward until it is underneath your shoulder. Take the left hand onto your hip and, while keeping your gaze focused on the floor, step the left foot forward and float the left leg up to the height of your left hip
Keep the right leg softly bent, as you continue to lift the left leg. Notice if your chest is collapsing. Open up the chest by drawing the ribcage up. Lift up your left arm, and push your left shoulder towards the wall behind you. You will feel yourself trembling in the pose, but continue to breathe. Stay for a few breaths, then land back in Warrior 2. Repeat on the other side.
To make Ardha Chandrasana more accessible to your body—especially if you’re still improving on your balance—use a yoga block underneath your bottom hand to help stabilize you.
4. Warrior 3
One of the most difficult balancing poses in yoga is Virabhadrasana 3. It works the muscles of the standing leg, and challenges the abdominal and the back muscles.
From Crescent Lunge on the right leg, step the left leg a few inches forward. Lean the upper body forward (you may keep your hands in prayer or extend your arms forward), keeping the chest parallel to the floor. Lift the left leg up to the height of the left hip. Keep the hips square but hugging the outer hips in.
Lengthen the spine and squeeze the upper back muscles in. Keep the neck long by gazing to the top edge of the mat. Breathe. Stay here for a few breaths, before gently lowering down the back leg and returning to Crescent Lunge.
5. Chair Pose
Utkatasana or Chair Pose was mentioned in our last piece about yoga for core strength, and for good reason—it’s definitely a challenging and heat-building shape that works the entire lower body, builds strength across the abdominal and spine muscles, and improves discipline and endurance.
Stand tall at the top of your mat, and keep your feet as wide as the hips. Shift your weight to your heels and sit low as though you were sitting on a chair. Squeeze the glutes and the inner thighs together, hug the ribcage in, and lengthen the spine. Keep bracing the core, but be mindful of the breath.
Stay in Chair Pose for 5 to 8 breaths, before standing up to Mountain Pose or straightening the legs and folding forward.