Yoga Poses for Every Part of Your Body

Find Poses by Area of Anatomical Focus

One of the beauties of yoga is that it works on your whole body. Unlike having a "legs day" or "arms day" at the gym, doing a regular yoga practice is going to incorporate your entire anatomy. Even if you pick an area you want to work on and tailor a practice that way, you'll still feel the benefits elsewhere. This guide is intended to help you find poses that strengthen and/or open major muscle groups. For each of the anatomical area listed below, you'll see a pose library, which is a list of poses divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced level of practice. Use the libraries to plan your own practices or find out more about the poses you do in class. Then you'll see a few preplanned sequences for home practice that target each area of the body.

Legs

Warrior II - Virabhadrasana II for Leg Strength
Warrior II - Virabhadrasana II. Ann Pizer

Standing poses do the most to strengthen your legs. Luckily they're not working in isolation, but also incorporate the rest of your body.

  • Beginners: Downward facing dog, extended side angle pose, mountain pose, pyramid pose, raised hands pose, standing forward bend, standing straddle forward bend, tree pose, triangle pose, warrior I, warrior II
  • Intermediate: Awkward chair, eagle pose, half moon pose, king dancer pose, reverse warrior, revolved triangle pose, warrior III
  • Advanced: Revolved half moon pose, wheel pose

Sequences

  • Sequence of eight classic standing poses: Downward facing dog, lunge pose, warrior I, warrior II, reverse warrior, extended side angle pose, triangle pose, half moon pose, and back to downward facing dog
  • Work your core with standing balance poses: Awkward chair, eagle pose, tree pose, king dancer pose, warrior III, standing split, half moon pose, sugarcane pose, revolved half moon pose, forward bend
  • Sequence of warrior poses: Mountain pose, warrior I, humble warrior pose, warrior II, reverse warrior, warrior III
  • Stretch your quads: Crescent lunge, hero pose, pigeon pose, sugarcane pose, king dancer, camel pose, bow pose, little thunderbolt pose

Abdominals

Boat Pose - Navasana for Abdominal Strength
Boat Pose - Navasana. Ann Pizer

Practicing these poses will improve your abdominal strength, one of the areas of core strength that also helps keep back pain at bay.

Yoga poses for abs include:

  • Beginners: Cat-cow stretch, hands and knees balance, pelvic tilts, plank pose
  • Intermediate: Boat pose, crow pose, half moon pose, headstand, scale pose, side plank pose
  • Advanced: Firefly pose, forearm stand, handstand, side crow pose, warrior III

Sequence

Yoga poses to improve core strength: Cat-cow stretch, hands and knees balance, down dog splits, plank pose, side plank pose, high lunge, half moon pose, awkward chair pose, eagle pose, boat pose

Arms

One Leg Plank for Arm Strength
One Leg Plank. Adrianna Williams/Photodisc/Getty Images

Poses that in which your arms bear most of your weight will do the most to improve strength. Plus a few chaturanga pushups, of course.

  • Beginners: Downward facing dog, plank pose, supported side plank
  • Intermediate: Crow pose, four-limbed staff pose, side plank pose, upward facing dog
  • Advanced: Firefly pose, flying crow pose, handstand, side crow pose, wheel pose

Sequence

Tone your triceps and biceps with this sequence: Downward facing dog, plank pose, side plank, full side plank, plank pose, four-limbed staff pose, upward facing dog, down dog split, knee to nose plank variation, one-leg plank.

Back

Locust Pose - Shalabasana for the Back
Locust Pose - Shalabasana for the Back. Ann Pizer

These poses will increase back strength and spinal mobility. There are some backbends here, but that doesn't mean that you have to be able to do a full wheel. There are plenty of gentler options.

Essential lower back stretches include pelvic tilts, cat-cow stretch, child's pose, and chair twist.

Hamstrings

Janu Sirsasana - Hamstring Stretch
Janu Sirsasana. Ann Pizer

Practicing these poses will improve hamstring flexibility. Tight hamstrings are a common problem for many people.

Yoga poses to stretch your hamstrings include reclined big toe pose, standing forward bend, standing wide-legged forward bend, downward facing dog, head to knee pose, seated forward bend, wide-legged forward fold, pyramid pose, triangle pose, half moon pose, standing split, side lunge, revolved triangle, revolved ardha chandrasana, sleeping Vishnu, standing big toe pose, heron pose, bird of paradise, full side plank, and monkey pose.

Sequence

Improve your flexibility with this sequence: Reclined big toe pose, standing forward bend, triangle pose, seated wide-legged stance, eye of the needle, cobbler's pose, pigeon, eagle, bridge pose, cow face pose.

Hips

Eagle Pose - Garudasana for Hip Stretch
Eagle Pose - Garudasana. © Ann Pizer

A new way of thinking about hip stretches encompassing not only hip openers but poses to strengthen and stretch the entire pelvic region.

  • Beginners: Child's pose, cobbler's pose, eye of the needle pose, garland pose, happy baby pose, reclined goddess pose, seated wide-legged straddle, standing straddle forward bend, warrior II
  • Intermediate: Cow face pose, eagle pose, goddess pose, half moon pose, knee to ankle pose, pigeon pose
  • Advanced: Lotus pose, lizard pose, one-legged king pigeon pose, side lunge

Sequence

Seated hip stretches: Cobbler's pose, knee to ankle pose, cow face pose, head to knee pose, seated wide-legged straddle

Chest and Shoulders

Bow Pose - Dhanurasana for Chest
Bow Pose - Dhanurasana for Heart Opening. © Barry Stone

Poses to open your chest and heart center you, which is especially important if you sit at a desk for long hours. Since yoga's approach is holistic, there is some overlap here with the backbends and shoulder stretches. Shoulder stretches release tension, which helps prevent pain in the back and neck. Since the shoulders can be vulnerable to injury, especially as you age, don't overdo it.

Yoga heart openers include: Restorative heart opener, cat-cow stretch, sphinx pose, bridge pose, supine spinal twist, cobra pose, warrior II, extended side angle pose, triangle pose, half moon pose, upward facing dog, camel pose, bow pose, cow face pose

Sequences

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