Yoga Poses for Every Part of Your Body

One of the beauties of yoga is that it works on your whole body. Unlike having "legs day" or "arms day" at the gym, doing a regular yoga practice incorporates 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 will help you find poses that strengthen and/or open major muscle groups. For each of the anatomical areas, you'll see a list of poses divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced level of practice. Use these to plan your practices or find out more about the poses you do in class. Following these are a few pre-planned sequences that target that 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. They're not working in isolation, but also incorporate the rest of your body. Yoga poses for leg strength include:

Sequences for the Legs

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:

Sequence

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, along with a few chaturanga push-ups, of course. Yoga poses for arm strength include:

Sequence

  • Yoga poses for your triceps and biceps: 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. You don't have to be able to do a full backbend to strengthen and stretch your back. There are plenty of gentler options.

Sequences

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

Hips

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

A new way of thinking about hip stretches encompasses not only hip openers but poses to strengthen and stretch the entire pelvic region. Yoga poses for hips include:

  • Beginner: 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

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 between 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, wild thing, upward facing dog, camel pose, bow pose, cow face pose

Sequences

  • Yoga poses for nursing moms (and others who have hunched posture): Cat-cow stretch, sphinx pose, restorative heart opener, bridge pose, half boat pose, forward bend with interlaced fingers, extended triangle pose, downward facing dog
  • Yoga poses to improve your posture: Mountain pose, standing forward bend with interlaced fingers, cat-cow stretch, bridge pose, eagle pose, plank pose
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