Yoga Poses for Leg Strength Library

Yoga Poses for Leg Strength
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Want to improve your leg strength and muscular definition with yoga? Standing poses are the way to go. To get stronger, try increasing your hold times for each of these poses. Begin with three to five breaths and work up from there. We often move quickly through these poses in a flow class, but holding them for longer has a different effect. Keep the thighs engaged throughout and draw your kneecaps up. Your legs may shake at first but that's ok. Standing balances are a good way to focus on leg strength but also bring in the core.


Downward Facing Dog Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downdog is often called a resting pose, but the rest is really for your arms. Consciously drawing your weight back into your legs, which are usually the stronger muscle group, gives your arms a break from bearing your weight. So make sure to keep your hips high and heels moving toward the floor in this pose.

Extended Side Angle Pose Utthita Parsvakonasana
There's often an emphasis on the arm position in this pose, but it really doesn't matter whether you rest your forearm on your thigh or bring your hand all the way to the floor as long as you stay deep in your front knee. Focus on getting your thigh parallel to the floor with the knee over the ankle and let the arm fall where it may.

Mountain Pose Tadasana
Even the simplest of standing poses can be a workout if you stay engaged throughout. For the legs, this means spreading your toes wide and drawing upon the thigh muscles. The thighs have a slight inward rotation, which in turn spreads the sit bones. 

Pyramid Pose Parsvottonasana
Again, its all about keeping your muscles active in this pose, especially thighs drawing the kneecaps up. A microbead in the front knee will save your joint in the long run, especially if you are prone to hyperextension. 

Raised Hands Pose Urdhva Hastasana
Continuing the engagement and alignment that you established in mountain pose (above).

Standing Forward Bend Uttanasana
Another pose that we do so often that it's easy to skim the surface instead of approaching it with attention each time. To deepen your forward bend, let your rotation come from the pelvis instead of the lower back. 

Standing Straddle Forward Bend Prasarita Padottanasana
Similar to uttanasana, but with the feet apart. Although it's often thought that the "goal" of this pose is to get your head on the ground, it's really not about that. In fact, I often see students take a really wide stance in order to get their heads closed to the floor. I recommend taking the feet no wider than around 3.5 feet (give or take, depending on your height) since going wider opened your hips up to wear and tear.

Tree Pose  Vrksasana
The first balancing poses most people tackle. Watch where you put your foot when placing in on the opposite leg. Go for above or below the knee, avoiding the joint itself. You may be wobbly and that's ok. 

Triangle Pose Trikonasana
Just as in prasarita padottonasana (above), don't be tempted to take your leg wider in an attempt to get your hand closer to the floor. The pose is really not about that. It's about establishing a firm foundation in the legs that allows you to open the chest more fully.

Warrior I Virabhadrasana I
Warrior poses are a great place to start a sequence of standing poses. In warrior I, the hips face the front. Try separating your feet towards the sides of our mat if you feel like it's hard to keep the hip point on your rear leg facing forward.

Warrior II Virabhadrasana II
Warrior Ii often follows on the heels of warrior I but requires an opening of the hips to the side of the mat. Stay deep in the front knee to work the thigh muscles.


Awkward Chair Utkatasana
To focus on the legs, it's all about how low can you go and how long can you hold it. I find it helpful to keep the thighs pressing together and think of the legs as a single unit. Ujjayi breaths are also crucial. 

Eagle Pose Garudasana
Eagle can follow from utkatasana (just above) because your legs are already in the necessary bent position. Twisting your legs and balancing makes this into a core strengthener too.

Half Moon Pose Ardha Chandrasana
Another chance to work on leg strength and balance. The raised leg needs to stay just as active here as the standing leg. 

King Dancer Pose Natarajasana
A continuation of the work started in tree pose (above). It helps your balance to have a drishti or focal point that doesn't move. 

Reverse Warrior
To work the legs, remember that even as your torso leans back, the front leg needs to stay deeply bent with your knee over your ankle.

Revolved Triangle Pose Parivritta Trikonasana
The set up for the legs flows well from pyramid pose (above). The legs act as the stable anchor point of the pose, providing a place from which the chest can open, so keep them working strongly without locking your knees. 

Warrior III Virabhadrasana III
I recommend doing this pose with your hands on your hips so you can feel if they are level. Chances are that the side of the lifted leg will want to cock up, so work to sift it don while keeping your leg parallel to the floor.


Revolved Half Moon Pose – Parivritta Ardha Chandrasana
This pose has so much going on and it all depends on the stability of your standing leg. Balancing and twisting is a lot of work, not to mention keeping the lifted leg high and straight.

Wheel Pose — Urdhva Dhanurasana

Wheel pose requires strong legs to lift your body and to bear most of the weight as you hold the position. It's important to keep your feet from turning out and the knees hugging toward your midline.

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.