If you’ve been interested in fitness in health over the past 30 to 40 years, then chances are that you’ve heard of yoga. There is a good chance that you’ve even tried out a few routines for yourself!
Yoga has swept across the world, as many people have recognized and appreciated its many relaxing benefits on the body, such as helping to decompress the mind and body after a long day’s work or stretching after an intense or drawn-out workout.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what yoga can do for you and your body.
With the right yoga poses, yoga isn’t just a good stretching routine after an exercise, but the perfect exercise routine to push your body with!
That is, of course, if you can find the right poses to make a routine out of!
Luckily, we’ve got just such a list ready and waiting for you!
Here, we’ll take you through some of our favorite challenging yoga poses that can help push your body and current yoga expertise to the next level.
So, whether you’re someone looking to get a workout in their usual routine, or ready to jump from beginner to advanced poses, you’ve come to the right place!
1. Downward Dog
Let’s start this list with a yoga pose that is both challenging and that everyone will have at least heard of.
The Downward dog is one of the most famous yoga poses out there, as well as being one of the first poses that people tend to learn once they are prepared to move onto more advanced positions.
The execution of a downward dog is both very simple to understand, while also being a great pose to challenge your strength across the entire body.
However, that also means that it’s a pose that many beginners might struggle with at first.
To do this pose effectively, make sure that your hands and feet are planted firmly on the ground, and make sure that your wrists are aligned under your shoulders and your ankles are aligned with your hips, for the best possible planting and connection to the ground.
Remember to exhale as you extend your hips and straighten those legs. This will create the iconic upside-down V-shape that this pose is known for.
From that point, it’s a simple matter of keeping that contact with your navel and holding the pose for around 30 to 60 seconds.
Then you can return to the resting position to get ready for another rep or to move on to the next pose in your routine.
Remember to take things slowly as you practice this pose for the first time. There’s plenty to go through, and there’s no rush to get it right on the first try. This pose is deceptively tricky, after all!
Another deceptively simple yoga pose to try out, you’ll be surprised just how much you’ll work out your quads, abs, and glutes with the chair pose.
Plus, it’s another pose that is conceptually very simple to try out (even if it is a little tough at first)!
Start by standing straight with your feet hip-width apart, then bend your knees, putting you in a squat position.
From here, you’ll want to try to rotate your pelvis so that your tailbone is tilted toward your heels. Don’t worry if this feels awkward at first. As long as you can feel that your core muscles are engaged and stretching with this pose, you’re on the right track!
Now, squeeze your glutes, reach your arms overhead, and hold this position for around 30 seconds. After that, you can return to a neutral standing position for a brief respite, then act again.
This is a pose that is supposed to be done for multiple reps (usually between 5 and 10 in a single routine). As we said, it’s a deceptively simple pose, but one that works those muscles very nicely!
3. Chin Stand
Moving on from the previously and seemingly simple poses, the chin stand is every bit as challenging as your first impression of the pose might suggest!
Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. In fact, despite its rather striking final pose, and the amount of work it does for strengthening your upper arms, neck, biceps, and wrists, it’s a surprisingly simple pose.
However, it is still worth stating that this is still an advanced technique, and should be first learned and practiced with another person present to help guide you, in case you need a little direction.
This pose can be done from the planking pose that you’ll likely already be familiar with, before then lowering your head and chin to the yoga mat.
From there, engage your core, hug your inner thighs, and slowly lift each leg upwards, using your upper body and chin to help balance your legs, just as the name of the position suggests!
If you still feel like you need to build up to the final pose, feel free to take this pose one step at a time, focusing on completing each step of the pose, before moving on to the next part.
4. Half Camel
The half camel is the perfect yoga pose to try and challenge yourself to practice your flexibility with, as well as build your abdominal strength at the same time!
And, unlike the previous pose, while still challenging, worrying about balance won’t be nearly as much of a stressful factor here, staying firmly planted on whatever yoga mat you are using.
Make no mistake, though. This is still a pretty advanced position to get to!
Start the pose in a kneeled position, with your hands on your hips, and prepared to drop them back. From here, you can arch your back backward, so that your face is looking upwards to the ceiling.
Now, you can reach your hands back and place them on the heels of your feet one at a time, giving you that fully stretched pose. Hold this position for 3 to 5 full breathing cycles, before slowly reversing back into that kneeled position that you started with.
We recommend doing two to three reps of this pose in a routine to get the best benefit from them, though it’s totally fine if you start and use just one.
If you’re looking to challenge yourself after getting the hang of this one, we recommend adding an extra breathing cycle to the mix while holding the pose.
5. Side Angle
The single-angle yoga pose is a great stretching exercise that might be one of the easiest to execute in this list. That being said, it is still a pretty intensive one for beginners to try out, so make sure that you’re a little limber before getting into position for this one!
Start this pose on your mat with your feet together, then step your left foot back into a low lunge position. Make sure that you can hold this lunge before moving on to the next step.
Rotate that left foot by 45 degrees to a 10 o clock position from your right foot, before then bending your right knee until it is over your right foot.
While resting your right elbow on your right knee, raise your left hand back until it is over your head, and keep your head and eyes focused on the left hand.
You’ve now reached the correct position. From here, it’s a matter of holding the position for a set amount of time.
We would recommend starting with 15 to 30 seconds, although this can be increased as you gain confidence in this pose, or shortened if you feel that you can’t maintain that length just yet.
You’ll find that this is a great exercise for working glutes, quads, flexors, glutes, and abs, making it a great pose to try out for pushing all of your core muscles to their limit!
6. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
The bow pose is a difficult position to both reach and maintain for beginners, so we would once again recommend this pose to people who already have a little experience with some good stretching yoga poses, and know their current limitations.
You start this pose by laying flat on your stomach, before then bending your legs backward. Grab a hold of your ankles, then try to push the backs of your feet into your hands to help keep the legs lifted, and lift your chest.
And that’s it. Like many of the best yoga poses, it’s a pretty simple one in concept, but requires a little stamina to be able to execute effectively!
We recommend trying to hold this position for a few cycles, (2 to 4), before then building up that length for longer periods. Alternatively, add more reps of this pose into your yoga routine.
Yoga is an exercise and lifestyle routine that is for everyone to try out, with hundreds, if not thousands, of different poses to pick and choose from.
It’s what makes this such a versatile activity to include in your daily routine, whether you’re a beginner looking to either lightly exercise or meditate, or a fitness junkie with a penchant for extreme positions.
We hope that these poses that we’ve covered help bridge that gap, and help some of you budding yoga enthusiasts push your minds and your bodies further than they’ve ever gone before!
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