8 strengthening yoga poses

Yoga in the sunshine
From improved physical balance, strength and flexibility to a calm and clear mind, yoga has healing powers and endless benefits. I've personally noticed a wealth of improvements as a result of my practice. 

Along with flexibility and strength, my posture has improved and I feel both energised and more relaxed at the same time. Not only does yoga have physical benefits, but it helps me to deal with stress, nerves and anxiety too. I tend to worry a lot about everything from money and the future, to my health and if I’ve eaten too much chocolate recently! Taking just 20 minutes out of my day to focus on moving, breathing and being present really helps to re-centre my mind and give me the clarity and focus I need.

It may sound strange but yoga also encourages my creativity! If I'm suffering from writer's block or feeling overwhelmed with work, taking some time out on my yoga mat really inspires my braing to get creative and be proactive.

Today was a beautiful sunny day, and one of the first days of Spring (Yay, Spring is here)! The sunshine inspired me to get up and go for a run, before practicing some yoga in the garden. Whilst I was practicing I had this really great idea of sharing with you my favourite strengthening poses, so I persuaded my wonderful boyfriend, Alex, to come outside and be my photographer whilst I pranced around the garden!

So here's the result! My eight favourite strengthening yoga poses:

downward-facing-dog
Downward facing dog
 It took a while for me to be comfortable in this pose, especially when I first tried to hold it for a while! Whilst I was travelling, I practiced yoga at various different places around Asia, and one piece of advice that stuck with me from a yoga teacher I met was to turn my elbows outwards, bring my tummy in towards my back and put pressure between my  fore-finger and thumb. Quite basic advice but it really helped me feel more comfortable in this pose.

high-lunge-yoga
High lunge
Standing in this position always makes me feel strong, rooted and grounded. It’s challenging for the legs and gives a great stretch to the front body and thighs. It also opens the chest and hips, and I love incorporating it into my vinyasa flow.

warrior-ii-yoga
Warrior 2
I really like this pose because it makes me feel empowered, strong and energised. Although it may seem like an easy pose, it actually requires a lot of concentration as there’s always something to improve on. Whether it’s keeping your arms in a straight line, relaxing your neck away from your ears, or opening your hips and pulling your bent knee outwards, there is always a way to improve you posture.

triange-pose-yoga
Triangle
I  love the stretch your inner thigh gets with this pose. I’m still working on my flexibility with triangle but I love practicing it all the same! It engages every bit of the body, from your toes to your fingertips, which always leaves me feeling energised!

side-plank-yoga
Side plank
Holding a regular plank and a side plank totally strengthens and tones the core, shoulders, arms and legs. Whilst a side plank is a beginner’s pose, it can be quite challenging, especially if you don’t have too much core strength or balance! However, staying with it and building your stamina really helps to tighten those core muscles and improve your ability to balance on one arm and foot. I also love that not only do you strengthen the whole body but you also get a nourishing side body stretch too!

extended-side-angle-pose-yoga

































Extended side angle
I like to incorporate extended side angle pose into my standing flow practice. It strengthens the lower body and gives a beautiful stretch to the side body, which I love! It also develops stamina, endurance and concentration, as holding this pose can be quite challenging. It’s important to keep your back foot active and resist the urge to put all your weight into the front body – bear this in mind in order to get the full benefits from this pose.

boat-pose-yoga
Boat pose
Whilst this is of course a great ab strengthening pose, it also deeply strengthens the hip flexors. I’m still working on getting my legs completely straight in this pose, and I modify it by slightly bending the knees. To me, it’s much better to have good form than to try and advance my practice too soon!

headstand-yoga
Headstand
An intermediate pose, it took me a while to feel like I had the hang of being in a headstand and it still takes practice to maintain it. However, it's amazing for improving your balance and overall strength, plus it leaves you feeling refreshed and flips your perspective of the world upside down! The best advice I could give to someone trying to perfect their headstand practice is to let go of fear. Start by practicing against a wall so that you know you have a safety net there. Or, if that seems a little daunting, then ask someone to help! Kick up into a headstand and have someone hold your legs straight up so that you feel supported. Eventually, you will be able to do it on your own and even away from a wall!

wheel-pose-yoga
Upward bow (wheel)
Another intermediate pose, this one takes some practice to feel comfortable with. However once you are able to stay in the pose for even just a few breaths, you start to feel the benefits. It opens the chest and stretches the front of the body whilst at the same time strengthening your legs, buttocks, arms and wrists. When I first started my wheel practice, I began in bridge pose with my hands laced underneath my back, then I  progressed to standing on my feet, head and hands, before finally lifting up and off my head, leaving just my feet and hands touching the ground.

 *Disclaimer: I'm not a yoga teacher, qualified practitioner or advanced yoga student. I'm just a yoga enthusiast on my own personal journey towards flexibility, balance, peace of mind and happiness.


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