Spring Forward: A Strengthening Yoga Sequence

Side Plank Pose, Ardha Vasisthasana variation, strengthening pose, core strength

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, spring has finally arrived, and with it the awakening energy of nature. If you’re feeling increased vitality (or wish to), here’s a well-rounded strengthening sequence that targets all the usual suspects—legs, hips, abs, back, shoulders, and arms—through a few select poses coupled with the option of longer holding times. It begins with three warm-up poses and then moves into a strengthening sequence, in which you’ll repeat each pose twice, resting between repetitions for about half the time you stay in the pose.

How to Build Strength in Yoga Practice

First, gather some props. You’ll need a yoga mat and a little bit of wall space. You also might want to have a couple of yoga blocks handy in case you’d like to modify any of the poses in the sequence.

Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Facing Dog Pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana, warm -up pose, strengthening pose

15 to 30 seconds (about 3 to 6 breaths)

  • Downward Facing Dog Pose is more complicated—and beneficial—than you might guess. It builds upper body strength, stretches the back, warms up the hamstrings and calves, and is a mild inversion. As you move into Downward Facing Dog Pose, be sure to ground your hands evenly, pressing down through the “balls” of your hands. Feel free to move around a bit in order to find the pose that best fits your body today.

Standing Forward Bend Pose (Uttanasana)

Practicing Standing Forward Bend or Uttanasana to stretch the back and warm up hamstrings

15 to 30 seconds (about 3 to 6 breaths)

  • Standing Forward Bend Pose stretches the back and hamstrings, and is a mild inversion. Make sure to bend from the hip joints and not from the waist in this pose. Feel free to bend your knees if that helps you to tilt your pelvis forward. Also, you may want to place blocks under your hands.

Palm Tree Pose (Talasana)

Yoga's Palm Tree Pose or Talasana for flexibility of thoracic spine

15 to 30 seconds (about 3 to 6 breaths)

  • Side bending is energizing and is effective for mobilizing the thoracic spine. As you stretch to one side, make sure to ground the opposite foot. Take a few breaths in Mountain Pose between sides and after practicing both sides to check in with how you feel after practicing.

Fierce Pose (Utkatasana)

Chair Pose also called Fierce Pose as well as Utkatasana is great for strengthening legs

30 to 45 seconds (about 6 to 9 breaths)

  • Fierce Pose fires up the leg muscles, including those that stabilize the hip joints. Practice twice, resting in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) or Standing Forward Bend Pose in between repetitions.

Wall Squat

Yoga Wall Squat builds lower body strength, yoga at the wall

45 seconds to 1 minute (about 9 to 12 breaths)

  • Like Fierce Pose, Wall Squat heats up and strengthens the leg muscles. Practice twice, resting in Mountain Pose or Standing Forward Bend in between repetitions.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior 2 or Virabhadrasana 2 Yoga's classic strength and endurance standing pose

30 to 45 seconds (about 6 to 9 breaths)

  • Virabhadrasana II promotes balance, endurance, flexibility, grounding, and strength. Explore equalizing the weight between the front and back legs. This will allow you to rest more easily in the pose for a longer duration. Relax your shoulder blades down your back as you extend your arms. Practice twice, resting in Mountain Pose or Standing Forward Bend in between repetitions.

Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Facing Dog Pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana, warm -up pose, strengthening pose

30 to 45 seconds (about 6 to 9 breaths).

  • Return to Downward Facing Dog Pose, moving around and exploring the shoulders, hips, and spine if you like. Practice twice, resting in Child’s Pose (Balasana) in between repetitions.

Forearm Plank Pose (Ardha Phalakasana)

Practicing Forearm Plank or Ardha Phalakasana to strengthen arms, shoulders, and the core

20 to 30 seconds (about 4 to 6 breaths)

  • From Downward Facing Dog Pose, lower your elbows and shift your pelvis forward to Forearm Plank Pose. This pose strengthens the shoulders, arms, and core, without placing pressure on the hands and wrists. Practice twice, resting in Child’s Pose in between repetitions.

Side Forearm Plank Pose (Ardha Vasisthasana)

Side Plank Pose, Ardha Vasisthasana variation, strengthening pose, core strength

20 to 30 seconds (about 4 to 6 breaths).

  • For further upper body strengthening, from Forearm Plank Pose, turn onto either side and point your forearm forward, at a 90-degree angle to your body. Make sure to keep your pelvis lifting in order to engage the side body. Practice twice, resting in Child’s Pose in between repetitions.

Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)

Sphinx Pose or Salamba Bhujangasana to strengthen the spine and hip flexors

30 to 45 seconds (about 6 to 9 breaths)

  • Sphinx Pose is a gentle backbend that mobilizes the lumbar spine and helps lengthen the hip flexors. Be sure to ground your hips and legs. Practice twice, resting in Prone Relaxation Pose (Savasana) in between repetitions.

Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

Yoga's Locust Pose or Salabhasana practiced for greater back strength and increased flexibility

30 to 45 seconds (6 to 9 breaths)

  • Locust Pose is one of the most effective poses for strengthening the back muscles that help you maintain an upright posture. Take care not to throw your head back; keep the back of your neck long. Practice twice, resting in Prone Savasana in between repetitions.

Child’s Pose

Child's Pose of Balasana is one of yoga's classic stretching and resting poses

1 to 2 minutes

  • Child’s Pose promotes rest. However, the pose does require deep flexion in the knees. If that doesn’t work for you, feel free to return to Downward Facing Dog Pose for a few breaths in order to stretch your back body. Then lie in Relaxation Pose (Savasana) for as long as you like. If you are comfortable practicing Child’s Pose, imagine expanding your back with your inhalations, and settling forward on your exhalations.

 

Lynn Crimando, MA, C-IAYT, certified personal trainer, board-certified wellness coach, yoga for healthy neuromuscular aging

 

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Reprinted with permission from Yoga for Healthy Aging.

Barrie Risman is an internationally recognized yoga teacher, teacher trainer, and best-selling author. Download Barrie’s free Guide to Home Yoga Practice right here. Learn more about her book Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice and her online classes at www.barrierisman.com.

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