Progress beyond the basics with these advanced variations of classic yoga poses.
Downward dog, warrior, bridge—if you’ve taken a yoga class or two, you’re probably well aware of most instructors’ go-to poses. While there’s nothing wrong with a standard Vinyasa flow, it's fun to change up your practice from time to time, and really put your balance, strength, and agility to the test.
“I love going off the beaten path with yoga,” says Lauren Porat, yoga instructor and founder of YogaSpark. “I like to incorporate more core activation and glute work, as well as funky transitions that no one sees coming.” She finds that switching up her students’ practice is not only a great physical challenge, but also a mental one. Rather than flowing from one pose to the next on autopilot, Porat says learning a new variation forces her students to really pay attention to her instruction and focus on their bodies—which also means they’re tuning out the outside world along with their own mental chatter.
Plus, Porat says, “Trying new things is incredibly empowering—and my clients end up carrying this strength, peace and confidence with them off the mat.” So whether you’re looking to change up your routine, challenge your coordination, or maybe even rock a cool new pose for an Instagram photo (hey, we’re not judging!), here are seven of Lauren’s favorite unique poses.
At first glance, this pose may look just like warrior two. But there's a catch: It's done en pointe (which is why it's named after Misty Copeland). Once you've raised onto your toes and found balance, squeeze your heels and thighs toward each other, while stretching your arms apart and relaxing your shoulders away from ears. This variation on standard warrior two will help better tone your inner thighs, calves, helping you get one step closer to a dancer's bod.
Knee to chest from high lunge
From a standard high lunge position, engage your core and draw your back knee into your chest. Step back to high lunge with control, keeping your core engaged the entire time, and repeat. The addition of the knee raise adds some extra core work to your practice, and also helps improve functional movement in your hips.
Open hip standing split pulse
In most Vinyasa classes, standing split is a stationary move. But for this glute-strengthening version, open up your hip, and flex your raised foot. Then, isolate the outer butt cheek, and pulse the heel up 10 times while activating your glute muscles. Release to forward fold and repeat on the other side.
One-legged bridge lifts
Begin in a traditional bridge pose, with both feet planted on the floor and hips raised. Then lift your right leg up, while keeping the thighs parallel. Pretend you're squeezing a block in between your thighs to create resistance, but keep the thighs inner-hip-distance apart. Lower your butt an inch above the mat, and squeeze your left butt cheek to lift your hips back up. It may seem simple, but removing support from one leg in this pose will really sculpt and tone your glutes.
Warrior 3 crunches
Start in warrior 3, balancing on one leg with the other outstretched behind you. Then bend the standing knee slightly and crunch both your arms and raised leg in towards your torso. Expand back to warrior 3, and repeat five times. This pose challenges your balance, coordination, and core strength.
Kundalini's descent with a twist
Bend your right knee a few inches down and cross the left knee outside your right. Bring your hands in prayer at heart center and hook your left elbow outside the right knee. To deepen the pose, squeeze your thighs together, engage your core by lifting your torso an inch off your thigh, and try to bring your left heel to your butt.
From a wide-leg goddess stance, raise one or both heels off the mat and pulse your butt an inch down and then up, for a fun yet effective glute-toner. Or for another variation, place your hands behind your neck and work your obliques by crunching from side to side. Just be sure to keep your back flat the entire time.