With summer rolling in just around the corner, what better time is there to motivate you to sweat, build strength, and love your body? Prepare for all the days ahead lounging on the beach in a bikini with these twelve yoga postures to build strength and elongate the muscles of your body to create flawlessly chiseled abs, arms, butt, and legs. What better way is there to get you summer ready than to practice self-love with yoga? After all is said and done, you’ll be glowing brighter than the summer sun.
12 Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One-Legged Down Dog)
This all-encompassing posture builds strength in the arms, core, and legs while simultaneously lengthening the back body. Start on all fours in a tabletop position. Align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Tuck all ten toes underneath and draw your bellybutton toward your spine to lift your knees off the floor. Extend your hips toward the ceiling. Try to make the shape of an upside-down V into the body. Your knees can be bent or straight here, whichever feels more comfortable to you. Spread your fingers wide and press down evenly across all corners of your hands. Imagine elongating your fingers toward the top of your mat and use this action to soften your shoulders down away from your ears. Lengthen your back body and send your sit bones up toward the sky. Relax the weight of your heels down toward the earth. Activate into your abdominals and reach one leg high up toward the ceiling. Try to keep the alignment of both hips bones facing toward the floor. Think about inwardly spiraling your thighbone toward the midline of your body so that your toes point straight down to the mat. Keep hugging in on the abdominals to try and reach your leg just slightly higher up toward the sky. Point your toes like a ballerina and hold for a few long deep breaths before switching sides.
11 Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose)
Fire up the legs and arms in this posture. Start standing facing the long side of your mat with your legs wide (taking up at least 80% of the mat with your stance). Turn the toes of your right foot to face the top of the mat and try to align your right heel with the arch of your left foot, creating a straight line down the center of your mat. Keep your hips squared open toward the long edge of your mat and bend deeply into your right knee. Align your knee directly over your ankle or slightly behind it, but never in front of it!, (you may need to widen your stance slightly) and try to bring your thigh as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Open and extend your arms out wide aligning your arms over your legs and reaching and extending out through your fingertips. Try to relax your shoulders down away from your ears and hug the lower belly in toward your spine. Align your shoulders directly over your hips. Hold for as long as you’d like and then switch to the opposite leg.
10 Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
Feel the burn into your thighs, abs, and upper arms with this invigorating posture. Start standing with your feet either touching or hip-distance apart. Draw the pit of your belly in toward your spine and bend deeply into the knees until your fingertips can graze the floor. Keeping this deep squat, reach your arms up toward the sky with your biceps around your ears. Relax your shoulders down the back and keep the alignment of your knees directly stacked over your ankles. Take deep breaths as you try to sit lower and lower into your seat.
9 Anjaneyasana (High Lunge)
Awaken your legs and stretch your hips in this lunge position all while using your core to find balance. Start standing at the top of your mat and as you exhale, take a big step back with your right foot. Try to take up at least 80% of the mat between your two legs. Bend the front knee deeply and align your knee over your ankle. Extend and straighten through your back leg and imagine your heel is kicking back against a wall behind you. Relax the weight of your hips toward the floor and extend your spine up in the opposite direction. Reach your arms straight up toward the sky and soften your shoulders down away from your ears. Take full breaths here and, when you’re ready, switch sides.
8 Purvottanasana (Reverse Plank)
Open your chest and engage your arms, core, and legs in this reverse plank position. Start sitting with your legs extended long in front of you. Place your hands about six inches behind your hips with your fingers pointing toward your toes. Roll your shoulders down your back and draw your shoulder blades toward each other so that your chest puffs up toward the sky. Squeeze your legs into the midline and activate your abdominals. Press down equally into your hands and your feet to lift your hips high up off the floor creating a straight line from your head to your toes. Continue to draw your shoulder blades toward each other to keep expanding your chest toward the ceiling.
7 Adho Mukha Dandasana (Plank Pose)
This classic posture utilizes your full body for deep strengthening and toning. Start in a down dog position (explained earlier) and roll your weight forward until your shoulders align directly over your wrists. Create a straight line from the top of your head down through your toes. Kick your heels toward the back of your mat and very subtly lift your thighbones up away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone toward your feet and strongly activate into your core. Imagine tightening a corset around your waist to engage into your deeper core muscles. Press the floor away from you so much that you create a very subtle rounding of the upper back, allowing the shoulder blades to move away from each other. Elongate your neck and look toward the top of your mat. Hold for as long as you can maintain the form. Then rest and maybe try again if you’d like. If holding a straight plank position is a bit too intense for you to begin, follow all of the same steps but relax your knees to the floor. Keep the engagement active throughout the rest of your body and breath deeply here until you build up the strength to lift your knees.
6 Core Plank (Knee-To-Nose)
This deep core workout also intensely strengthens your arms. Start in a classic plank position (detailed above) and lift your right foot up off the floor. Hug in firmly on the belly and bend the right leg as you draw your knee toward your nose. Fully round the upper back, allowing your shoulder blades to peel apart from each other on the back body. As you inhale, lengthen your right leg back out behind you and switch legs. Take as many reps as you’d like while paying attention to maintain the form. Quality over quantity!
5 Chaturanga Dandasana (Low Push-Up)
This challenging pose works the full length of the body, particularly the arms, core, and chest. Start in a high plank position (detailed above) and as you exhale, shift the weight of your body forward until your shoulders move past the creases of your wrists (you will be balancing on the very tips of your toes). Hug the bellybutton toward the spine and slowly lower your body to hover above the floor by bending the elbows to a perfect ninety-degree angle. Hug the elbows in against the ribs so that they point straight back behind you. Be cautious not to allow the shoulder joint to dip below the line of the elbow joint. Work to really create a perfect right angle in the arms. You can hold for a few breaths here or lower all the way to the floor, or (for an extra challenge) you can press the floor away returning back to your plank position. Again, if you’re working toward building the strength to practice this posture, you can keep the same alignment and engagement of the body with your knees resting on the mat to build up strength.
4 Vasisthasana (Side Plank)
This challenging pose strengthens the arms and obliques deeply. Start in a high plank position (detailed above) and bring your feet to touch at the back of your mat. Roll onto the pinky side of your right foot and stack your left foot directly on top of your right. Shift your weight into your right hand and begin to extend your left hand straight up toward the sky, stacking your shoulders. Think about pressing the floor away with your hand and your feet. Lift your hips as high away from the floor as you can to really fire up your obliques and envision peeling your chest open toward the sky. Hold for as long as is comfortable before switching to the opposite side.
3 Bakasana (Crow Pose)
This arm balancing position utilizes the full body to fly. Place your hands shoulder width apart flat on the mat and lower yourself down into a squatting position. Hug the bellybutton toward the spine and round deeply into your upper back, moving the shoulder blades apart from each other. Keeping the balls of your feet planted on the floor, begin to slide your knees as high up on your arms as possible (ideally placing your knees directly into the armpits). Squeeze your legs in toward each other and begin to lean your weight forward into the hands. The further forward that you lean, the lighter that your feet will become until eventually you’ll find your feet naturally lifting up off the mat. From here, draw your heels in toward your seat and keep pressing the floor away from you to lift even higher in your arm balance.
2 Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose)
This pose is the ultimate core strengthener. Begin sitting on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat against the mat. Draw your legs to touch and catch a hold behind your knees with your hands. Press your sit bones down against the floor to lengthen your spine up toward the ceiling. Relax your shoulders down the back and gently hug them into the midline of your body. Extend your chest forward toward your thighs and suction in on your belly. Keeping all of this alignment, lift your feet up off the mat trying to draw your shins parallel to the floor. Keep squeezing your legs together and extending your heart toward your thighs. You can stay here or release your arms by your side to deepen the core activation. If you want to go crazy, you can even straighten through your legs to create a V-shape in the body while keeping the alignment of your spine. Hold for as long as you can maintain the form of the posture and the fullness of your breath.
1 Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)
This super fun and super challenging pose works deeply into the whole body. If you are a beginner, try to use a wall behind you to catch you if you begin to fall. Start in a plank position (detailed above) and walk one foot in about halfway up the mat toward your hands and rise to the ball of that foot. Extend the opposite leg straight up toward the sky and keep that leg stick-straight with your hips closed (so both hip bones point to the floor). Slightly lean your weight forward until your shoulders move past the crease of your wrists. Actively draw in on the pit of your core and gently hop your leg up off the floor trying to stack your hips directly over your shoulders and attempting to draw the legs to touch, squeezing into the midline. Envision pressing the floor away from you as you extend up through your legs and lengthen your tailbone toward the ceiling. Try to create a straight line through the whole body to stabilize your handstand. Make your body as rigid as possible by engaging through as many muscles as possible. Hold for as long as you’d like before relaxing into a child’s pose.