Yoga is fantastic for building and increasing flexibility, working on endurance, and mental clarity. It's also great for strengthening and toning, and I thought I'd put together a couple poses that focus on the legs & butt because so many of us sit for many hours during the day and over time that can shorten the hip flexors and hamstrings and make us lose a little of that umph in our rear. :)
Warm up before you try these poses. Always be sure to move within a pain-free range. You can do them as they are, or you could incorporate them into your sun salutations.
Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), as pictured above. Feet and legs are together. Knee caps lifted and quads are engaged. Roll the shoulders back, let the hands come naturally forward. Turn the hands out slightly away from you, spreading the fingers. Broaden the collar bones, relax the shoulders away from the ears. Tuck the tailbone under and lengthen all the way through the crown of the head. Breathe evenly in and out. On your next inhale, step back with your left leg.
1. High lunge
Stay high on the back leg. Make sure your right knee is either directly above or behind the ankle (not in front of the ankle). Feel your feet rooting into the mat as your upper body feels lifted towards the ceiling. Inhale the arms up, shoulders away from your ears, fingers spread. Elongate from the heel of the left foot all the way through the fingertips. Breathe evenly for 5 breaths. On your next exhale, bend the left knee as your curl your fingers into fists and draw the elbows down and back.
2. Split squat
Inhale and straighten the left leg and bring the arms up overhead, once again into back into high lunge, Repeat 5 times, and go over to the other side.
3. Chair pose
This is chair pose. Start in Tadasana as described in the first picture. On your next inhale, bend the legs and bring the arms up overhead, hands touching. Tuck the tailbone slightly to ensure your back in flat and not arched. Relax the shoulders away from your ears. Feel your upper body lifted as you root down into the mat. Sit a little lower. Breathe evenly here for 5 breaths.
4. Eagle Pose
Start in Tadasana, as described in the first picture. Inhale and cross your legs as if you're sitting in a chair cross-legged. If you can tuck your toes behind the calf, great. If not, don't worry about it! Inhale and cross your arms, and bend the elbows, intending to draw them down towards your belly button. Tuck the tailbone slightly under to ensure your back doesn't arch. Breathe deeply, sit a little lower. Stay here for 5 breaths, and repeat on the other side.