Good news: you don’t have to run hundreds of miles to get amazingly toned legs. Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga instructor Anielka Azarian (AKA Pretzel Girl) is here to share her favorite yoga moves to sculpt and strengthen legs.
Let’s talk about yoga legs! Most of us can’t help but notice the super toned legs of a person next to us in a yoga class. They’ve probably been practicing for a long time, but if they can do it, you can too! Consistent practice will undoubtedly strengthen not only your legs, but also tone your arms, back and core.
Here are my favorite yoga poses to sculpt and tone your legs while getting your “Om” on.
1. Warrior II
One of the strongest poses of the sun salutations series. Warrior II will strengthen your legs, open your hips, and help improve balance.
Move your right foot back about four feet away from your left foot. Pivot your right toes out and bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle. Bring both arms up at shoulder height, relax your shoulders down and place your gaze on your right fingers. Lock your core and tuck your pelvis in. Hold for 10 slow breaths and then pivot your left toes left, bend your left knee, and straighten the back leg to switch sides.
2. Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana)
This is my favorite pose to test the strength and balance of my legs. Use a strap or bend your knee if you find it hard to reach for your big toe or if your back is not straight.
Stand with your feet together at the top of your mat, left hand placed on your waist, and kick your right leg up slowly. Reach for your big toe with right index and mid fingers and close your bind including your thumb. Extend both legs and send your chest forward to straighten your back.
Take five breaths here and then open up the leg (or knee) to your right side keeping your fingers hooked to your thumb. Look at the opposite side of your foot over your left shoulder. Stay in this variation for five deep breaths and then bring the leg back to the initial position. Place both hands on your waist and leave the leg up. Stand strong, breathe for 10 more breaths, and slowly release the leg down and switch sides.
3. King Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)
This posture is one of the reasons a lot of ballerinas look like yoga girls (or is it the other way around?). Natarajasana pose will develop your flexibility and balance while stretching your shoulders, chest, back, abdomen, hips and legs.
Stand tall at the top of your mat with feet together. Shift your weight to your left foot and kick yourself back with your right heel. Reach for the inside of your ankle with your right hand and extend your left arm forward. Square your hips to the mat and focus on lifting your back thigh away from the floor. Bring your chest parallel to the mat. Keep your left leg strong and extended. Hold for 15 deep and steady breaths, release leg and repeat on the other side.
4. Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)
Connect with your inner goddess while you stretch, strengthen and tone your calves and inner thighs.
Separate your feet approximately three feet apart, turn your toes out and your heels in and squat down deep. Tuck your tailbone in slightly and press your hips forward as you draw your thighs back. Engage your core muscles and keep a straight back. Hands can be extended to the sides, shoulder height apart, or bring your palms into prayer position. Hold for 10 breaths. To release, bring your hands to your hips and slowly walk your feet to hip-width apart and forward-fold in rag doll.
5. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Strengthens your back, glutes, legs and stretches your hip flexors.
Lay on your back, then move your feet as close to your hips as possible, hip-width apart. Press into your feet and arms to lift your hips off the mat. Interlace your fingers behind your back, keeping your gaze straight up. To release, unlace your fingers and roll the spine slowly down onto the floor. Bring your knees to your chest and give yourself a big hug by bringing your arms around your shins.