Strengthening yoga poses to practice at home

Building and maintaining strength with your yoga practice can seem a challenge while at home. But, while gyms and yoga studios have closed their doors for now, there are a number of strengthening yoga poses you can practice at home.
These four simple exercises are designed to help you get back on track and build strength in your core. With a stronger core, you’ll soon notice improvements in your posture, and it may also help to ease non-specific lower back pain.
As ever, it’s important to bear in mind that this sequence is only a guide. Listen to your body and if something doesn’t feel right or causes you pain, come out of the pose. Always chat with your doctor if you have any concerns about starting a new exercise routine.

Strengthening yoga poses

Table top variation

This variation of table-top pose (Bharmanasana) looks easy, but you’ll quickly begin to feel the heat in your core and shoulders. As you become stronger, gradually increase the number of breaths that you hold the pose for.

  1. Start in table-top pose, keeping your spine long and your gaze down towards the floor.
  2. Ensure your shoulders are in line with your wrists.
  3. Have your hips in line with your knees.
  4. Tuck your toes underneath you and lift your knees off the ground by just one or two inches.
  5. Hold the pose here for one to five steady breaths.
  6. On your final exhale, return your knees to the floor.

Spinal balance

Spinal balance is a great way to strengthen your core, while building stability. This pose can be tricky as it requires good balance. Build this one up gradually, taking care to maintain good alignment in your hips and shoulders.

  1. From table-top pose, stretch your left leg out long behind you, pushing your toes into the ground. Reach your right arm out in front of you.
  2. Steady your balance. If you’re ready to take it further, lift your left leg up behind you, bringing your heel in line with your hip. Keep your hips square.
  3. Find your balance. Hold here for one to three breaths, steadying your inhale and exhale.
  4. Lower your leg and arm to return to table-top and repeat on the opposite side.

Increase the difficulty: Once you feel stable with your leg and arm extended, you can begin to fire up your core. Repeat the exercise but at step four. Rather than holding the pose in place, as you exhale, bring your elbow to meet your knee underneath your stomach. Inhale to stretch your leg and arm out long once more, and repeat this process four times on each side.

Side plank

Side plank – or Vasisthasana – can be a challenging yoga pose, but is excellent for building strength in the arms and core. Try this beginner’s variation first, before building up to the next level.

  1. From table-top, stretch your left leg back behind you, lining up your left toes with your right knee. Ground the sole of your foot into the floor.
  2. Open your shoulders to the left hand side. Take your right shin out behind you for balance.
  3. Lift your left arm up to the sky, opening across the collarbones.
  4. Breathe here for one to five breaths before returning back to table-top.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

Increase the difficulty: Once you feel stronger, you can begin to explore the full variation of side plank. Rather than having your shin and knee on the floor, stack both legs and feet on top of each other, keeping your hips square. This is a challenging pose, further building strength in your wrists, shoulders and core.

Downward-facing dog to plank pose

This final exercise of our yoga strengthening poses sees you flow between downward-facing dog (Adho mukha svanasana) into plank pose (kumbhakasana). Focus on using your inhale and exhale to move between the poses – it will help to keep your focus.

  1. From table-top, step back to plank pose. This is where your body is in a long line, almost like a plank of wood (it looks like the top of a press-up). With your arms straight, keep your shoulders over your wrists. Engage your core, imagining a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Keep your ankles over the toes and the spine long.
  2. Inhale here.
  3. As you exhale, begin to lift your hips and bottom up to the sky, back into downward-facing dog. Complete your exhale.
  4. As you inhale, move forwards into your plank pose, bringing the shoulders over the wrists once more.
  5. Repeat this three to four times, using your inhale and exhale to move between the poses.
  6. Return to table-top.

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