Yoga is a wonderful way to cross train and strength train as we age. We can build and maintain muscle mass, bone density, and work on stabilizing our balance. Standing yoga poses strengthen our legs, core, glutes, back, and shoulders, while increasing our ability to balance in different orientations to the floor. While in some standing poses our spine is vertical, in others our torso is sideways and creates challenges to our proprioception. Practicing standing yoga poses improves our ability to move through our world with strength and ease. This post will discuss how and why to practice Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Triangle Pose, and Side Angle Pose.
This pose is the only forward facing pose of these four poses and works the glutes and legs in a slightly different way. Stand with your right foot facing straight ahead and your left foot about a leg’s length behind the right foot, with your left foot angled to the left about 45 degrees. Line up the right heel in front of the left heel. Press your left foot firmly into the floor, paying special attention to the outer edge of the foot and heel. This should activate your left quads and glutes. Keeping the weight into your left foot, press your right knee forward while keeping your shoulders over your hips. Your right knee will land over your right ankle. Raise your arms upward, palms facing each other. Slide the shoulder blades downward (depression) and apart (protraction) so that you can see your biceps in your peripheral vision. Your hips are trying to face forward, but they will be facing on a slight diagonal to the left, as your left thigh is rotating outward as your left hip pressed forward. Hold for 5-10 breaths then repeat on the other side.
This pose strengthens the glutes, quads, and connects our foot into the floor, giving us more stability when we stand. You are also activating the pelvic floor and lower abdominals as your pelvis and torso move toward being vertical. You are strengthening the shoulders, lats, and lower trapezius muscles as you hold and stabilize the arms overhead, with some activity in the biceps. All of these muscles are important for maintaining good posture and balance.
This pose is more similar to the next 2 poses as it is a lateral (side) facing pose, rather than front facing. Starting in Warrior 1, press your right knee to the right (to keep it over your ankle) and rotate your left hip to the left as far as it will go without allowing your right knee to slide to the left. Your pelvis will not be flat to the side, it will be on a more open diagonal. Your shoulders and chest, however, are facing flat to the left. Press your arms downward to be horizontal, parallel to the floor. Feel the shoulder blades moving downward (depression) and apart (protraction) as if you could reach your shoulder blades outward to touch your fingertips. Palms face the floor. Gaze toward your right third finger. Stay 5-10 breaths then repeat to the other side.
Similar to Warrior 1, this pose builds strength in the glutes, but activates the glutes’ rotational and abduction abilities, rather than the hip extension in Warrior 1. It also builds strength in the quads, pelvic floor, lower abdominals, spinal erectors, and lower traps and lats. There is also a little more tricep action. This pose requires a little more balance, as our gaze is not in the direction that our hips are facing. The more you connect the feet into the floor, the better your balance will be.
From Warrior 2, press your right heel into the floor to straighten your right leg. Activate the quads to prevent you from hanging into your knee joint. Please avoid hyperextending the knees. Rotate your palms to face outward toward the left side of your mat, and tip the pelvis toward the front of your mat. Your right hip should be lower than your left, relative to the floor, and the spine should be straight. The more you tip the pelvis, the more you feel the stretch in the hamstrings. Press the feet into the floor as you lift upward through the knees and quads. Glutes are working as in Warrior 2, focusing on outward/lateral rotation. Press the ball of the right big toe into the floor as the thigh rotates to the right, aiming the knee toward the second and third toe. Press the outer edge (the side with the 5th toe) of the left foot firmly into the floor. Rotate the gaze upward toward your left thumb, and rotate the left ribs toward the ceiling. Stay 5-10 breaths then repeat on the left.
Triangle pose creates strength, mobility, and balance. You build strength in the quads, glutes, obliques, spinal erectors, pelvic floor, lower abdominals, and all of the upper body muscles as Warrior 2, while creating a great stretch for the hamstrings of the front leg. The balance challenge comes from tipping the pelvis to the side and looking upward. You really need to tune into the feet pressing against the floor.
Extended Side Angle Pose
This pose is a beautiful combination of the previous 3 poses: The legs of Warrior 2, the pelvic tilt and spinal rotation of Triangle, and the extended arm position of Warrior 1. From Triangle pose, bend your front knee over your right ankle (like Warrior 2). Reach your left arm toward the front of your mat in a diagonal line extending from your left foot. Rotate your 5th finger toward the floor so that the left shoulder blade protracts (moves away from the spine). Press your right elbow against your right thigh, moving your rib cage away from the thigh to prevent collapsing into the right shoulder. Press your right knee to the right to keep it over your right ankle. Rotate your spine to the left to gaze upward. Hold 5-10 breaths, then repeat to the left.
This pose combines the benefits of all the other poses, with the exception of the hamstring stretch, and the addition of an adductor (inner thigh) stretch. Glutes, obliques, quads, pelvic floor, lower abdominals, spinal erectors, etc.
Click here to watch a video that guides you through these 4 poses!
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