It could be argued that all poses in yoga are full-body poses. The great thing about the yoga practice is that it certainly encourages the body to work as one. The key for me is to centre my body so I have a solid foundation, as this allows my poses to have more balance, grace and effectiveness.
*Note: I am NOT a yoga teacher. I compiled this list after extensive research and discussion with friends who are yoga teachers. It is, however, a subjective list. There are plenty of challenging, total-body yoga poses. These are just five that I picked as good ones to work on that challenge as many muscles as possible.
Remember that strengthening the whole body doesn’t always mean that all muscles have to be active at once. If you make an effort to activate the muscles as they are being stretched, this will help to strengthen them also. Thus, a pose like Downward Facing Dog (in my list below) can easily be a whole body workout in one, despite being used a rest pose in flow classes.
- Eagle pose – stretches upper body and strengthens lower. The tourniquet action of your body twisting in this pose allows for fresh blood to flow (when the pose is released) to areas of your body that were constricted in the pose. This is why teachers often really recommend this pose for those with arthritis or rheumatism.
- Downward dog – strengthens arms, shoulders, back and provides a great leg stretch
- Warrior 3 – strengthens arms, shoulders, back, abs, legs.
- Crow pose – strengthens upper body and abs – I find my legs work hard here too, staying in position
- Bird of Paradise pose – strengthens lower body and abs – I find my arm muscles work in this position to stay binded
Give these poses a try in your next at-home yoga practice (if you haven’t done one of them before, get the advice of a teacher first!).
- Are there any poses on this list you haven’t tried?
- What yoga pose is your favourite?