You know how sometimes you hear one theme or question over and over again during a short amount of time and you feel like someone’s trying to tell you something? This happened to me last week as several yoga clients, blog readers and friends asked me how best to tone and strengthen their glutes, thighs and legs. So…here you are. My favorite yoga poses for your butt & thighs with my tips on getting the best results.
Flowing Chair & Variations: Standing in Mountain Pose with your feet hip width apart and toes forward, inhale and reach your arms overhead. As you exhale, sit back into an imaginary chair, with knees right over your ankles and your weight shifted back toward your heels. Continue this movement with your breath (inhale to straighten and exhale to bend) for 10 times and hold the 10th chair. You can bring your hands to your heart (prayer hands) and really focus on building strength in the glutes and legs. For more inner thigh strengthening, place a thin yoga block or a small exercise ball between your inner thighs above the knees during Flowing Chair and holding your Chair pose – really engaging your inner thigh muscles to keep the block or ball in place.
Twisting Chair - Another great strengthener for your legs and glutes. Move into your Chair pose and bring your feet together. Make sure that your feet, ankles, knees and thighs are touching and that your knees stay level. Bring your hands to your heart and gently twist to the right side, continuing to maintain your legs at a level height. Breathe and hold the twist for 3-5 breaths and slowly unwind and straighten your legs. Repeat on the left side.
Lunges -The key to effective lunges is technique. Take some time to really
find good form first before you speed up your lunges to be more of a cardio workout. From Mountain pose, step forward with the right foot and bend the right knee. Be sure that your right knee is directly over the right ankle. The left leg is straight (if possible) with the left heel lifted from the floor but actively pressing back toward the back wall. Your hips and torso should be forward. Arms can be overhead, out to your side (as shown) or at your heart. Repeat on the other side. Now, as you get more comfortable and want more of a challenge, bend more deeply into the right knee, while maintaining the correct alignment (knee over ankle). This will tone your glutes, quads and thighs. Variation: Walking Lunges: Alternate sides by moving from Mountain Pose into a Lunge. Be sure and hold the deep lunge for a couple of breaths before stepping forward back to Mountain Pose and switching sides. I do these walking back and forth on our patio.
Warriors: Yes, it’s true that you want to find a stance in yoga that’s comfortable for you. But if your goal is to tone your legs or lose weight than you’ll want to push yourself a bit more. Don’t be afraid to take a slightly wider stance – as long as your able to maintain correct alignment and keep your joints safe. For Warrior 2, start with your feet in a wide stance and toes forward (parallel feet). Turn your right foot out to the side while keeping the left toes straight ahead or slightly pigeon-toed. Now bend into the right knee, keeping that over the ankle and not ahead of the ankle. If you want to bend more, but can’t keep that knee-ankle alignment, walk the left foot back to widen your stance. Once that’s set, bend into the right knee and hold. Work toward straightening your left leg, so that we’re working that leg as well… Breathe and hold the pose for 5-7 breaths. Over time, work toward a 90 degree bend in the front leg. Switch sides.
After all these strengthening poses, do take time for a relaxing stretch:
Straddle Fold: Standing with wide parallel (toes forward) feet, bend your knees and fold forward letting your upper body hang toward the floor. Breathe and stretch here, working toward straight legs for 5-7 breaths.
Recline Pigeon: Lie down on your back and bend your legs so your feet are on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Engage your abs and lift your left foot from the floor. Hold for 6-8 breaths and release. Switch sides.