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  • Stabilizing Your Leg while
    Balancing on One Foot

    balancing on one foot yoga poses including utthitta hasta padangusthasana 3 preparation (lifting the knee or leg to the front while standing on one foot) bending forwards while balancing on one leg, warrior (virabhadrasana) 3, moving in and out of half moon yoga pose (ardha chandrasana) and holding it, and modified ygoa tree pose with the lifted foot held away from the standing leg and hands in prayer position in front of the chest. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses

    Balancing on one foot yoga poses include: warrior 3, utthitta hasta padangusthasana 3, side balance and half moon yoga pose.

    There are other one legged yoga balance poses, including: tree pose, eagle pose, utthitta hasta padangusthasana 1 and 2 and ardha Baddha padmasana, but they involve either the legs contacting each other or binding a foot with a hand which can make balance more difficult.

    In the first group of poses mentioned the supporting leg is free from interference. That makes it easier to focus on stabilizing it. It then can become easier to work on staying balanced

    If you improve your leg control while balancing on one foot you may find that it makes regular yoga standing poses easier.

    It also can make balancing poses on one leg (in poses where the legs do touch or the lifted foot is bound) easier.

    Balancing on One Leg
    Preparing for Utthitta Hasta Padangustasana 3

    One of my favorite balancing on one foot exercises (currently) could be used as a preparation for the hands free version of utthitta hasta padangusthasana.

    The starting point is to stand on both legs with knees slightly bent. Practice lifting the pubic bone and then relaxing. When lifting the pubic bone, the tail bone will move down. so that the pelvis will tilt backwards and then forwards.

    Once you are comfortable with this movement work at initiating it using your lower belly.

    If you cover the part of your belly between your belly button and pubic bone with both hands, one hand on top of the other the lower hand will cover what I refer to as the "lower belly."

    Slowly pull your lower belly in and at the same time pull your pubic bone up. Relax and repeat until you can do the action smoothly.

    Next add a chest lift. Pull your lower belly in, pull your pubic bone up and slowly lift and expand your ribcage. Use these actions to make your spine feel long.

    Balancing on one leg with the other knee lifted. In this execise stand on one leg with the foot turned out and the knee slightly bent. Pull the lower belly in. Pull the pubic bone up. Lift the chest. Then lift the knee of the unsupported leg. Then straighten the knee. In this picture weight is on one leg, the other leg is touching the floor and belly is relaxed. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. Balancing on one leg with the other knee lifted. In this execise stand on one leg with the foot turned out and the knee slightly bent. Pull the lower belly in. Pull the pubic bone up. Lift the chest. Then lift the knee of the unsupported leg. Then straighten the knee. In this picture weight is on one leg, the other leg is touching the floor and belly is relaxed. This is a preparation for the balancing on one leg pose utthitta hasta padangusthasana.

    Then relax.

    Next stand on one leg with the foot slightly turned out and the knee bent. Pull the lower belly in. Pull the pubic bone up. Lift and expand your ribcage, then lift the knee of the non-weighted leg. Lower the leg. Shift back to center and then repeat the action on the other side.

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. Balancing on one leg with the other knee lifted. In this execise stand on one leg with the foot turned out and the knee slightly bent. Pull the lower belly in. Pull the pubic bone up. Lift the chest. Then lift the knee of the unsupported leg. Then straighten the knee. In this picture weight is on one leg, the other knee is lifted This is a preparation for the balancing on one leg pose utthitta hasta padangusthasana.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. Balancing on one leg with the other knee lifted. In this execise stand on one leg with the foot turned out and the knee slightly bent. Pull the lower belly in. Pull the pubic bone up. Lift the chest. Then lift the knee of the unsupported leg. Then straighten the knee. In this picture weight is on one leg, the other leg is lifed with the lifted knee straight and the foot reaching straight ahead. Lower belly is pulled in, pubic bone lifted and chest lifted. This is a preparation for the balancing on one leg pose utthitta hasta padangusthasana.

    Repeat both sides a few times. Then after the knee raise try to straighten the lifted knee while keeping your lower belly pulled in.

    You may find it helps if you reach your arms to the sides. (not shown.)

    I'd suggest holding only briefly. Then gradually work at extending the time you spend with the knee straight.

    In addition you can also work at doing the exercise with knee straight and supporting foot pointing straight ahead.

    Standing On One Foot Balancing Forward Fold

    balancing on one leg and slowly bending forwards while keeping the lifted knee pulled forwards. This photo shows the finishing position with hands touching the floor. View from the front. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

    The following "standing on one foot forward fold) is a dynamic exercise that involves bending forwards and then standing back upright while staying balanced on one foot. Because this is a learning exercise, switch feet after each repetition.

    Stand with your weight on one leg. The foot of that leg can be slightly turned out. Bend the knee a little bit.

    hip joint anatomy, side view of pelvis and femur showing attachment of gluteus minimus between pelvis and femur. By Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.
    hip joint anatomy, side view of pelvis and femur showing attachment of gluteus medius between pelvis and femur. By Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.
    hip joint anatomy, side view of pelvis and femur showing attachment of tensor fascae latae between pelvis and femur. By Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

    To stabilize the standing leg, focus on squeezing the outer thigh (vastus laterals) and the outer glutes (minimus, medius and tensors fascae latae shown above.)

    Because you are standing on one leg (not two) while doing this, your inner thigh muscles will probably automatically activate to keep your pelvis level. Lift the other knee and pull it forwards so that the center of the lifted shin hangs below your pelvis.

    balancing on one leg and slowly bending forwards while keeping the lifted knee pulled forwards. This photo shows the starting position with knee lifted and torso upright. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
    balancing on one leg and slowly bending forwards while keeping the lifted knee pulled forwards. This photo shows the midpoint position with knee lifted and torso almost horizontal. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
    balancing on one leg and slowly bending forwards while keeping the lifted knee pulled forwards. This photo shows the finishing position with hands touching the floor. View from the side. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

    Slowly bend forwards while keeping the outer thigh engaged. Keep it engaged while standing up.

    While it can be nice to be able to touch the floor the bigger goal is that of keeping the standing leg stable while slowly moving down and then back up.

    To that end, don't worry about touching the floor. Instead go as low as you can while staying stable and then slowly stand back up while maintaining control

    How do you know you are in control? By the fact that you can both movements slowly and smoothly.

    Each time you repeat the pose you can work at gradually increasing how low you go.

    Since the initial purpose of this exercise is to develop control and sensitivity, switch sides after each repetition so that you avoid overly tiring one leg.

    When bending forwards, if you can touch your hands to the floor, keep your arms relaxed and your leg active.

    Rather than shifting weight forwards and leaning into your hands, keep your leg active and use your leg to continue to control your pelvis and upper body.

    Stabilize Foot and Ankle

    You may find that you wobble on your foot and ankle. So as well as stabilizing your outer thigh, stabilize your foot and ankle.

    Pull up on the center of the outer arch. At the same time press down through both the little toe side and the big toe side of the forefoot. Try to keep both sides of the forefoot (and the heel) rooting down. At the same time keep the inner and arch lifted and the ankle strong.

    Alternative for Hip Stabilization

    A variation of this exercise is to focus on activating the inner thigh instead of the outer thigh. Here again the counter acting muscles will activate where necessary to keep the pelvis level.

    Let Body Consciousness Take Over

    Once you've developed the ability to keep the outer thigh and/or inner thigh active, focus instead of bending forwards and standing slowly and smoothly. If you find that you are unstable then deliberately activate outer thigh or inner thigh, or deliberately activate foot and ankle to stabilize it.

    See if you can use the least effort necessary to create stability. Then continue to focus on tipping forwards and standing slowly and in control.

    Warrior 3

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg in warrior 3 with the lifted leg side arm reaching forwards. The other arm is back.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg in warrior 3 with both arms forward but with palms not touching.

    The previous exercise is relatively easy to turn into warrior 3. Start with your standing leg pointing straight ahead. You can keep the standing knee slightly bent or keep it straight. Pull the other knee forwards and slowly bend forwards.

    When you are as low as you can go reach the free leg back. Make your pelvis level from left to right and point the lifted knee down. Slowly bent your spine backwards and reach your chest forwards. At the same time reach your arms back.

    You can hold this position for any number of breaths. Then if you like reach your arms forwards. I'd suggest reaching one arm forwards at a time, reaching each arm slowly forwards with elbows straight. Then see if you can bring your arms together in front of you.

    If you have trouble getting your hands together over your head, try practicing the action while in warrior 1 (below.)

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. warrior 1 with palms touching over the head. This is one way to practice the arm position prior to doing the balancing on one leg pose warrior 3.

    Balancing on One Foot While Moving In (and out) of Half Moon Pose

    Balancing on one foot while moving into half moon yoga pose (ardha chandrasana. Standing with the foot turned out, turn the pelvis to the front and slowly reach to the floor while lifting the free leg. This picture shows the starting position with weight on one leg and the other leg slightly lifted. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
    Balancing on one foot while moving into half moon yoga pose (ardha chandrasana. Standing with the foot turned out, turn the pelvis to the front and slowly reach to the floor while lifting the free leg. This picture shows the the mid-point position with weight on one leg pelvis facing the front and bottom arm reaching towards the floor. Torso is nearly horizontal. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
    Balancing on one foot while moving into half moon yoga pose (ardha chandrasana. Standing with the foot turned out, turn the pelvis to the front and slowly reach to the floor while lifting the free leg. This picture shows the the finishing position  with weight on one leg pelvis facing the front and bottom hand touching the floor. Torso is below horizontal. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

    You can do a similiar balancing on one foot exercise moving in and out of half moon pose.

    Stand with one foot turned out to the side 90 degrees. Shift your weight onto that foot.

    Turn your pelvis square to the front. Then activate the outer thigh and hip muscles of the standing leg. Activate foot and ankle.

    Then reach towards the floor with the bottom hand while lifting the free leg. (You can also reach the free arm straight up or keep it relaxed as in the pictures above).

    The free leg knee can be bent or straight. The focus in this exercise is on keeping the standing leg stable.

    Note if you can't reach the floor just go down as far as possible while maintaining control and then slowly stand back up. With practice you may find that you can gradually go lower.

    As with the previous exercise, switch sides after each repetition.

    Also, do the same exercise while focusing on keeping the inner thigh active. But keep the pelvis facing the front so that the side of the pelvis that is uppermost is stacked over the side that is lowermost (or as close to stacked as possible.)

    Half moon pose (ardha chandrasana) with weight on one leg, one hand touching the floor. Free leg is straight and lifted in line with torso. Free arm is reaching straight upwards. Gaze is upwards. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

    If you can hold half moon pose, try looking up.

    Other Balancing On One Foot Options

    Imitation Tree Yoga Pose

    Modified tree pose position balancing on one foot with the other knee lifted to the side but foot is not touching the supporting leg. Hands are in prayer position. Neil Keleher in Blue jeans. Sensaional Yoga Poses.

    You can do an "imitation tree pose" balancing on one foot posture.

    Instead of resting the foot against the inner thigh, keep it away from the inner thigh.

    Stabilize the standing leg. While you can focus on moving in and out of this pose, I'd suggest just holding it for five or more breaths.

    Stabilizing the Legs While Standing On Both Feet

    The actions that you practice when balancing on one foot may be helpful in yoga standing poses like standing forward bend, chair pose, triangle twist, warrior 1 and more.

    , yoga standing poses, chair pose, utkatasana. In this picture of chair yoga pose I'm standing with feet slightly separared. Knees are bent slightly more than 90 degrees with the thighs nearly horizontal. The low back is slightly arched and chest is lifted. Both arms are reaching up past the head with elbows straight and palms together. In this picture the gaze is forwards.

    In chair pose squeeze the outer thighs and then squeeze the inner thighs so that your knees continue to point in the same direction as your toes.

    In triangle twist and parsvottanasana. You can experiment with just activating the outer thighs or activate both outer thigh and inner thighs. Likewise in standing forward bend.

    Adding Complexity to Balancing on One Foot

    Binding yoga poses while balancing on one foot include: tree pose, eagle yoga pose, utthitta hasta padangusthasana variations 1 and 2, half bound lotus forward bend and "dancer" yoga pose.

    All of these balancing on one leg yoga positions are positions where one foot presses against the other leg or a hand grabs the foot or ankle of the lifted leg.

    Tree Pose

    As a prelude to tree pose you can stand lean to the side while standing on one leg with the opposite knee lifted.

    If standing on the right leg, bend to the right and reach the left knee to the left. Use leg muscle power to pull the heel towards the inner thigh.

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg while preparign to enter tree pose by bending to the standing leg side
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg while moving into tree pose by bending towards the side and grabbing the lifted foot with the opposite hand
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg while moving into tree pose by bending towards the side and grabbing the lifted foot with the opposite hand and placing it agains the inner thigh

    Hold for a few moments then to move into tree pose grab the foot with one hand, bring it high onto the inner thigh, smoothly press your foot against your inner thigh, let go and slowly stand upright. Press your foot into your inner thigh.

    Note that in tree pose the leg presses against the inner thigh. Like in binding yoga poses this changes the way that your body works. As such, if you press your foot suddenly into your thigh you may find that it is difficult to maintain balance.

    If you first just touch the leg to the inner thigh (using balance basic parlance, make the foot "empty") then slowly and smoothly press it into the thigh (making it "full" or partially full.)

    As you press the foot into the thigh you can resist and press the thigh against the foot. As you do so stay aware of your standing foot so that it is easier to stay balanced.

    You can reach your arms out to the side or put them in prayer position (not shown.) Other arm positions are also possible.

    For style points you can reach your bent leg arm down and to the side. Pull the other elbow up and to the side. You can look down your arm as if aiming a bow.

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg in tree pose with the arms in a modified "archer" position, one arm straight the other arm bent as if pulling a bow string.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg in tree pose with arms out to the side

    If you are doing this "bow pulling" action I prefer to grab the foot with the opposite hand. The action of then bringing the hand to the ear and straightening the other arm can then be made smoother.

    Check out tree pose for more options.

    Why Bend to the Side First?

    You don't have to bend to the opposite side prior to going into tree pose. However one reason that I tried it was as a way to practice activating the abs on the standing leg side. Activating the abs may then make it easier to bring the leg up since the abs help to stabilize the ribcage which in turn may make it easier to lift the opposite hip.

    Also, standing up straight while balancing on one leg requires awareness and control.

    Can you stand up slowly and smoothly? Can you stay balanced while doing so? To make staying balanced on one leg easier, focus on feeling the foot that you are balancing on. Notice pressure changes and respond to those changes so that you stay balanced.

    Eagle Pose

    Eagle is another "self contacting" or if you like "binding" type of balancing on one leg yoga pose. The legs (and arms) wrap around each other, and because of this they change the configuration of the body making it work slightly differently (like switching between operating systems on your mac book pro.)

    A similiar style of entry as used in tree pose could be used for eagle.

    Standing on the right foot, lean to the right and bring the left knee forwards and up with the ankle in front of the thigh. Then turn the pelvis to the right to increase the cross of the legs.

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg while moving into eagle pose with lifted foot in front of the standing leg knee.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg while moving into eagle pose with opposite hand moving towards the lifted foot.

    In this instance again, you can use your abs to bend to the side which in turn may help to lift the opposite hip making it easier to wrap the legs.

    To bring the ankles closer together, you could try engaging the abs to bend your spine forwards and at the same time bring the left ankle closer to the right.

    Use your left hand on the knee to push it further right. Use the right hand on the left ankle to push it behind the foot.

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg with legs crossed while moving into eagle pose. I'm using hands to push the top knee and ankle into the cross legged eagle position.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg while crossing the legs and ankles fully for eagle pose. The foot is hooker around the ankle of my standing leg.

    If you can already easily do eagle hands then once your ankles are crossed, move the left forearm slightly right keeping the elbow bent. Poke the right arm up inside the left elbow with forearm rotated externally.

    Then with elbows crossed (right on top of left) bring the right hand back to hook the left hand.

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg with the legs crossed in eagle position as I prepare to put my hands in eagle with the right forearm "over" the left wrist.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg with the legs in eagle position as I cross the elbows and get ready to complete eagle position with the arms.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg while legs and arms crossed in eagle pose.

    Staying Balanced

    Here again because the legs are touching it can interfere with your perception of your balancing leg. Focus on feeling the foot.

    Focus on making the right leg (the standing leg) strong first. Then gradually engage the "crossing" foot. This latter action can be as simple as pressing the inside edge of the left foot against the ankle of the right foot. You may find that your left hip lifts and rolls forwards slightly as a result.

    More on Wrapping In Eagle

    If you have trouble wrapping the legs read more in eagle yoga pose. For wrapping the arms read eagle yoga pose arms.

    Bound Balancing On One Foot Yoga Poses

    Bound balancing on one foot poses include bound lotus pose, quad stretch, dancer and two of the utthitta hasta padangusthasana set of poses.

    In all of these poses (except for the last in the utthitta hasta padangusthasana set) a hand grabs a foot or toe.

    These poses aren't quite as difficult as the above poses since the bind doesn't affect the foundation.

    However they do affect the internal dynamics of the body and so to make maintaining balance easier, when you move into the bind, apply tension gradually if possible.

    Utthitta Hasta Padangusthasana, Balancing On One Foot While Grabbing A Toe

    In the "pro" version of utthitta hasta padangusthasana (or "Hand to Big Toe Pose") you grab the big toe. In the first position the leg is to the front, then you move it to the side, then you move it back to the front but letting go with the hand.

    To get used to how holding on to the toe can affect your balance, grab on to a knee first and push your knee forwards while pulling back with your hands. Push smoothly and slowly rather than suddenly. Use the same approach when it comes time for grabbing the big toe.

    Read more in utthitta hasta padangusthasana.

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg in utthitta hasta padangusthasana with leg to the front while holding onto big toe.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg in utthitta hasta padangusthasana with leg to the side while holding onto big toe.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg in utthitta hasta padangusthasan with leg to the front and both hands on the waist.

    Bound Lotus

    For bound lotus balancing on one foot, I'd suggest a substitute pose first. Doing a quad stretch and grabbing the foot with the same hand. Keep the knee down and bend forwards and touch the other hand to the floor. Work towards doing the pose while grabbing the foot with the opposite hand.

    Try to rotate the thigh so that the foot is behind the opposite buttock, close to the grabbing hand. This is about as close as you can get to the half bound lotus pose without actually being in it.

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg while bend forwards with the hand grabbing the lifted ankle in this substitute for lotus pose that is similiar to the quad stretch position
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg with the other knee bent and the hand holding on the foot with the lifted leg externall rotated. I'm grabbing the foot with the opposite hand. One hand is on the floor.

    A variation of the modification is to lift the knee while bend forwards so that the pose better resembles the splits but while balancing on the front foot.

    As with the previous pose you can play with applying tension prior to bending forwards or after bending forwards. Feel like you are trying to pull your foot out of your hand. You can also make your leg feel like you are trying to straighten the knee. Again, do this slowly so that it is easier to stay balanced.

    Read more about ardha baddha padmotanasana (pictured below).

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one leg and one hand in half bound lotus forward bend or ardha baddha padmasana.

    Dancer

    For dancer I used to teach it as follows. Grab the foot, Bend the spine backwards. Then tilt the pelvis forwards while keeping the spine bent backwards. Then add tension to the leg and arm by reaching the foot away from the hip.

    One option is to reach the free hand forwards. The option I preferred is to touch the free hand to the floor.

    focus on pulling upwards on the inner thigh of the foot that you are grabbing. It's like you are trying to use your inner thigh to internally rotate the leg.

    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one foot while upright in dance with the same side hand grabbing the lifted foot behind the body
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one foot in the dancer position with the torso tilted forwards and the other foot being grabbed behind the back. Free hand is reaching forwards.
    Sensational Yoga Poses, Model Neil Keleher. balancing on one foot in dancer position with the non-binding hand touching the floor. I'm holding the inside of the foot with the same side han

    See if you can keep your pelvis level from left to right as you do so.

    And see if you can stand with control when coming out of the pose. To do so make sure you shift all of your weight onto your foot before trying to stand up.

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