The Friday 5: My 5 Favorite Balancing Poses

Hey everyone! For today’s Friday Five I am going to talk about my five favorite leg strengtheners. This post was inspired by Judy’s post on the importance of single leg stability. It’s super important for runners to have strong legs, but also have stabilizing muscles in our legs for balance. So these five yoga postures (and movements) not only help gain stabilizing muscles in your legs and hips, but also a lot of strength and flexibility. Remember to do each posture on both sides!! Also, Sydney (my cat) is featured in all of the photos. 🙂

Standing Splits

We’ll just start with a posture that I find incredibly challenging. It requires extremely flexible hamstrings and hips, which not all of us have. Start with your feet together in a forward fold. Then shift your weight to one side and lift the opposite leg as high as you can. Once the leg is lifted, draw the hip of the lifted leg down very slightly. As a modification, you can use blocks or books beneath the hands or bend the standing leg.

StandingSplits

Standing Splits – For me this is one of the most challenging poses

Standing Stick to Knee to chest

This is a movement, not just a single posture. Start in standing and reach your arms up over head. Shift your weight to one side and hinge forward at the hips while lifting the opposite leg. Stop wherever you start to lose balance. Eventually you may get to the point you that you can create a “T” with your torso and legs. This is called Standing Stick. Hold for one breath, and then begin to lift back up, bend the lifted leg and once you are upright, pull the lifted leg in towards your chest. Return back to standing sticks. Make sure to draw your hips in towards center so that one hip isn’t popping out. Repeat 4 times and do both sides.

standstick

Standing Sticks

 

kneetochest

Standing Knee to Chest

 Standing hand to big toe pose

This is another very challenging pose that requires a lot of flexibility. Start in standing. Shift your weight to the left and draw the right knee towards chest. Then, draw that knee up a little higher than you think you need to using your right hand hand. Take the index and middle finger of your right hand around your right big toe. Begin to draw the leg forward and then out towards the side. The leg does not need to be straight, and as with any standing posture, feel free to lean up against a wall. Make sure that your left hip is not popping out and try and draw it in towards center. Repeat on the other side.

handtobigtoe

Hand to Big Toe Pose

Eagle Pose to Standing Stick

This is a bit of a strange posture. Start in standing by taking your right arm over your left arm and see if you can bring your palms together (if not, that’s ok. Just get it as close as you can). Make sure your feet are together and then bend the knees and drop your seating bones back (like there is a chair behind you). Take your left leg over your right (just like your arms are but the legs and arms are opposite). You can try to wrap your right ankle around your left leg, if not, just let the foot stick out. This is Eagle Pose. Hold for a breath or two.

Eagle

Eagle Pose

Then, unravel the right leg away from the left leg (keep the arms the way they are) and start to kick that leg straight back. Now you are in standing stick again, with the arms in a different variation. Take a breath and then slowly come back into eagle pose. Repeat 4x and do both sides.

eaglestandstkc

Standing Sticks with Eagle Arms

 Half Moon Pose

Most people benefit from a block or pile of books for this pose (or chair as well). Take the block and place it out in front of your feet. Come to standing and hinge forward at the hips for a forward fold. Place your right hand on the block and make sure your wrist is stacked under the shoulder. Shift your weight to your right foot, take your left hand to your left hip and begin to lift the left leg up. Keep the foot flexed and take your left hip above your right hip so your left toes are facing towards the left. Maybe lift that left hand.

halfmoon

Half Moon Pose

Thanks everyone for checking this out and thanks to Mar on the Run, Eat Pray Run, and You Signed Up for What?! for hosting the linkup.

DC-Trifecta-Friday-Five-linkup

What is your favorite balancing posture? Do you work on single leg stabilization?

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42 thoughts on “The Friday 5: My 5 Favorite Balancing Poses

    • Hi Megan! People differ on how long to hold a yoga pose, but usually I hold it for at least 5 breaths, especially if I am looking for a more static practice (I try to inhale for 3 counts and exhale for 3 counts per breath, minimum). If I am trying to develop flexibility and stability in a pose, I hold the pose for longer (about 7-10 full breaths). In a dynamic vinyasa flow where you are constantly on the move, I move with every inhale and exhale.

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      • My pleasure! That’s kind of you to say 🙂 Yes, please do! Right now it’s just abstract meditations on themes in Sufi Yoga–but over time I am hoping to put up some themed yoga sequences and tips for practising healthy asanas.

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    • I know, Sydney is so adorable. She usually doesn’t hang out with me, so I was surprised she was hanging out while I did my yoga poses. Also, MuslimYogini is totally right, like 5-10 breaths (nice slow breaths).

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    • I used to have a really hard time with half moon, but I started doing it around my house using chairs or other furniture, or by putting my lifted foot against a wall. It helps a lot.

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  1. Ah thanks. Needed some inspiration. Stuck in a bit of a yoga rut and currently doing little if any. Need to build up strength as hamstring getting progressively sorer 😦

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  2. I knew my strength training routine was working when I finally hit half-moon. My leg would never be that high because I didn’t have the strength to keep it up. Now I can 🙂

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  3. Great idea, I should try some of these! I’d probably fall over during all of them though, LOL. I’m impressed with your flexibility. I don’t think any amount of yoga classes could make me not look like a doofus when I’m trying to do the poses.

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  4. My favorite is Tree pose! A lot of these are tough for me and require a LOT of practice, and the block is a necessity!

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  5. I am totally gonna do a set of all of these tonight!! My favorite poses are Dancer, Tree, and Warrior 3 (which is very similar to Standing Stick). I never thought about doing the standing poses by a wall for support…duh! Wish I would have known that before 😉

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