THE CHALLENGE OF YOGA STANDING POSES
We humans are among few animals on earth that walk on two feet, and it's easy to see why there aren’t more bipeds around -- staying upright on only two points of contact is hard! We recognize this when we see someone’s dog dancing on two feet for a treat, but we’re so accustomed to our own balancing prowess we tend not to think about it much or work to consciously refine it. Most of us are more likely to spend hours teaching a Pomeranian to balance on two feet than ten minutes teaching ourselves!
And that’s a shame because, whether you’re a football player fighting off a tackle or a senior traversing a slippery sidewalk, achieving better balance on your feet can have enormous physical benefits. That’s partly why yoga incorporates so many foot balances; as a purely physical matter, being steady on our feet is as important and practical as it is quintessentially human. But, as with all asanas, these poses are as much metaphorical as physical. By working on them mindfully — while balancing effort and release, breath and movement, body and mind — we can learn to bring poise and stability into our everyday lives. We can learn to be balanced in a larger, more holistic sense too.
BUILD STRENGTH AND FOCUS GRADUALLY
Below you will find many options to explore some of yoga’s most common foot balance poses. At the top, we present a list of short individual videos that guide you from balancing on one foot into progressively more difficult poses. Further down, in the yoga classes section, we list practices that integrate yoga balance poses and cater to a variety of skill levels. At the bottom of the page, you will find a yoga challenges and peak pose challenge that guide intermediate practitioners into more challenging yoga balance poses.
There’s nothing more exciting than teetering your way into a new balance pose, but remember that nailing these postures isn’t everything. Keep in mind that yoga is a holistic practice. While balancing on your feet, try not to get too focussed on balancing feats!
Important: some of the content below is free, some is accessible only to subscribers.
FOOT BALANCING POSES - TUTORIALS
Learning to Balance on One Foot
Unsure if you can stand on one leg? Learn how with this video that teaches you to strengthen and ground through your supporting leg while in any yoga foot balance pose.
Tree Pose - Vrksasana
A great beginner balancing asana, Tree Pose teaches you how to root through your foundation and develop the calm and focussed mind that is necessary for all yoga balance poses. Stand tall and steady like this pose’s namesake!
Warrior 3 Pose - Virabhadrasana 3
Difficulty: Gentle Intermediate
Warrior III is a great pose to challenge your balance, strength and focus. Try to keep your gaze fixed and your mind quiet, feeling for any and all shifts within your body. This pose also increases flexibility in the hamstrings and hips.
Half Moon Pose - Ardha Chandrasana
Half Moon demands strength in the hips and buttocks, flexibility in the legs and back, as well as a steady, focussed mind. It will give intermediate students a chance to refine their strength and balance simultaneously.
Dancer's Pose - Natarjasana
Fiji takes you through a series of progressively more difficult variations on dancer’s pose, finishing with full Natarajasana. This pose requires a significant mobility in the hip flexors and spine, as well as an unwavering focus.
Eagle Pose - Garudasana
Eagle Pose develops ankle strength and removes stiffness in the shoulders. Do your best to keep your shoulders and hips squared forward when doing Garudasana, as it will help you tone the legs muscles and reduce the risk of them cramping up.
Revolved Half Moon Pose - Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana
Difficulty: Challenging Intermediate
This balancing twist involves a torso rotation that strengthens the core, cleanses the digestive organs and increases mobility in the spine. You’ll feel it in the glutes and IT band of your standing leg. Be sure to engage your standing leg’s quadricep and avoid locking the knee.
Standing Splits Pose - Urdhva Parasarita Padasana
Difficulty: Challenging Intermediate
Standing Splits Pose stretches the back of the legs and improves circulation in the abdomen. It requires flexibility, focus and steady balance.
Bird of Paradise Pose - Svarga Dvidasana
Bird of Paradise is one of yoga’s most challenging balance poses, but it comes with a host of benefits! It strengthens the standing leg right through the angle knee and thigh, stretches the hamstring, and opens the groin. It’s a great challenge for more advanced yogis!
Extended Hand to Big Toe Sequence - Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
In this video, you are led through a series of variations, and the full pose,of Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. Perfect for those looking to push their boundaries, each variation will stretch your legs a little differently and challenge you to remain and anchored through prolonged balancing poses on one foot.
Balance for Beginners
Instructor: Anastasia Hangemanole
Anastasia leads you through a great all-round class that tests your balance on your feet, hands and knees while also opening your back, hip flexors and shoulders.
3 Poses to Challenge Your Balance
Instructor: Satiya Channer
Satiya moves you through three beginner level balance poses, helping you understand stability, focus and how to relax into a pose. Her gentle nature and calm delivery will help find the ease needed to hold and sustain foot balance poses.
Power Yoga for Balance
Instructor: Ron Stewart
If you have never taken a yoga class with Ron, now is your chance!. Coming from a background in dance and performance, he brings a wonderfully creative approach to this class that may teach you something new about standing yoga poses...and about yourself!
Natarajasana: Dance of the Divine
Instructor: Shivani Wells
In this class, Shivani gives natarajasana all the time it deserves, giving you plenty of opportunity to explore the complex nuances of this challenging foot balance. She helps you warm and and open your body to make this pose as accessible as possible when the time comes to give it a try.
Strengthen Your Balance
Instructor: Tracey Noseworthy
Tracey leads you through a challenging power yoga flow that takes you through foot balance poses that progress from challenging to super challenging! Her refined description of stability and balance may help you accomplish poses you never thought you could!
Binds, Birds and Balances
Instructor: Crista Shillington
This class is not for the faint of heart! It will push your boundaries in many ways, but the rewards are as great as the efforts needed to achieve them! Enjoy foot and arm balances, binds, and a great release from your feet to your shoulders.
Get Strong! Lower Body 21-Day Yoga Challenge
This thoughtfully-designed 21-day journey helps you gain strength, flexibility and balance, pushing your boundaries while also providing opportunities to slow down, rest and recover from the more difficult classes. It pushes you to explore poses that may challenge you in a variety of ways, with an emphasis on leg strength and foot balances.
PEAK POSE CHALLENGES
Peak Pose: Dancer's with Fiji McAlpine
Dancer's pose is a favorite among yogis due to its challenging nature and elegant feel. Fiji takes 4 classes to warm you up, teach you the fundamentals and prepare your body for the strength, flexibility and focus needed to move into, and hold, this challenging foot balance.