Building leg strength is beneficial to maintaining stability, health and mobility of the knees and hips, and improving muscle strength all the way from the hips to the feet. Better lower body flexibility will help you achieve backbends, balancing poses and more with ease. Lower body strength is also beneficial in day-to-day life, allowing you to go about everyday activities without causing wear-and-tear and other side effects. Yoga asanas effectively helps you achieve this strength and flexibility. Moreover, by strengthening the leg muscles, the knee and hip joints also get added support. When the muscles around these joints are stronger, posture, alignment and weight distribution is better, reducing unnecessary strain on the joints.
9 Yoga Poses for Leg Strength
Downward-facing Dog Pose
Known as Adho Mukha Svanasana, the beginner-level pose stretches the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves and lower back. It also stretches the shoulders and upper back. It is an inversion that encourages blood flow to the brain.
How to do Downward-facing Dog Pose
- First come into the starting position of cat-cow pose (on your palms and knees). From here, push back through your hands and lift your hips. Straighten your legs.
- Keep the palms firmly on the mat with the fingers spread. The feet will be on the mat. If you find this difficult, you can also only place your toes on the mat.
- Keep the shoulders away from the ears. Look towards your abdomen.
- Engage your thighs and core to hold the posture. Keep taking slow deep breaths.
- To release the posture, exhale and bend your knees. Come down to the child's pose.
The Triangle pose, Trikonasana, stretches and strengthens all the muscles of the legs, from the back, hips and thighs to the calves and feet. The hamstrings get stretched and strengthened.
How to do Triangle Pose
- Stand straight and keep the feet about 3-4 feet apart.
- Now align the center of your right heel with the center of the left foot. Ensure your feet are pressing the ground firmly and the weight of your body is equally balanced on both the feet.
- As you inhale and exhale, bend your body to the right, downward from the hips and keeping the waist straight. Now extend the left arm up towards the sky, rotating the hip, abdomen and chest to the left side and your right hand comes down towards the floor. Keep both arms in a straight line.
- Straighten the front knee, pushing the hips back, maintaining a lateral stretch on the left side of the body. Find your balance looking down, and then look up towards the left fingertips.
- Breathe deeply while you stretch to the maximum and maintain balance. Repeat the pose with the other leg.
Extended Side Angle Pose
Known as Parsvokonasana, the Extended Side Angle pose also provides a deep stretch and strengthening effect to the legs. From the hips and thighs to the ankles, the muscles get a deep stretch. The arms and shoulders also get stretched and strengthened in this pose.
How to do Extended Side Angle Pose
- From the low lunge, Ashvasanchalasana, place the right palm on the outside of the right foot.
- Inhale and lift the left arm up, opening up the chest and abdomen to the side. Turn the left toes towards the side, placing the heels down.
- Exhale, bend the right knee such that the thigh is parallel to the floor and the right knee is aligned over the heel.
- Inhale and as you exhale, stretch the left arm over the left ear with the palm facing down.
- Turn the head in the upward direction and look towards the left fingertips.
- Bring the left arm down. Turning the body in, come back into Ashvasanchalasana.
- You can also lift the right palm off the ground, straighten the right leg, turn the toes in and come into a wide legged stance.
Warrior 1 and 2
How to do Warrior 1 and 2
- The starting position of all these asanas is the same. Stand about 3 feet apart with your right foot facing forward while your left leg is straight behind you with your foot flat on the floor. The foot will be pointing outwards.
- Come into a lunging position with your torso facing forward for warrior one.
- Now raise your hands up and gaze forward. Make sure your front leg knee is in line with your foot and thigh is parallel to the floor.
- For warrior 2, turn your torso to the side such that you are facing sideways. But turn your neck and look in the direction of the front foot. Bring your hands to shoulder level such that the hands are parallel to the mat.
- For both poses you will have to engage the core, thigh muscles, abdominal muscles and take deep breaths. Keep the back straight, focus your attention on any stretch you are feeling in different parts of the body.
Standing Forward Bend
This forward bending asana is called Uttanasana. It is impactful in stretching the hamstrings and quadriceps, releasing tightness and stiffness from the muscles of the legs. Initially it might be challenging to straighten the legs completely, but with practice the knees will get straight.
How to do Standing Forward Bend Pose
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Raise your hands up and start bending over at your hips until you’re placing your palms on your shins, ankles, or the floor (wherever you can reach).
- You can bend your knees a little bit, but try to keep them as straight as you can.
- Let your head hang down and relax, whilst keeping your legs nice and long.
- You can hold the pose for up to a minute or as long as comfortable.
A simple balancing pose, Vriksasana helps improve stability, strength and balance. It helps prepare for more challenging balancing poses, while also improving focus and concentration.
How to do Tree Pose
- Stand in the Mountain Pose, Tadasana. Stabilize your posture with both your feet rooted into the floor and weight evenly distributed.
- Now shift your weight onto your right foot. Slowly lift your left foot off the floor.
- Ensure the right leg is straight but don't lock the knee.
- Bend the left knee and place the sole of your left foot at the top of your right inner thigh.
- Engage the foot and thigh by pressing the left foot into your thigh and your thigh back into your foot with equal pressure. This will help you keep both hips towards the front and avoid the right hip from jutting out.
- Bring the hands into Namaste Mudra in front of your chest. If you are comfortable, you can raise the hands up above the head in Namaste.
- Gaze directly at a point in front of you to maintain balance.
- Stay in the posture for a few deep breaths. Then slowly lower your left foot to the floor. Repeat this with the other leg.
More challenging the Tree Pose, Dancer’s Pose stretches the leg muscles, hamstrings and lower back. It helps establish a stronger foundation for balancing poses, improves focus and awareness. The asana is known as Natrajasana.
How to Dancer’s Pose
- Take one step forward with your right leg, and shift the body weight forward on that leg. Inhale and as you exhale, lift the left foot off the ground, bending the knee, and holding the left ankle from the inside or the outside.
- Again, inhale, and as you exhale, take the upper body forward, simultaneously raising the left knee higher, pushing the foot into the hand.
- After reaching a stable position, inhale and extend the right hand forward, joining the index finger and thumb in gyan mudra. Looking toward the right fingertips.
- As you exhale, bring the left knee down, release the ankle from the hand
- Release the right hand down, straighten the body and come into Samasthiti.
- Repeat the asana with the other leg.
A more challenging balancing pose, Virabhadrasana 3 lengthens, stretches and strengthens the muscles all the way from the fingertips to the toes. The leg and core muscles must remain engaged and active throughout to maintain a proper balance.
How to do Virabhadrasana 3
- Stand at the front of your mat with feet hips-width apart.
- Inhale, extend your arms to the ceiling and shift your weight to your right leg.
- Exhale and start bending forward from the upper body.
- Raise the left leg and straighten it out behind you.
- Engage the core and the legs to maintain your balance. Keep the left foot flexed.
- Ensure the hips stay in one line.
- Gaze directly in front of you.
- To release, return slowly to a standing position and then repeat on the other side
Sarvangasana is a good practice to do at the end of a leg strengthening flow as it provides immense relaxation to the legs. Blood flow improves and any strain on the muscles reduces greatly.
How to do Sarvangasana
- Lie down on your back with your arms by the side of the body. Now bend your knees and start raising your legs towards your chest. Take the support of your hands to raise the bent legs over your head.
- Now move the hands to the lower back where the rib cage ends. Using this as support, slowly move your hips towards your head and straighten your legs in a controlled manner.
- Keep your palms firmly on the back. The weight of the body should be on the shoulders and not the neck.
- Stay here for a few breaths. To come out of the asana, first bend the legs and lower them towards the head and then bring them back down.
Remember to always listen to your body. You might feel like a stretch is too intense or you don’t have the required strength yet. Start slow, practice with awareness and deep breaths and gradually progress. The best way to practice safely is to join a LIVE yoga class with experienced teachers who can guide you through specific poses to build leg strength.