Advanced Yoga Pose Library

Side Crow Variation
Side Crow Variation. © Ann Pizer

Are you ready to tackle some advanced yoga poses? If you have a good grip on basic arm balances, inversions, and backbends, you can start to work on some of the poses below. Keep in mind that what makes these poses advanced is that they require a great deal of both strength and flexibility - both things you get from doing a lot of yoga over a long period. By this time, you probably have a good idea of what kind of poses come easy for you and which are more challenging.

Try to avoid the checklist mentality- ticking off poses as if there will be a reward (enlightenment?) when you get to the end of your list. There's always going to be some refinement or variation to the physical yoga postures, so there really is never an end to what you can learn. 

Standing Poses

A complex fusion of different actions makes for the most challenging standing poses. The poses below require that you balance on one leg while also doing something else difficult, like a deep back bend or twist.

The Bird of Paradise may look impossible to you at first, but if you visualize it as a series of achievable maneuvers, you'll see it's possible after all. Before trying Bird of Paradise, make sure you can do a a bound extended side angle pose. The Bird of Paradise strengthens your legs and core while improving your balance.

Meanwhile, if you're looking to strengthen your ankles and thighs and even assist your digestion while improving your balance, you should try the Revolved Half Moon Pose - Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana.

This pose is extremely challenging to achieve, and you'll probably need a block under your lower hand, especially at first.

Backbends

These are the most intense back bends, some of which culminate in bringing the top of your head to the soles of your feet.

The Little Thunderbolt Pose - Laghu Vajrasana is performed with your hands on your ankles (in the Ashtanga version) or on your thighs.

If you're comfortable in n camel pose you may want to try the Ashtanga version.

If you've progressed through pigeon prep and mermaid pose, you're ready for the One Legged King Pigeon Pose - Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, a pose that takes some yoga practitioners many years to reach, due to its dependence on flexibility in the hips, shoulders and back.

Like the other backbend poses, the Wheel Pose - Urdhva Dhanurasana takes quite a bit of practice and flexibility. You may want to enlist a partner to help, or attempt the pose at the wall the first few times.

Seated Poses

These seated poses involve the splits, bringing your leg behind your head... all sorts of things that depend on extremely open hamstrings.

The Compass Pose - Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana is one such pose requiring extremely open hamstrings, plus shoulders. However, you can practice this pose with a bent knee until you're able to straighten your leg completely.

If you can perform splits like they're done in gymnastics and cheerleading, the Monkey Pose - Hanumanasana is the pose for you.

However, don't assume it's exactly the same as in those sports—it's subtly different.

Arm Balances

Like advanced standing poses, advanced arm balances are usually about being able to do a combination of tricky maneuvers simultaneously. In this case, that means balancing on your arms while doing a variety of different things with your legs. The good news is, once you get the arms part down, the leg variations often come (comparatively) easily. 

The Dragonfly Pose is extremely difficult, so don't expect to master it quickly. However, consistent yoga work should get you there eventually. The same goes for the Firefly Pose - Tittibhasana, although when attempting Firefly initially, the advantage is that you'll land on your butt if you lose your balance.

To get to Flying Crow Pose - Eka Pada Galavasana, you first should master crow (for the balance technique) and pigeon (for the hip flexibility). Some people find Side Crow Pose - Parsva Bakasana easier to perform than crow, since it's a bit more stable.

Inversions

These inversions are often introduced in intermediate classes using the wall as a prop. Moving these poses away from the wall is the next step.

For the Forearm Stand - Pincha Mayurasana, once you can perform the inversion on the wall, you should begin to engage your core to move away from the wall. The same goes for the Handstand - Adho Mukha Vrksasana, where once you've mastered the pose on the wall, you'll start to move your heels away from the wall while keeping your balance. And for the Scorpion Pose - Vschikasana, you'll need to have mastered the forearm stand.

Continue Reading