20 Advanced Poses for Yoga Mavens

These Poses Are for Yoga Mavens

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 strength and flexibility, both things you get from doing a lot of yoga over a long period.

The most challenging poses require you to do a combination of tricky maneuvers simultaneously: a deep backbend or twist while standing on one leg, for instance. If you just look at the end results, some of these postures seem far-fetched, but once you see their constituent parts the glimmer of possibility arises. We'll break them down for you with advice about preparatory poses and links to complete step-by-step instructions for each posture specifically.


Advanced yoga class
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Bird of paradise (far left, above) is really an add-on to bound extended side angle, so don't try to get into this balance unless you have a firm grip of your hands behind your back with both feet on the ground.

Straightening the lifted leg is the final flourish but don't worry about it if you're hamstring-challenged.  How you get out of this pose is as important as how you get in. Cultivate the strength and control to step back to side angle.



How to Do Compass Pose
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The way into compass is through elephant's trunk pose. Both these postures require you to get your leg as high as possible over your shoulder as if you were wearing it as a backpack. Don't be in a rush to straighten your leg or even grab your foot. It's more important to keep your chest open and your spine from rounding.



Man performing dragonfly yoga pose
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Dragonfly is definitely one of those "how'd you do that?" poses. It would be really difficult to get your legs into this position while you are balancing on your hands, so you have to set up the legs in a standing position. The necessary elements come from one-legged utkatasana (with the legs in a figure-four position) and side crow. If your arm balancing is pretty solid, give it a try.


Eight Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)

Yoga practitioner in eight angle pose (astavakrasana)
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Here's another pose that builds from elephant's trunk pose. Hold your legs tightly clasped around your upper arm and keep your feet flexed as you tilt the torso forward to straighten your legs. It's not going to work if your legs are all loosey goosey. Try to keep your shoulder above your elbows to minimize the wear and tear in your shoulder joints.


How to Do Firefly Pose - Tittibhasana
Firefly Pose - Tittibhasana. MichaelSvoboda/E+/Getty Images

Firefly prep is squatting in malasana and transitioning to arm pressure pose (bhujapidasana). Just like compass pose (above), it's a lot about getting your legs positioned up near your shoulders. Then it's squeezing the arms tightly with the legs and straightening them as much as possible.



Flying Crow - Eka Pada Galavasana
Ann Pizer

If you can do crow pose and are very comfortable with both hips on the floor in pigeon, flying crow is probably within your reach. Like dragonfly, above, this pose is best entered through a figure-four position in utkatasana (one ankle resting on the opposite thigh). From there, it's a matter of keeping both feet flexed and legs engaged while you tilt forward until your back foot lifts off the ground.


Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana)

Side view of woman in exercise studio doing handstand
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Lots and lots of dolphins and forearm planks pave the road to pincha mayurasana. A few props can also be helpful. A block between your hands and a strap around the upper arms can help you maintain the correct alignment and also give you something to press into, which is surprisingly helpful. If you're working at the wall, be sure to give yourself the opportunity to take your feet away and practice balancing.


How to Do a Yoga Handstand
Handstand - Adho Mukha Vrksasana. Ann Pizer

How do you get into a handstand? Practice, practice, practice. Practice things like handstand kick-ups from standing split and yoga crunches to strengthen your core. Practice non-attachment to doing handstands and safe alignment. Practice at home and in class.



Hurdler Pose - Eka Pada Koundinyasana II
Ann Pizer

If your teacher is a fan of plank variations, she's doing a good job preparing you for hurdler pose. Just lean forward a little from a plank with your left knee resting on your left arm and your right foot lifts off the floor. It's all about finding your center of gravity through simpler arm balances like ​crow.



Woman in natarajasana
Ann Pizer

Does this pose look familiar? You may recognize it from the cover of B.K.S. Iyengar's classic Light on Yoga. Being iconic doesn't make it any less challenging, however. Balancing on one leg is difficult enough, then add in a strong backbend and very open shoulders. Practicing full pigeon (see below) is probably the best prep, plus other balances to build core strength. If you can't quite reach your foot, a strap can bridge the gap.


Little Thunderbolt Pose (Laghu Vajrasana)

Little Thunderbolt Pose - Laghu Vajrasana
Ann Pizer

Deep backbends are not to be rushed or pushed into. While we can all use to improve our spinal mobility and stretch the back muscles, there are some people that are always going to be more back-bendy than others. Laghu vajrasana is an extension of camel pose in which the crown of the head comes to meet the soles of the feet.


Woman in lotus pose
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Because lotus is so identified with yoga, you might expect to get to it early in your practice. But that's not the case for most people. It takes open hips to sit in this posture in a way that doesn't stress out your knees. You may have heard that lotus is a seat for meditation, but it's certainly not a prerequisite. Any comfortable seated position that allows the spine to stay long (which often requires raising the hips by sitting on a blanket or block) works just as well.



Woman in Monkey Pose (Hanumanasana)
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A yoga split is not the same as a gymnastics split. (This is a bit of a pet peeve!) The hips should be oriented to the front of your mat. Both hips! If you are opening the hip on the side with the leg back, take a moment to come up out of the full pose and square your hips forward. For those working their way down, a block under each hand and one under the front hamstring can be immensely helpful.


One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Woman practicing yoga.
Darko Veselinovic / Getty Images

Pigeon prep is usually thought of as a hip opener, but full pigeon layers on a deep backbend plus massive quad stretch that also requires a lot of shoulder flexibility. If you're wondering how to connect the two, mermaid fills in the gap. Working with a strap ​around your foot also helps to create the shape if your hands won't quite reach your toes.


Man in Peacock Yoga Pose (Mayurasana)
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Peacock is different from other arm balances because instead of relying on chaturanga arms, your hands are turned backwards and your elbows tucked under your stomach. It really feels like starting from scratch but it's still about figuring out where your center of gravity is. People often teach this pose with the head on the floor, but that throws things off to some extent because your head is heavy so when you try to lift it your balance changes. Better to work on the pose keeping the head off the ground if possible.


Revolved Half Moon Pose (Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana)

Woman in revolved half moon pose
Alberto Guglielmi / Getty Images

Half moon pose is a classic standing yoga posture that is rightfully introduced in many beginners yoga classes. Revolved half moon is a different story. Switch your weight from one hand to the other, add a twist, and watch your back leg magically descend toward the floor. Often it feels like you'll have to choose between keeping your leg up and opening your chest when the pose calls for you to do both. A block under your bottom hand goes a long way toward helping you get there.


Young Woman Doing Scorpion Yoga Pose
da-kuk / Getty Images

Often an advanced yoga pose asks you to combine aspects from two or more simpler poses, but scorpion actually combines two poses that are very difficult to begin with: forearm stand and little thunderbolt (both described above). This understandably makes scorpion one of yoga's most challenging postures. But never fear, once you get there you can still take it further: scorpion in a handstand, anyone?


Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana)

Woman in Side Crow pose (Parsva Bakasana)
Ashley Corbin-Teich / Getty Images

Crow and side crow are the foundations of almost all more advanced arm balances. There are two ways to do side crow. Distributing your weight by resting your hip on one arm and your knee on the other offers more stability. Once you get comfortable there, start to work on getting all your weight on just one arm. For a final flourish, straighten both legs.


Toe Stand - Padangustasana
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Strong balance, a strong lotus practice, and strong feet are the components of a toe stand. This pose makes more sense when you see the step-by-step breakdown that has you come into the half lotus with your legs while in a standing position and then lowering to a squat. But just because you understand how to get into a pose doesn't make it easy!


Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

Wheel Pose - Urdhva Dhanurasana
Ann Pizer

Wheel is often introduced to intermediate yoga students, but it really should be considered an advanced pose because of the spinal and shoulder mobility that it requires. If backbends are your thing, dropping back to wheel from a standing position and then coming back up offers an added challenge. Walking the hand and feel closer together or lifting one leg at a time toward the ceiling are other variations to try.

A Word From Verywell

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.

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