Get Stronger Standing Still
Try these on-the-spot poses to keep your legs looking lean and toned
When it comes to toning and shaping up, These poses not only help you build balance gracefully, they also have the added bonus of toning your gams.
VRKSASANA (TREE POSE)
What it does: Sculpts the bottom and firms up your sides. This one-legged pose requires a lot of focus and balance, so it works your core and strengthens the balancing leg.
Step 1) Stand with your feet hip-width apart and rest your hands on your hips. Steady your weight on your right leg without locking your right knee.
Step 2) Now bring your left leg up towards your chest by bending your knee, then place your left heel gently on your right inner thigh. Use your hand to adjust the position of your left foot if need. Steady yourself, then let go of your left foot and return your hand to your hip.
Step 3) Keeping your left knee turned outwards, tuck your tailbone under and lift up through the crown of your head. Maintain your standing right knee bent slightly in order to engage your thighs. As much as possible, keep your eyes looking forward or just slightly above the eyeline. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat and do three sets on both sides.
Variation: If you’re very balanced, try bringing your arms up over your head at your next inhale, and rest your palms together with the thumbs crossed, or interlace your fingers with your index finger pointed up. Keep your fingers reaching up in this pose, with your shoulders drawn down and back.
UTKATASANA (CHAIR POSE)
What it does: Tones your entire body, especially your thighs. Utkatasana is often used as a transitional pose but it can also be practiced on its own to build stamina and strength. Holding this pose for several breaths also increases the heart rate, thereby stimulating the circulatory and metabolic systems quickly.
Step 1) Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your feet together and your big toes touching. Then inhale and raise your arms above your head, keeping them perpendicular to the floor.
Step 2) Exhale as you bend your knees and bring your thighs parallel to the floor. Your knees will project out slightly over your feet. Bring your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs as you reach your elbows back towards your ears. Draw your tailbone downwards, keeping your lower back long and strong. There will be a slight bend in your upper back.
Step 3) Shift your weight into your heels (you should be able to lift your toes off the mat if you wanted to). Gaze directly forward and keep your breathing smooth and even. For a deeper pose, tilt your head up slightly and gaze at a point between your hands. Hold for up to 60 seconds, then inhale as you straighten your legs, lifting through your arms. Exhale as you release the pose and go back to Tadasana. Do three sets.
Variation: If you experience shoulder pain in Utkatasana, bring your palms together in prayer position with your thumbs resting at your sternum. Press your palms firmly together as you draw your chest up and broaden your shoulder.
VIRABHADRASANA (WARRIOR 1 POSE)
What it does: Strengthens your legs, thighs and upper back, which stretching your chest muscles and hip flexors. This pose may look easy but it really tones your thighs and hamstrings, especially when held for longer durations.
STEP 1) Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and with an exhale, step your right foot towards the back of the mat, creating a long stance. Turn your right heel down and angle it 45 degrees to your left foot (which stays in place and faces forward). Plant both feet firmly on the floor.
Step 2) Sink your butt downwards and bend your left knee as close as you can to 90 degrees. Keep your lower leg in a straight line with your back knee slightly bent (not fully extended). Now rotate your upper body so that your hips and shoulder face straight ahead.
Step 3) On your next inhale, raise your arms above your head so that your palms are facing each other, shoulder-width apart. Keep your gaze straight. Hold the pose for five to 10 breaths before returning to Tadasana. Repeat and do three sets on both sides.
Variation: Transition into Warrior 2, then take it up a notch and move into Warrior 3 if you’re ready to feel the burn in your thighs and hamstrings. Greater balance is required in Warrior 3 as you rely solely on just one leg to hold all the weight.