Yoga Poses for Every Part of Your Body

One of the beauties of yoga is that many poses work your whole body. Unlike having a “legs day” or “arms day” at the gym, doing a regular yoga practice can easily incorporate your entire anatomy. Even if you pick a body part you want to work on and tailor a practice that way, you’ll still feel the benefits elsewhere.

This guide will help you find poses that strengthen and/or open major muscle groups. For each anatomical area, you’ll see a list of poses divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels of practice. Use these to plan your yoga sessions or find out more about the poses you do in class. Following these are a few pre-planned sequences that target that area of the body.

Legs

A woman in Warrior II - Virabhadrasana II
 Warrior II – Virabhadrasana II. Ann Pizer

Standing poses do the most to strengthen your legs. While the focus is on your legs, these poses also incorporate the rest of your body. Yoga poses for leg strength include:

  • Beginner: Downward facing dog, extended side angle pose, mountain pose, pyramid pose, raised hands pose, standing forward bend, standing straddle forward bend, tree pose, triangle pose, warrior I, warrior II
  • Intermediate: Awkward chair, eagle pose, half moon pose, king dancer pose, reverse warrior, revolved triangle pose, warrior III
  • Advanced: Revolved half moon pose, wheel pose

Sequences for the Legs

Below are several pose sequences that focus on the legs:

  • Eight classic standing poses: Downward facing dog, lunge, warrior I, warrior II, reverse warrior, extended side angle pose, triangle pose, half moon pose, and back to downward facing dog
  • Standing balance poses: Awkward chair, eagle pose, tree pose, king dancer pose, warrior III, standing split, half moon pose, sugarcane pose, revolved half moon pose, to forward bend
  • Warrior poses: Mountain pose, warrior I, humble warrior pose, warrior II, reverse warrior, to warrior III
  • Poses that stretch your quads: Crescent lunge, hero pose, pigeon pose, sugarcane pose, king dancer, camel pose, bow pose, to little thunderbolt pose

Abdominals

A woman in Boat Pose - Navasana for Abdominal Strength
 Boat Pose – Navasana. Ann Pizer

Practicing these poses will improve your abdominal strength, one element of core strength that also helps keep back pain at bay. Yoga poses for abs include:

  • Beginner: Cat-cow stretch, hands and knees balance, pelvic tilts, plank pose
  • Intermediate: Boat pose, crow pose, half moon pose, headstand, scale pose, side plank pose
  • Advanced: Firefly pose, forearm stand, handstand, side crow pose, warrior III

Sequence

Here is a rejuvenating series of poses that target the abs:

  • Yoga poses to improve core strength: Cat-cow stretch, hands and knees balance, down dog splits, plank pose, side plank pose, high lunge, half moon pose, awkward chair pose, eagle pose, to boat pose

Arms

A woman in One Leg Plank for Arm Strength
 One Leg Plank.Adrianna Williams / Photodisc / Getty Images

Poses in which your arms bear most of your body weight are great for improving arm strength, along with a few chaturanga push-ups, of course. Yoga poses for arms include:

  • Beginner: Downward facing dog, plank pose, supported side plank
  • Intermediate: Crow pose, four-limbed staff pose, side plank pose, upward facing dog
  • Advanced: Firefly pose, flying crow pose, handstand, side crow pose, wheel pose

Sequence

Try this arm sequence:

  • Yoga poses for your triceps and biceps: Downward facing dog, plank pose, side plank, full side plank, plank pose, four-limbed staff pose, upward facing dog, down dog split, knee to nose plank variation, ending with one-leg plank

Back

A woman in Locust Pose - Shalabasana for the Back
 Locust Pose – Shalabasana for the Back. Ann Pizer

These poses will increase back strength and spinal mobility. You don’t have to be able to do a full backbend to strengthen and stretch your back. There are plenty of gentler options, as well.

  • Beginner:Cat-cow stretch, supported bridge, cobra, knees-chest-chin
  • Intermediate: Bridge, upward-facing dog, reverse warrior, bow pose, camel pose, locust pose, king dancer pose
  • Advanced: Wheel, little thunderbolt pose, mermaid pose, one legged king pigeon pose, scorpion pose, wild thing

Sequences

Try these series to target your back:

  • Essential lower back stretches: Pelvic tilts, cat-cow stretch, child’s pose, to chair twist
  • Yoga poses to prevent back pain: Cat-cow stretch, downward-facing dog, cobra pose, to child’s pose

Hamstrings

A woman in Janu Sirsasana - Hamstring Stretch
 Janu Sirsasana. Ann Pizer

Practicing these poses will improve hamstring flexibility. Tight hamstrings are a common problem for many people, and these moves can help.

  • Beginner:Reclined big toe pose, standing forward bend, standing wide-legged forward bend, downward facing dog, seated head to knee pose, seated forward bend, wide-legged forward fold, pyramid pose, triangle pose
  • Intermediate: Half moon pose, full side plank, revolved triangle, heron pose, bird of paradise, monkey pose, sleeping Vishnu, standing big toe pose
  • Advanced: Standing splits, side lunge, revolved ardha chandrasana

Sequence

This series of poses targets the hamstrings:

  • Flexibility sequence: Reclined big toe pose, standing forward bend, triangle pose, seated wide-legged stance, eye of the needle, cobbler’s pose, pigeon, eagle, bridge pose, to cow face pose

Hips

A woman in Eagle Pose - Garudasana for Hip Stretch
 Eagle Pose – Garudasana. © Ann Pizer

A new way of thinking about hip stretches encompasses not only hip openers but poses to strengthen and stretch the entire pelvic region. Yoga poses for hips include:

  • Beginner: Child’s pose, cobbler’s pose, eye of the needle pose, garland pose, happy baby pose, reclined goddess pose, seated wide-legged straddle, standing straddle forward bend, warrior II
  • Intermediate: Cow face pose, eagle pose, goddess pose, half moon pose, knee to ankle pose, pigeon pose
  • Advanced: Lotus pose, lizard pose, one-legged king pigeon pose, side lunge

Sequence

Try the following sequence to work your hips:

  • Seated hip stretch sequence: Cobbler’s pose, knee to ankle pose, cow face pose, head to knee pose, seated wide-legged straddle

Chest and Shoulders

A woman in Bow Pose - Dhanurasana for Chest
 Bow Pose – Dhanurasana for Heart Opening.Barry Stone

Poses to open your chest and heart center you. Since yoga’s approach is holistic, there is some overlap between backbends and shoulder stretches. Shoulder stretches release tension, which helps prevent pain in the back and neck. Since the shoulders can be vulnerable to injury, especially as you age, don’t overdo it.

These chest exercises can be especially beneficial if you sit at a desk for long hours.

Yoga offers many chest- and heart-opening poses including the following.

  • Beginner:Supine spinal twist, cat-cow stretch, warrior II, cobra pose, triangle pose, extended side angle pose, sphinx pose, cow face pose, restorative heart opener
  • Intermediate: Bridge, upward-facing dog, reverse warrior, bow pose, camel pose, locust pose, king dancer pose, half moon pose
  • Advanced: Wild thing

Sequences

Try the following series to target your chest and shoulders:

  • Yoga poses for nursing moms (and others who have hunched posture): Cat-cow stretch, sphinx pose, restorative heart opener, bridge pose, half boat pose, forward bend with interlaced fingers, extended triangle pose, to downward facing dog
  • Yoga poses to improve your posture: Mountain pose, standing forward bend with interlaced fingers, cat-cow stretch, bridge pose, eagle pose, ending with plank pose

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