One of the best things about yoga is that you can always be learning and improving your practice through more complicated flows and poses, but you can also flex that willpower muscle without having to twist into uncomfortable binds that you just can’t quite reach yet.
Turns out, holding even the most basic poses for an extended amount of time will test the limits of your discipline, adding mental and physical strength to your practice. Here are seven simple poses that (almost) everyone can do straight away, but that will test your stamina nonetheless.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Let’s start super simple: stand up straight with feet together and shoulders back. Leading with the chest, fold down over your legs until you can sweep your fingertips across the floor, requiring a slight bend in the knees (unless you’re already a pro). Breathe into the pose and try to lengthen your legs with each breath; you’ll notice the determination needed to keep up this hamstring stretch, but all the muscles and tendons being released will thank you later.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Raise your hands straight above your head and reach to the sky with fingers spread, standing with feet together. Leaning the upper body forward to accommodate gravity, sit into a squatting pose, as if you were moving to sit into a dining chair. Don’t sit too deeply though, thighs and chest should be at about 45° opposing angles. You’ll feel the willpower-tester in this quite immediately in the thighs, but take some of the pressure off by engaging your core and reaching to the heavens with those outstretched arms (and burning shoulder muscles).
Forearm Plank (Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Rest on your forearms with shoulders directly above elbows, with your body and feet straight back behind you. Life up your body using your toes and elbows, pushing palms into the ground at the same time. This simple plank pose engages nearly every core muscle in your body, while the forearm modification allows you to test out your upper body durability without placing extra strain on the wrists.
Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Starting from hands and knees or downward facing dog, slide one knee forward toward your hands and bring the foot inward to the opposing side of the body. Extend your other leg behind you and bring your hips down to the floor, adjusting the foot on the bent leg until you find a comfortable position that stretches without pain. Fold your upper body forward as close to the ground as you can, and breathe deeply into your hip joints to open up the pelvis. You’ll feel this one from the very beginning to the ending disentanglement.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Laying on your stomach, place your hands by the sides of your head and keep your feet straight back behind you. In the same movement, lift up your head and chest, pushing into the palms of the hand while leaning the head back, pulling your shoulders up and back while keeping your elbows bent and your hips and the tops of your feet planted to the floor. The neck and lung stretch here means focusing on the breath is essential (as usual) to holding the pose for an extended time.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Laying on your back, bring your feet up to rest next to your hips with knees bent, arms laying by your sides. Plant your feet and shoulders, and use your legs and core to lift your bottom up so that your body is in a straight line from shoulders to knees. You’ll feel the burn on this one pretty quickly, but make sure you’re using those core and ab muscles instead of relying on your back.
Child’s Pose (Bālāsana)
This one shouldn’t be too challenging, but we love to end things on a relaxing note. Sitting on your knees, spread them to a little wider than hips-width, bring your hands up above your head, and fold forward, landing with hands reaching ahead while your bottom rests on (or close to) your heels. Congratulations, you made it, now rest, child.