Who cares about feeling calm and blissful? I want to feel muscles in my thighs I didn't even know I could work! If this sounds like you, then you're not alone. Many people head to their mat for the physical benefits of yoga, including Ashtanga yogi Gwyneth Paltrow. If stronger, more lean legs is your goal, here are some tips to incorporate in your next yoga practice that'll strengthen your legs even more effectively.
- Three is the magic number: Taking a class once a week is better than nothing, but you'll really notice a difference in your upper body when you take three or more classes per week. Choose 90-minute classes, rather than 45- or 60-minute sessions.
- Pass on the chill classes: Certain types of yoga focus more on standing poses like Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Jivamukti, and Bikram classes. The more you're on your feet, the more you're toning your legs.
- Change up your Down Dog: Since you hang out in Downward Dog for a good portion of the class, do some variations that work your legs in different ways. Step your feet out wide, stand on the balls of your feet, lift one leg in the air, lift one leg and bend that knee, or take your lifted leg out to the side so your hip makes a right angle.
Keep reading for more leg-strengthening yoga class tips.
- Don't rely on your upper body: When doing standing poses like Open Triangle or Reverse Warrior, you can make the pose easier on the legs by putting weight into your arms, so don't. Focus on using your legs as much as possible without jeopardizing correct form.
- Hold leg-strengthening poses longer: Five breaths is usually the standard for staying in poses, so make sure to hold standing poses like Warrior 2 and Dancer for the full five breaths. You can also skip the Vinyasa (mini Sun Salutation) or the rest between sides, and hold the poses for a couple extra breaths until the teacher instructs the class to switch to the other side.
- Swap Child's Pose for Goddess: Resting has its place in a yoga class, but if you don't feel like you need it, skip the relaxing pose and opt for one that uses your legs instead. Goddess, Wide Squat, Balancing Butterfly, and Fierce are great options.