How to Conquer 3 of the Toughest Yoga Poses

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It's never too late to learn headstand. Or Crow pose. Or side plank with extension. These are all power poses, ones that require superior strength and a serious dose of chutzpah. Kristin McGee, yoga instructor and Health's contributing yoga and wellness editor, says that (almost) anyone can eventually achieve them, so (assuming you don't have injuries) challenge yourself to try one or more of these moves—and feel your confidence soar!

Illustration by Jess Levinson

Side Plank Extension

Why do it: While a simple side plank is easy enough to master—and a great way to strengthen your trunk—adding a toe bind will up the intensity factor while increasing strength in your entire body.

How-to: Lie on one side with legs stacked; place palm beneath shoulder and lift hips. Extend top arms up. Bend top leg, pressing sole of bottom foot into the mat. Bring top food and top hand together, grasping big toe. Hold here for a few slow, even breaths before lowering back down to start.

Modify it: Do a regular side plank with legs together, or just lift top leg. You can also bring the top foot to the floor to modify further.

RELATED: 8 Tips for Leaving Yoga Class Totally Blissed-Out

Illustration by Jess Levinson


Why do it: This move makes you feel like a legit yogi, and it improves balance and core strength.

How-to: Begin with knees bent, palms flat on the floor about shoulder-distance apart and about 12 inches in front of feet; spread fingers wide. With arms as straight as possible, get onto balls of feet and place knees in armpits. Slowly shift weight forward onto hands with head lifted. Lift one foot off the floor at a time, keeping knees in place. To return to start, shift weight backward and lower feet to floor.

Modify it: Using a block under feet can help your liftoff; prep moves like Downward Dog and plank help increase the core strength needed here.

RELATED: Improve Your Balance With This Squat-to-Calf Raise Move

Illustration by Jess Levinson


Why do it: Inversions like the headstand help improve circulation, increase energy, and build ab and shoulder strength. 

How-to: Place the short end of your mat about a foot away from a wall. Place forearms on mat. Interlace fingers, pinkies touching the floor, and bring top of head into space between wrists. Keeping shoulders above elbows, walk feet toward torso, legs straight, lifting hips above torso. Bring legs toward the wall. Stay here, or try to bring one or both legs off the wall. Reverse motion to come back to the floor.

Modify it: Prep by practicing Dolphin pose (it's like Downward Dog, but on forearms). 

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