Yoga classes often follow a formula for the sequencing of yoga postures by category, including standing poses, balancing postures, backbends, twists, and more. Students usually practice standing poses in the first quarter or first half of each class because they warm, strengthen and stretch the body. Instructors often ask their students to start out holding these poses for short periods of time — usually 20 to 40 seconds — in preparation for longer holds.
Standing yoga poses have both physical and energetic benefits. Practicing standing poses will strengthen your legs and abdominal muscles, open your hips, and lengthen your spine. These poses also can help you make your body physically more powerful, strong, and grounded into the earth.
And here you’ll find a bridge to another dimension in yoga philosophy. The Taittiriya Upanishad, an ancient Sanskrit text, describes five “koshas” or sheaths that make up the “layers of being.” The vital energy sheath holds the power to create healing and expanded consciousness by moving blocked energy.
All yoga poses work on all five koshas. The movement of vital energy associated with standing poses reinforces a rooted, grounded, safe, and solid feeling on your feet as well as a state of belonging and worthiness.
Practice these seven standing poses as a mini-sequence to strengthen your vital energy kosha.
Mountain pose physically connects you with the earth while demonstrating the physiology and energy of “rooting to rise” as your spine lengthens from your tailbone through the crown of your head.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Plant the soles of your feet, distributing your weight equally through the balls of your feet and heels as well as across both the inner and outer edges of each foot.
- “Zip up” the front of your body, feeling your knee caps lift, your core tighten softly, and your heart reach forward. Relax your shoulders and draw your shoulder blades together.
- Complete at least five rounds of inhales and exhales in this pose. Activate the Ujjayi breath by breathing through your nose with the back of your throat slightly contracted.
Knee to Chest From High Lunge Pose
By generating heat and drawing power into your body through your legs, this pose will leave you feeling strong.
- Stand with your feet slightly apart.
- Plant your right foot and step back to a high lunge with your left foot.
- Take a couple of breaths and find your balance.
- Inhale and powerfully pull your left knee forward and into your chest as you come up to a standing position.
- Complete two to three sets of five repetitions each with both legs. Tap into the grounding power of the vital energy kosha as you pull earth energy through your planted leg and foot, holding your balance and standing strong.
- Come to a wide-legged stance, facing the length of your yoga mat.
- Turn your toes out about 45 degrees and open your knees over your toes as you squat down.
- Tap into the feeling of being rooted through the soles of your feet, your leg muscles, and your tailbone.
- Inhale as you raise your arms up into cactus form and open your palms forward.
- Take deep breaths while sinking subtly deeper into your goddess squat and then hold for five full breaths.
- Try coming up onto the toes of one foot at a time and then come up onto the toes on both feet and hold. (Optional)
Warrior Two Pose (Variation)
- Straighten your legs from goddess pose and, while maintaining a wide stance, turn your right toes toward the front end of your mat.
- Turn your left toes toward the long edge of the mat, aligning your left instep with your right heel.
- Bend your right knee into a deep lunge and press through the outer edge of your left foot, keeping your back leg straight.
- Raise your arms parallel to the ground and gaze out over your right fingers.
- Come up onto your right toes while grounding yourself, opening through your hips and legs, and rising from your torso through your crown.
- Hold for five full breaths or longer.
Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose
- Stand with your feet together and focus your eyes on something in front of you — either on the floor or the wall.
- Raise your right foot off the floor with your knee at a 90-degree angle.
- Face forward with your hips squared forward and your right hip dropped slightly to align with left.
- Extend your right leg forward — if you have the flexibility to do so — and reach for your big toe with your right hand. If you have limited flexibility, do this with your knee bent for all variations of the pose. Now maintain your balance at your center for a few full breaths.
- Keep your gaze fixed and open your right leg out to the right, maintaining alignment in your hips. With steady balance, turn your gaze out over your right arm and hold for another couple of full breaths.
- Bring your right leg back to center and release your big toe. With your hands on your hips, hold your extended right leg up for another breath and then bring your right foot to the floor beside your left foot.
Half Moon Pose
This pose feels amazing because it provides the contrast of standing grounded on the earth on one side of your body while also floating above your standing leg.
- Start in warrior three pose, Standing on the right leg, left leg extended behind you, toes pointing down. Your back is flat and your spine is aligned from heel to crown, parallel to the floor. Arms are extended overhead, fingers interlaced, index fingers pointing forward.
- Fix your gaze on an unmoving point while maintaining focus on your breath. Reach your right hand down to the floor or a block.
- Open your left hip, rotating your whole upper body open to the left.
- Stabilize your balance by using a block under your right hand until you can comfortably reach the floor.
- Hold for three to five full breaths.
- Stand at the top of your mat with your feet together and come back into the alignment described for mountain pose.
- Lift your arms overhead, holding them up by your ears with palms facing inward.
- Relax your shoulders down as you stretch your fingertips toward the sky.
- Breathe long, easy breaths and pay attention to how each breath flows up and down the length of your body.
Consider adding a two- to five-minute meditation at the start and end of this mini-sequence, taking note of where and how your energy shifts through these standing poses.