Yoga Poses for Legs
We often take our physical body for granted as long as it is functioning well. It is when something goes wrong that we realize how important it is to take good care of it. There are many yoga poses that help to strengthen, stretch and tone the muscles of the legs. Sedentary lifestyles where we are sitting for long hours at our desk are making our legs turn to mush. The negative consequences of sitting for the major part of the day are many.
According to the website juststand.org:
- A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that people who sit for long periods during their leisure time have an increased risk of disease.
- A 2009 University of Queensland study found that even when adults meet physical activity guidelines, sitting for prolonged periods can compromise metabolic health.
We have to remember that when the legs start accumulating fat it affects the function and strength of the muscles. The legs are important because they determine your level of activity. If you have strong legs it makes it easier to exercise and move around and you will find yourself active throughout the day.
It is good to remember that the leg muscles experience absolutely no activity when we are sitting but when you stand up they support your whole body weight and the big muscles are engaged in isometric contractions even though you may not feel anything. Standing up also burns more calories.
What is the Human Leg?
The human leg is one of the most important part of our body and is commonly considered to be from the hip to the foot. However, in the anatomical definition it refers to the section from knee to the ankle and does not include the hip, thigh and foot. The muscles of the human leg can be broadly said to consist of the following:
- Lower leg muscles: There are a total of 13 muscles in the section between the knee and ankle.
- Hip and Pelvis: The hip and pelvis muscles can be divided into the groin muscles, the glute (buttock) muscles, the hamstrings and the hip flexors.
- Ankle and Foot: The muscles which move the ankle and foot, tend to be found in the lower leg, with long tendons which cross the ankle joint and attach onto foot bones.
A knowledge of the leg muscles and how to take care of them can help in working out the yoga asanas or poses that can be included into your yoga practice.
Leg Lift - Warm Up alternatives
How long do you think you sit in the course of your day?See results without voting
- Just Stand > Tools > Sitting Calculator
Do you know how much you are sitting? Use this tool to evaluate the number of hours you sit each day.
Yoga Poses for the Legs
A regular yoga practice promotes and helps maintain physical health, flexibility and youthfulness. The stretches and holding oneself in a position that is comfortable helps in letting the muscles become well-toned and also the energy to flow in those parts which are stretched.
It is a good idea to do a few warm up exercises before starting the yoga session such as a few leg lifts and alternating leg lifts:
- Lie on your back with both legs extended on the floor.
- Bend your left leg ensuring that your lower back does not arch.
- Inhale and lift your right leg with the foot parallel to the ceiling.
- Using both hands, vigorously massage the hamstring muscle at the back of your thigh for 10 seconds.
- Hold on to the calf muscles and gently pull the leg towards your chest without lifting your hip off the floor. Use a strap or tie if you cannot yet reach the calf muscles.
- Release the right leg. Exhale and slowly lower it with your toes pointed out within a few inches off the floor.
- Just before your heel touches the floor, inhale and flex the toes toward the ceiling as you slowly raise the leg back up.
- Repeat 8-10 times with each leg, pointing the toes as you lower your leg and flexing the toes as you raise it back up.
If you find that you cannot raise it too far then it means you have tight hamstrings. Do it as far as you comfortably can. You can improve the flexibility of tight hamstrings by including some yoga poses for loosening the hamstrings.
Chair Pose - Utkatasana for strong legs and spine
Downward Dog - stretches hamstrings and aligns the spine
Warrior Pose – 1 or Virabhadrasana - I
Warrior Pose – 2-- Virabhadrasana – II
Chair Pose – Utkatasana
This energizing standing pose works on the thigh and calf muscles while strengthening the ankles and Achilles tendons. It is a good pose to have toned and strong legs
- Stand with your feet in Mountain Pose or tadasana.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart with your knees over your ankles.
- Extend your arms in front of you at shoulder level.
- Inhale. On exhalation, slowly begin lowering your body into a squat position as though you were about to sit in an imaginary chair.
- Breathe slowly and hold for 5 breaths.
- Return to standing position with arms remaining at shoulder level.
You can do the chair pose whenever you find yourself standing waiting a couple of minutes. You can do it while brushing your teeth and use that time to strengthen you leg muscles. Or when you are waiting for something to cook, or when you waiting for your computer to start up.
Downward Dog - Adho Mukhasana
This yoga pose stretches and lengthens the hamstring muscles and Achilles tendons as well as increasing flexibility in the ankles. It is an energizing pose and aligns the spinal column, releases tension in the shoulders, and strengthens the arms and legs.
Warrior Pose – 1 or Virabhadrasana - I
This a less intense standing pose which takes concentration and will-power. Doing this pose will improve balance and increase your ability to concentrate. This pose helps to strengthen and stretch the legs and ankles.
Warrior Pose – 2-- Virabhadrasana – II
This is a more advanced standing pose. It strengthens the leg and thigh muscles. The benefits of this pose are:
- Stretches the groins, chest and lungs, shoulders
- Stimulates abdominal organs
- Increases stamina
- Relieves backaches, especially through second trimester of pregnancy
- Therapeutic for carpal tunnel syndrome, flat feet, infertility, osteoporosis, and sciatica
Information for Further Practice
The legs require our attention and a more comprehensive programme of practice must be worked out. The best thing would be to join a yoga class under a competent yoga teacher especially if you have any problems. It is also helpful to do include yoga poses for the hips, spine and hamstrings.
It might be necessary to make changes in your lifestyle so that you are not sitting for long hours. Hope the following links might be of help to you:
- The Anatomy of Leg and Thigh Muscles, Explained: How Your Leg Muscles Work
The best exercises to target all your leg and thigh muscles.
- JustStand.org: The Facts About Sitting and Standing
In our modern sedentary culture we sit way too much. That’s clearly the conclusion of the research. But that research also highlights the obvious remedy: standing!
- Yoga Journal - Poses: Anatomical Focus - Legs
YogaJournal.com -- covering yoga poses, yoga lifestyle, health and yoga, yoga wisdom, yoga community, yoga conferences and yoga video.
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