Power up your core and legs with this thoughtful and dynamic strength-building sequence from vinyasa and fitness teacher Kristin Calabria.
WE ALL HAVE THE ABILITY to navigate change and challenge with grace. One way we learn to do this in yoga is by using our breath—a powerful tool that helps get us through difficult transitions by linking different poses with its consistency. Yoga also helps build physical and mental strength. As you shift your weight in a pose—and particularly as you move through transitions—fear, doubt, and instability can show up. Successfully navigating these moments requires a strong body and belief in yourself.
One method for finding strength is by using your core. When you’re fully immersed in your yoga practice, core is about more than just muscles. Engaging it means tapping into who you are, what you believe, and what you stand for. In short, yoga can help you find stability and rootedness at the core of your identity.
This challenging practice works with the physical body, but its benefits go further. Try engaging with feelings of discomfort (not pain) to identify how you respond to transition and change—moment to moment, breath to breath. The journey to a single-leg pistol squat, like the one to any advanced asana, will involve falling, failing, rising up, and trying again. Stay rooted in your breath, anchored by your center. Discover strength, mobility, and trust in your physical and mental stamina. This flow will fire up your core, elicit lower-body burn, and teach you to meet challenges with ease.
1 SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA VARIATION Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Lie on your back, about midway down your mat. Bring the soles of your feet together to touch, and allow your knees to fall open like pages in a book. Take a few cycles of breath to settle into the shape of your body, the present moment, and your higher Self.
(If you need support, use one block under each knee or thigh.) Let heavy hands fall to the ground, palms down, next to your hips. Firming up your feet against each other, inhale, and lift your hips a few inches off the ground. Exhale, and release back to the earth. Focus on maintaining the width of your knees rather than the height of your hips. Repeat for 5 breath cycles.
2 URDHVA PRASARITA PADASANA VARIATION Leg Lifts
Use your hands to draw your knees to your chest. Extend your legs straight up to the sky, and activate your feet by pointing or flexing them. Press your palms into the earth on either side of your hips. With your lower back glued to the ground, breathe in. Breathe out, and lower your legs one-third of the way to the ground, keeping them straight. Inhale, then exhale, lowering your legs another third of the way to the floor. Inhale again. Exhale, and hover your feet 2 inches from the earth. Inhale, and lift your legs back to perpendicular with the floor. Repeat for 10 full cycles.
3 VASISTHASANA VARIATION Side Plank Pose
Hug your knees to your heart. Rock up and down the length of your spine. Cross your ankles, and roll over your feet to Tabletop. Practice Marjaryasana-Bitilasana (Cat-Cow Poses) to warm up. Inhale, extend your right leg back, and tuck your toes near the edge of your mat. Exhale. Spin your right heel to the floor with the outer edge of your foot rooted firmly to the ground. Extend your right arm overhead. Lift up and out of your left shoulder by engaging your left oblique. Keep your core active: Pull your navel toward your spine, and knit your ribs together. Hold for 3 breaths.
4 PARIGHASANA VARIATION Gate Pose
Grounding down through the outside edge of your right foot, zip your thighs together. Inhale, and use your obliques to sweep your left fingertips up and over. Slide your right hand down the side of your right leg. This should feel similar to a Peaceful Warrior side-body stretch on your left oblique. Exhale back to Side Plank Pose variation. Inhale to Gate Pose and exhale to modified Side Plank 5 times.
5 CHATURANGA DANDASANA VARIATION Four-Limbed Staff Pose
At the end of your fifth breath cycle, cartwheel both hands to the floor, and float your right leg off the mat to hip height. Lift your right heel to engage your glutes. Inhale, and shift your weight forward to your fingertips. Exhale, bend your elbows, and lower your chest and chin to the ground. Inhale, and press back up. Repeat for 3 breath cycles. Repeat poses 3–5 on the other side.
6 ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA VARIATION Downward-Facing Dog Pose
From Tabletop, walk your hands forward one hand-length. Tuck your toes, and lift your hips to Down Dog. Pedal your heels, shake your head, and wag your tailbone. Adjust the distance between your hands and feet to get comfortable. Inhale, and float your right heel skyward. Exhale, drawing your knee to your nose. Press your palms into the floor while moving your shoulder blades outward. Draw your navel up and in. Inhale, and float your right leg skyward. Exhale, draw your knee to your nose, and step your right foot between your palms.
7 VIRABHADRASANA III Warrior Pose III
Crawl your hands in front of your right foot, shifting your weight into it. Guide the crown of your head forward as your left foot floats off the mat. Engage your left glutes by lifting your back heel higher. Keep your hips in one line. Reach your arms behind your back like wings and turn your palms to face the earth. Roll your shoulders back to open your heart space. Float your knuckles upward another inch to encourage that same broadness in your collarbones. A soft bend in your standing (right) knee can help with balance or tight hamstrings. Eventually, work on straightening this leg by engaging your quads and pulling up and out of your standing (right) hip.
8 TADASANA VARIATION Mountain Pose
Exhale, and draw your hands to Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) at your heart center. Bring your left knee to your chest. Inhale, rise up to standing, and balance. For additional support, hold the underside of your left leg. Stay here for 3 breaths.
9 UTTHITA HASTA PADANGUSTHASANA Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Root down through your right foot. Bring your left peace fingers and thumb to your left big toe, and take a yogi toe lock. Kicking through your left heel, extend your left leg straight at hip height (or if needed, keep a bend in your left knee). Pull your right quad up to encourage a lifting away from the earth. Press your abdominals back while keeping your chest broad and spine long. Stay here for 3 breaths.
10 PISTOL SQUAT
From Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, wrap both hands around the sole of your left foot. Continue to kick your left heel forward while pulling your abdominals back. Lift your sternum up to keep your spine long. Slowly, start to bend your standing knee and send your hips backward as you would in Utkatasana (Chair Pose). Keep your left leg active. As your hips lower toward the earth, maintain the length in your spine. With control, lower your seat to the floor.