For example, poses like chair, warrior pose, and crescent lunge are ideal for building strength in your lower-body muscles, Chen says. Chair pose really hits your glutes and quads, while the crescent lunge targets your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. “The crescent lunge incorporates a bit of balance because you need to use your inner thighs to help you stabilize,” she says. “By squaring your hips toward the front of the room, you’re opening up through your hip flexors.” Your core also fires to help your torso stay upright and keeps your body stable. And building core strength is important because it can help prevent and even relieve low back pain.
The warrior poses are also excellent for building lower-body strength. In warrior I, you’ll engage your quads and hamstrings, while warrior II activates your glutes and thighs, Mosley says.
Then there are the standing yoga poses that, along with building strength, also really hone your balance, such as airplane, warrior III, eagle, tree and dancer’s pose. Standing balance poses are often done with one foot on the ground, so all of your weight is on one leg. This forces you to recruit your core and the muscles in your ankles so you don’t fall.
“These help you build ankle strength since you’re on one foot, which is great for runners,” Chen says. “They require core and lower body strength as well, and they open up your hips, hamstrings, and shoulders, depending on what pose you’re working.”
In terms of flexibility, standing poses like the forward fold focus on lengthening and stretching tight hamstrings, so they may help with post-workout recovery and easing tightness.
What is the difference between standing poses and seated poses?
Well, besides the obvious, of course, that standing poses take place on your feet while seated occur sitting or lying on a mat, the main differences between standing and seated yoga poses are that standing ones work more of your lower-body muscles and recruit your core for support. That’s because your core helps keep your torso upright and prevents you from completely folding over and falling.
The time you can hold each kind of pose differs too, and that affects the rewards you’ll reap from each.
“Seated postures, since you can hold them for longer than standing postures, allow for deeper twists and more lengthening and flexibility,” Chen says. “Think about the time you can hold a [standing] prayer twist versus a seated twist.”
Because you’re able to hold seated poses for a longer period of time, they also tend to provide more relaxation and allow you to reconnect with your breath. “Oftentimes, classes may begin or end with seated yoga poses to find connection and grounding and to create space in the body through stretching each side,” Mosley says. “Standing poses like those in the warrior series often feel more active—both harnessing and building strength.”
What should beginners know about standing yoga?
Standing poses are foundational in yoga and are one of the best ways to get started with a regular practice. Beginners should focus on poses that have a grounding element—meaning ones where you’re connecting both feet into the ground and your breath to your body, Chen says. Mountain pose, in particular, is a foundational pose for many of the other standing poses, and can help you become more comfortable with the stability and grounding necessary in it.