01 Feb Hard Yoga Poses: The Most Challenging Yoga Poses
Yoga is an experiential science. One needs to practice asanas or poses to understand the beauty of Yoga. The aim of Yoga is to bring harmony between the body, breath and mind. Yoga includes asanas which can be practiced by anyone – be it as a beginner, intermediate or advanced level.
Once you begin the practice of Yoga asanas, you need strength and flexibility to move on to the next level of asanas practice. People have a wrong notion that Yoga is only about twisting, bending, or stretching. The true purpose of easy and difficult Yoga asanas is to create awareness and build the physical and mental strength of an individual.
Below are the 5 most challenging Yoga poses, as they require immense strength, flexibility, regular practice, steadiness, and stability to perform the asana, achieve the final position, and maintain the asana for a minute. These challenging and hard Yoga poses are practiced to achieve mastery as a Yogi.
1)Padmasana – The Lotus Posture
The word Padma means Lotus and this asana represents peace. Achieving and maintaining this traditional posture is challenging and hard. But with perseverance and practice, one can master the pose and get the desired results. Practicing this asana will bring out the qualities of the lotus in you while providing physical stability and psychological calmness.
Method of Practice
- Sit on a mat spread on the floor with your legs fully stretched out without taking support of any wall or fixture.
- Commence by gently bending your right leg inward at the knee joint, then fold it and, with the aid of the hands, place the right heel on the top of the left thigh in such a way that the right foot is placed with its sole turned upwards.
- Likewise, place your left heel with upturned soles over the right thigh so that the ankles cross each other. Preferably, your heel ends should touch closely.
- Keep both your knees pressed to the ground as far as possible.
- Hold your body comfortably erect, keeping your head, neck, and trunk in a straight line. It is desirable to keep your abdomen moderately contoured inward.
- Place your left hand just below the navel with your palm facing upwards. Place your right hand over the left, with your palm facing upward. Keep your shoulders and hands relaxed.
- Sit in this position, watching your breath or focusing on any object of your choice.
Note: Alternate use of the legs is recommended. Start with one minute, and with regular practice, take it up to 10 to 15 minutes or as per your comfort.
- Relax your hands and place them on your knees or thighs.
- With the help of your hands slowly lift your top leg and place it down and relax your other leg.
- Straighten both your legs slowly as in the starting position.
2) Sarvangasana – The Shoulder Stand
The name of the asana is self-explanatory, meaning it involves all the parts of the body. This posture benefits the body’s various organs, and it might seem like a challenging and hard Yoga pose for the beginner. However, with regular practice, you can become steady and achieve the final position effortlessly.
This inverted posture helps strengthen the arms, shoulders, and improves spine flexibility. It nourishes the brain with a sufficient flow of blood. The psychological benefits of this posture include calming the mind and nervous system, increasing confidence, and balancing mood swings.
Method of Practice
- Lie supine on a mat with your feet together and hands at the sides. Inhale.
- Follow the same procedure as Ardha Sarvangasana and straighten your legs up vertically. Keep your entire body straight and point the toes towards the ceiling.
- While exhaling, raise your legs up together, toes to point towards the ceiling. The knees remain straight. Use your hands to support your body at the back.
- The chin is set in the jugular notch.
- Maintain this pose for a few seconds or as long as convenient but not longer than two minutes, the breathing should be slow, rhythmic and natural.
- Slowly bend your knees, then, as you inhale, lower your hips towards the mat, releasing your hands from back, assume the starting position.
- Take a few deep breaths to compensate for the reactions of head low and hips high posture.
Precautions to be taken while performing the asana:
- Avoid any possible strain, and the period of exercise should be fixed at the minimum.
- It is also advisable to attempt this posture first in parts, and complete the pose only after a few weeks of initial training.
- What needs emphasis is the fact that this pose should never be attempted after any form of rigorous gymnastics because the abnormal rush of blood to the brain at this stage might do more harm than good.
- Take care of your neck.
3) Halasana – The Plough Pose
Halasana’s final posture mirrors the plough, and this asana requires the strength of the neck and shoulders as it is an advanced technique. In this asana, the spine is inverted, which leads to a strong compression in the throat and abdomen. Along with maintaining posture and steadiness of mind, you can achieve a balanced state.
Halasana is an excellent asana for toning of abdominal muscles and stimulating abdominal organs. Your spine gets well-stretched while performing this asana. It is extremely beneficial to the genital organs, nervous system, and digestive system. It brings awareness and reduces fatigue.
Method of Practice
- Lie on your back on a mat with both your legs together and hands at the sides.
- While inhaling, raise both your legs together forming a right angle to the body. (You may bend the knees before you raise your legs in case it is difficult for you to raise them up straight and use your hands for support.)
- While exhaling, lower your legs towards and beyond your head in a semi-circular arc to touch the toes to the floor.
- The hands remain in the starting position (however, you may use your hands, if need be, to support the hips as you raise yourself up and once the legs are in place bring your hands down to the starting position).
- The legs remain straight.
- You may clasp your hands in the final position.
- Maintain the final posture, suspending your breath for six seconds.
- Inhaling, in 3 seconds lift the legs up and lower your hips (with the aid of your hands if required and bending the knees) and then bring back your legs gently to the starting supine position.
4) Dhanurvakrasana – The Bow Posture
This asana is challenging as it needs immense abdominal strength. Balancing the posture and maintaining steadiness is difficult when you practice as a beginner but when you start practicing, you gain strength and learn to balance your body, breath and mind. The final posture resembles a bow (Dhanusha).
Dhanurvakrasana improves flexibility of the spine, blood circulation in the abdominal and reproductive organs. It tones your arms and leg muscles. Practicing this asana relieves you of stress, helps you overcome lethargy, and relaxes the mind.
Method of Practice
- Lie down on your stomach on a mat with your hands by the side.
- Bend your knees and fold your legs towards the back.
- Grasp the ankles of your legs.
- Inhaling, raise your head upwards and simultaneously pull your legs upwards, arching the spine, keeping both the legs together.
- While retaining your breath, maintain the position for six seconds.
- Exhaling, lower the legs and head. Release the grasp on your ankles and return to the starting posture.
5) Shavasana – The Corpse Posture
Shavasana is said to be one of the most difficult Yoga poses as it requires complete relaxation and stillness of the mind and body. This might look very easy to do, but it is not, as achieving complete detachment from the thoughts and keeping the body still is most difficult for a human being.
This asana is best to do when one feels physically and mentally tired, as it relaxes the mind and body. Practicing this asana helps relieve muscular and nervous tension. It boosts blood circulation and provides relief from headaches, insomnia, and fatigue. It reduces anxiety, improves focus, and releases tension from the mind and body, which ultimately reduces blood pressure.
Method of Practice
- Lie down on your back. Extend your arms by the sides such that they are not too far or too near the things. Keep your legs comfortably apart.
- Once in this position, close your eyes and remain motionless throughout the practice.
- Close your eyes and follow the normal rhythmic breathing.
- Avoiding any movement of the body, mentally relax the sixteen vital zones (Marmasthanan) of the body, by paying attention to each part separately.
Toes, Ankles, Knees, Thighs and simultaneously the hands and arms, groin area, pelvis, navel, abdomen, chest, neck, lips, tip of the nose, eyes, space between the eyebrows, forehead, top of the head.
- Maintain this state for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Gently open your eyes.
- Slowly lie on the right side for a few minutes before sitting up.
If you are aspiring to become an advanced Yoga master, then it is crucial that you practice these asanas and achieve excellence. Also, ensure that you practice these asanas under the supervision of an expert or a Yoga professional. Remember, Yoga is about enjoying the journey towards self-awareness, wisdom and happiness. For this, it is crucial that you attain a balanced physical and mental state.