The Yoga Dictionary

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Bound Angle Pose, or Baddha Konasana, most commonly known as butterfly pose  is a liberating pose that all of us can do. As you engage in this pose, you are challenging the tightness in your hips, expanding your groin, and stretching your inner thighs. This upright position inspires wakefulness and improves your posture by lengthening the spine. 

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In this asana the back folds in on itself, strength is created by keeping the upper body poised on the powerful core. As we reach our arms back to grasp onto our ankles we can feel our shoulders opening, our chest pushing forward, and our back stretching. A pull is felt in our quadriceps as we lift our feet as high as we are able. The entire body comes to mirror an archer’s bow.

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Bridge Pose, also known as Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, is a strength-building pose that targets the glute and back muscles. Balance on your feet and shoulders while resting your neck and head as the rest of the body, from your core to your thighs elevate creating a bridge formation.

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Ustrasana or Camel Pose is a powerful yet vulnerable pose that lets you open your heart to the sky, exposes your delicate throat, and greatly increases the power in your back, core, and quadricep. The name is derived from the Sanskrit ustra, meaning “camel,” and asana, meaning “pose” or “posture.”

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Cat Pose is a beautiful asana that massages the muscles along the spine and stretches our upper and lower back. Through compression of the chest and abdomen, we can help push the air out of our lungs as we exhale any negativity from the day or excess energy from our seven major chakras. This asana can help prepare the spine for a deeper backbend or neutralize the spine after a more challenging yoga position.

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When we engage in Utkatasana, we bring ourselves to the seat of our power. As our arms glide up towards the sun, baring our chest, our sit bones extend back and down, working to strengthen the glutes, thighs, and pelvis. Chair Pose is an exceptionally physical yoga move that forces us to face our fortitude while we create the throne we may rest upon. 

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This gentle asana may not build muscle, increase our flexibility, or take us to the next level in our yoga journey, but it is arguably the most important and the most used pose for most yoga practitioners. Balasana provides a subtle stretch for the back muscles and can be varied to a position that is most comfortable for our body.

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Cow Pose itself is a beautiful, back-bending asana that increases flexibility in the core while warming up the body for your practice. When paired with Cat Pose, or Marjariasana, you will increase blood flow throughout the body and stimulate our prana within the seven major chakras. This is a flexible pose in table-top position because you can adjust your movements to move side to side to stretch the obliques and loosen the hips.

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Crow Pose will take you from a beginner yogi to an intermediate practitioner, but the beauty of this is, even beginners can find a supportive variation to begin their journey into Bakasana. And that is the true focus on Crow Pose – the journey. When you find yourself being able to hold your body in this asana for even one second, your spirit will become filled with pride and joy. 

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Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana is similar to Plank Pose but the arms are bent to provide added support through the forearms. If you find the regular Phalakasana too challenging, adding the forearms as a sort of bi-pod can create an easier posture that still exercises each muscle of the body.

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The lower body holds the same posture as Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) where a triangle formation is created through the elevated backside and lowered hands and feet. If you find it’s a struggle to hold your arms extended for longer periods, Dolphin Pose may be the best variation of an easy inversion for you.

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Downward-Facing Dog, also known as Adho Mukha Svanasana, is a classic yoga pose that provides a subtle inversion as the head humbly bows to gaze between the legs. This pose elicits the playful bow dogs engage in by raising the sit bone high into the air, gently arching the back and opening the arms wide and welcoming. 

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Eagle Pose works the entire body in different ways, and there is no obvious or main goal. Each sensation may feel as strong as the next, which could feel overwhelming for anyone new to the pose. However, the feeling of being overwhelmed will begin to transfer to power and pride once you can put each component together to stand tall in Garudasana. 

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Sukhasana is best for reflecting on the breath and aligning the chakras while also providing physical benefits such as opening the pelvis and groin, relaxing tense thighs, and improving the core’s posture. While Easy Pose is a very natural way of sitting, it is still necessary to keep the back strong and straight by working the neck and tailbone to properly align with the spine.

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Extended Side Angle Pose has many benefits, but this pose probably isn’t used enough in common yoga practices. People tend to be weakest in the obliques and may prefer to avoid stressing the side body, but I can promise that you will not regret incorporating Utthita Parsvakonasana into your weekly yoga routine. This pose manages to stretch the side body while strengthening the core as a whole.

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This is a fantastic pose to open the side of the body to the sky while stretching the obliques and thighs. Utthita Trikonasana, its Sanskrit name, is easily added into your yoga sequence between your Warrior postures or from any standing or lunge position. It is easy to forget the side body, especially the inner and outer thighs when working through your yoga sequence. However, it is often these overlooked muscles that can support the others we use more often and are therefore just as important to acknowledge.

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Pincha Mayurasana, or known through its English name as Feathered Peacock Pose, is an intermediate to advanced yoga inversion that uses Dolphin Pose arms to support the body. If you are a beginner, don’t feel intimidated, instead consider preparing for this upside-down posture through easier variations and practice. Readying yourself for this inversion will begin including similar benefits such as increasing balance and posture, tightening the core, and increasing blood circulation.

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The name “fire log pose”, or Agnistambhasana in Sanskrit, comes from the action of stacking the legs similar to the way wood is placed in a fire. This asana is completely beginner-friendly and a great way to introduce new seating positions into your yoga practice. In this pose, the root chakra is grounded to the yoga mat as the spine is upright, the chin slightly tucked into the chest to lengthen the back of the neck, the hands may naturally come to rest beside you or in your lap, and one bent leg is laid upon the other. You will feel the hips stretching, especially in your raised leg, and in Agnistambhasana you can take the time to bring awareness to the breath and enter a meditative or mindfulness state.

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A first glance at Firefly pose can feel intimidating, but the journey through your practice will be worth the ample rewards this posture can bring you. Besides challenging the body to balance itself in an entirely new way, you’ll greatly build up your wrist, arm, and shoulder strength. That’s not even addressing the amazing workout for the hip flexors – it may take some time to elevate your legs in such a position, but strong hip flexors mean a better connection between your core and lower body.

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Matsyasana bares the chest and shoulders as the back is arched away from your yoga mat bringing the crown chakra in connection with the earth. This posture is often used as a counter-asana to Plow Pose (Halasana). Bringing the body in harmony has a considerable role in yoga, and this includes creating equilibrium in your postures through poses that work the muscles in opposite directions. If you are looking to gain flexibility in the chest, Matsyasana allows you more control over your stretch.

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This asana pulls strength from each muscle of the body to keep the body elevated above your yoga mat in a power-building position. This posture can even help you with other moves that require more upper-body strength by toning the arms, shoulders, and entire core, such as Crow Pose (Bakasana). If you don’t think you have the stability to hold yourself in this position, a gentler version uses the knees which takes away some of the weight being lifted.

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Half Lord of Fishes is a seated yoga pose that beckons the body into an invigorating twist. You’ll be able to feel the shoulder all the way down to the outer thigh stretching as you turn the body around as far as you can go. Known as Ardha Matsyendrasana in Sanskrit, this asana can relieve the body of any post-workout discomfort especially concerning the obliques, shoulders, and hips. 

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Half Moon Pose is an excellent yoga pose that works well in conjunction with all three Warrior poses. You will feel prana building in the supporting leg as it draws energy from the ground up to the hip. The focus in Half Moon Pose is balance, but once you have mastered the ability to stand on the leg in a sideways position, you will be able to add subtle shifts in the body to broaden this posture’s benefits. Instead of reaching for the sky with one arm, you can fold it behind the back to force the shoulder and chest to open wide, activating your heart chakra. To lengthen the quadriceps, use your hand as a guide to bring a bent leg behind you. 

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When practicing the Handstand Pose the body is vertically flipped in this intermediate-to-advance yoga posture. Take to Handstand Pose when you are ready for a full reversal of your attitude, your spirit, and your mind. Unlike many yoga positions that rely on a quarter or half inversion, Handstand Pose uses the hands to connect to the earth while the feet reach for the stars. Engaging in Adho Mukha Vrksasana will allow you to find focus in even the most trying of times. 

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Ananda Balasana encourages relaxation and vulnerability while stretching the pelvis and increasing flexibility in the lower body and lower back. Award yourself with a little massage of the feet and lower back by using your hands or a rolling motion to cradle your miraculous body. Stay in Happy Baby Pose as long as you may need.

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This asana increases flexibility in the hamstring and calf muscle by grabbing the foot and leaning forward. If you have trouble reaching the foot, this forward bend is easily adaptable to suit your unique needs. Touching the calf, floor or thigh is all perfectly acceptable. You can bend the knee as generously as your body allows or add a yoga strap to help guide you forward. Make sure you complete this stretch on each side to keep the body in harmony.

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In this Hero Pose, you will sit on your knees and use this time for contemplation – so how can you be your own hero through your yoga practice? Use this seated posture to engage in pranayama or breath control. Find time to meditate and let go of any worries you’ve been carrying throughout the day. 

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Heron Pose brings a deep stretch to the raised leg and this stretch, depending on your flexibility, will likely be felt in the calf muscle, too. Flex your foot to take full advantage of Krounchasana as this will increase the stretch in the leg. If you’re looking to improve the chances of achieving a vertical split, Krounchasana is an excellent way to practice by focusing on one leg at a time. 

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High Lunge builds strength in the quads as you attempt to remain balanced throughout the pose. The gentler version that is used for more of a hamstring and hip flexor stretch is Low Lunge. To reap the benefits of both lunges, try adding both of them to shake up your salute to the sun. As you hold yourself in High Lunge, you may find keeping your balance difficult. Experiment with widening or narrowing your stance to encourage practice in balance. 

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Locust Pose is a fantastic way to tone the back and build strength in the core in a new way. This pose will not only lead to beautiful muscles in the back but will also tighten the glutes and pectoral muscles. As your chest and legs rise into a gentle backbend, you must work to squeeze the chest and buttocks to keep these parts elevated and stable. 

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Lord of the Dance will increase your quadricep and hip flexibility in the lifted leg while strengthening the rooted leg. You will build stamina in your ability to balance by holding the pose a little longer each time you incorporate Natarajasana into your yoga practice. With a gentle backbend, you can increase your back flexibility and open the chest and shoulders as your hands grasp the back foot.

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Lotus Pose will increase the flexibility in the legs, ankles, and knees. While the lower body is bending together, your posture will improve as you sit straight-backed and align the spine. Be sure to tighten the core by sucking in the lower belly to push the chest up and out when you breathe in and avoid collapsing into the pose when you breathe out. The position of the feet will help keep the pelvis open and provide a gentle stretch for the hip flexors. 

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Anjaneyasana is best for stretching the hip flexors. If you tend to sit for extended periods of the day, your hips will benefit from stretching them out to release the tension you likely hold in this area. You’ll also receive a generous stretch in the thighs and pelvis, making Low Lunge a wonderful way to open the entire lower body. When you are ready to lift your hands from the ground, you can elevate the hands overhead to expand the chest and bend the back.

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Marichi’s Pose provides a fantastic side-body stretch by twisting the body from a seated position. A bent knee provides leverage for your Marichyasana III by gently pushing the elbow and knee together to deepen this core and hip lengthener. Variations are available to make the twist deeper or more challenging such as wrapping the arms around the bent knee or bending the upper body forward. 

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Monkey Pose is great for maintaining flexibility in the hips, especially when you’re already stretching at an advanced level. However, working towards Monkey can provide the same benefits as actively practicing Monkey Pose. Hanumanasana is arguably the best stretch for the hip flexors while simultaneously stretching the calves, thighs, and front glute.

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Also known as Tadasana, this yoga position allows you to focus on the stability of the Earth as you root yourself through the four corners of the feet. Envision yourself as strong and powerful as a mountain as you take your stance to ready yourself for yoga. Activate the seven major chakras by checking in with your posture and allowing energy to float to the top of your head from the tips of your toes.

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This posture builds strength in the entire body and connects to the yoga mat through the palms. Prepare for Peacock with Plank (Phalakasana) variations that work the arms and core. Invite props into your beginner version of Mayurasana to familiarize yourself with the sensation of elevating the body using your full level of energy within.

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Pigeon Pose is great for the glutes as these areas of the body are often under-stretched. You’ll simultaneously stretch the hips and relieve the body of any post-workout pain, especially in these areas. Entering into Pigeon is quite easy from Low Lunge or Lizard. Completing these poses together will target the entire lower body for a more limber you. Visualizing the breath held within the Kapotasana will help you relax into the pose, thereby increasing your stretch tolerance.

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Men will certainly benefit from Plank Pose too by helping to strengthen the hip flexors. You’ll love what Plank Pose can do for your abdomen, back, and chest – watch as your entire upper body becomes more toned with consistent practice. Plank Pose is also excellent for helping you prepare for more advanced yoga poses that rely on upper body strength such as Handstand, Crow, and Peacock. 

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Plow Pose is wonderful for increasing back flexibility and releasing tension from the back body. Placing the legs over the body creates a little nook for the mind as if being cradled like an infant. Feel the love wash over your spirit as you release pressure from the lower body. Halasana also helps to increase blood circulation by pushing it down which is ideal if you’ve been standing all day.

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Open the side body with Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose. This seated side stretch increases flexibility in both the lower and upper body, one side at a time. As you contract on one side through a crunch in the obliques and a bent leg, the other side finds length and a release of tension. Translated from the Sanskrit Parivrtta Janu Sirasana, this asana encourages you to reflect on the give and take of the body.

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Revolved Triangle Pose is ideal for when you want a full-body stretch (as long as you complete the stretch in the opposite direction with the other leg forward afterwards). This chest opener will also realign the spine to improve your posture while a stretch in the shoulders eases away any held tension. Prana will concentrate in the oblique and radiate throughout the abdomen for an excellent tummy toner.

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Scale Pose is the ideal arm-toner because you do not need to hit the gym to build that muscle. The weight of the body is often more than enough to work the arms, and instead of exercising through isolation, you are using other parts of your body such as important stabilizer muscles. You will not only receive a workout in the arms but in the core as well. You’ll tighten the abs to help keep the legs raised, contributing to a toned tummy. You’ll also work the deltoids located above the shoulders which help with heavier lifting.

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Eka Pada Koundinyasana I is excellent for reminding the body if it’s incredible abilities if you are an advanced yogi, or inspiring the self to seek challenges if a beginner. This asana will help you maintain your strength and can work as a full-body exercise itself. You will improve your ability to balance while building endurance in the wrists, forearms, triceps, biceps, and shoulders.

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Eka Pada Koundinyasana II is similar to Koundinya I except you’ll split your legs further and likely compensate by leading further forward. Like the first Pose Dedicated to the Sage, this asana is an excellent reminder of your strength and incredible abilities. While more of an advanced pose, beginners can prepare for Eka Pada Koundinyasana II by breaking down its components (split legs, arm strength, wrist endurance, balance) into novice-friendly yoga poses.

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Marichyasana I provides an excellent stretch through the entire body. It’s great for when you’ve had a long day of remaining in the same position and need to wake the body up a little. You will open the chest and remove any tension you’ve been holding in your neck (especially if you work at a desk all day). With consistent practice, this forward bend variation will improve your posture if you’re prone to hunching by bringing the upper back to a neutral position once again.

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Seated Forward Bend, also commonly called Seated Forward Fold, stretches the lower back while increasing flexibility in the hamstrings and calves. You can alternate between flexing and pointing the feet to bring movement to your calf muscles and shins. When you do find stillness in Paschimottanasana, opt for the flexed foot position to enjoy a deep calf stretch. Generously bend the knees to make sure you work the hamstrings and don’t pull your back muscles too hard.

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Shoulder-Pressing Pose is an intermediate posture that relies on arm strength to lift the body. With the legs wrapped around the elbows, you are better able to stabilize the lower body as you push into the lift. Known as Bhujapidasana in Sanskrit, this asana allows you to maintain and continue to build any muscle in the forearms, biceps, and shoulders.

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Side Crow or Side Crane is wonderful if you are looking to either maintain your arm strength or continue to increase it. Working your way up through more challenging asanas that require more arm strength is a great way to take you from point A to point Z. There is no rush; pursue your journey at your own pace. Just know that practicing Parsva Bakasana can lead you to more advanced postures like the Pose Dedicated to Koundinya I, which starts out in Side Crow.

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Through this position, you can correct poor posture by mindfully aligning your spine as you sit tall in Staff Pose. You can also receive a gentle leg stretch by flexing the feet and keeping the legs nearly completed straight (a micro-bend in the knees is always welcome in yoga).

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Uttanasana stretches the back of the legs, the glutes, and the back through a simple folding motion of the body.This motion helps to open the sacrum found in the lower back without unnecessary pulling. Instead, you use gravity to aid the body in its movement to your advantage. Standing Forward Bend is also a great way to get the blood flowing in a different direction, helping to wake the body up and warm the spine for your continued yoga practice.

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Standing Half Forward Bend stretches the hamstrings while strengthening the entire back and neck. It is a subtle stretch that allows you better control of your movement as you can put your hands on the top of the thighs if you’re somewhat inflexible, or lay them flat on the floor if you are more on the flexible side. Either way, you will be able to feel the legs and spine lengthening in Ardha Uttanasana.

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Standing Half Forward Bend stretches the hamstrings while strengthening the entire back and neck. It is a subtle stretch that allows you better control of your movement as you can put your hands on the top of the thighs if you’re somewhat inflexible, or lay them flat on the floor if you are more on the flexible side. Either way, you will be able to feel the legs and spine lengthening in Ardha Uttanasana.

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