Practicing yoga on a regular basis has a plethora of health benefits. Just a few of these benefits include reduced stress, increased focus, increased strength, and increased balance for both your body and your mind.
Many yoga practitioners make the choice to build their regular yoga practice around a certain goal, which can change each time they practice.
Sometimes the goal may be to focus on breathwork, which might mean they choose a slower restorative or grounded flow practice. Other times the goal may be to build muscle and burn calories, which might mean engaging in a vigorous Vinyasa Flow practice.
For yoga practitioners whose goal is to increase their balance, a sequence built around standing yoga poses is the way to go! Try adding these poses to your regular yoga practice to find both physical and mental balance.
1. Mountain Pose
Mountain pose is the most basic standing yoga pose in any yoga practice. To get into this pose, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Reach actively down with your arms, with your palms open and your fingers spread.
Root your feet into the ground and feel the support the ground provides. Breathe deeply and focus on creating proper spinal alignment.
While it doesn’t seem like this pose requires much balance, mountain pose is the foundation of all balance poses. In order to hold any balancing pose, you must be able to properly root your foot or feet into the ground and feel the support the ground provides.
If you can’t properly ground your feet, you’re guaranteed to tip over in any balance pose.
To practice grounding your feet in mountain pose, lift all ten toes and feel how your balance changes. Then bring your toes down and feel the additional stability.
Then, focus on your feet and move around on your feet so you can feel how each movement impacts your balance. Finally, find stillness and root completely into the ground.
Whenever you feel like you’re losing your balance in a standing yoga pose, return to mountain pose and find your grounded, rooted feet again.
2. Tree Pose
Tree pose is one of the most basic single-leg balance poses. Start in mountain pose with both feet rooted into the ground. Slowly transfer weight into your right leg, keeping your rooted, grounded foot.
Start to slowly lift your left leg. The sole of the foot can come to the inside of the shin, or the inside of the thigh, creating a triangle shape. Never place the sole of your lifted foot on the inside of the knee of the grounded leg. This is not safe for the knee joint.
Once your legs are in place, you can raise your hands to prayer at your heart center, or you can raise your arms over your head. For an extra challenge both mentally and physically, close your eyes.
Hold this pose for as long as you can before slowly and intentionally lowering the raised leg to the ground. Return to Mountain pose, and then repeat the pose on the left side.
When you’re first starting to practice this pose you can leave the toes of the lifted leg on the ground, bringing the sole of the “raised” foot to the inside of the ankle. This leaves contact points on the ground for both legs.
You can also practice this pose by holding onto a wall and slowly backing away from the wall as you feel more comfortable with your balance.
3. Modified Hand to Big Toe Pose
The full version of Hand to Big Toe pose is a pretty advanced balance pose. But there’s a modified version that’s more accessible to those just starting out, which can help you build up to the extended version of this pose.
Start in mountain pose with your grounded, rooted feet. Slowly transfer your weight into your right leg, keeping your grounded, rooted foot.
Raise your left leg by bending your left knee so that your leg is in the air at a 90-degree angle. Find your balance here and hold this pose for a moment.
When you feel ready, place your hand on your knee and slowly open up your hip. Your left leg will now be at the side of your body at a 90-degree angle. Hold this pose for as long as you can before slowly and intentionally letting your left leg come to the ground.
Find your balance in Mountain pose again and then repeat the pose on the left side.
Once you’re familiar with this pose you can try extended hand to big toe pose. Instead of lifting your leg at a 90-degree angle, extend your leg straight in front of you. Reach forward and grab your big toe.
When you have your balance here, slowly open your hip until your leg is extended out to the side of your body.
4. Warrior 3 Pose
All of the previous balance poses have involved standing with a straight spine, but Warrior 3 incorporates balance with bending at the hips. Warrior 3 can be set up from many other poses like mountain pose, Warrior 1, Crescent Lunge, and more.
When you’re first learning the pose, it’s easiest to set it up from mountain pose.
Starting in Mountain pose, find your grounded, rooted feet. Start transferring your weight into your right leg, and at the same time, start bending forward at the waist. Raise your left leg off the ground and extend it out behind you.
At this point, you’ll be bent forward with your chest parallel to the floor, balancing on your right leg with your left leg floating straight behind you. Your hands can come to prayer at your heart, or your arms can come out to a T.
Some people find that holding their arms at a T helps them balance in this pose.
Hold this pose for as long as you can. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, start to raise your upper body at the waist. At the same time, bring your left leg forward to meet your right leg at the front of the mat and plant your foot.
Return to mountain pose, find your rooted, grounded feet and repeat the pose on the left side.
5. Half Moon Pose
Half moon pose is one of the more challenging basic balance poses. It combines bending at the waist with opening the hips, so the balance is on two dimensions rather than one.
Half Moon Pose can be set up from many different poses including mountain pose, Triangle Pose, Warrior 2, and many more. The easiest setup is from Triangle pose.
Start in Triangle pose. Slowly, start to transfer your weight into the front leg. When you feel strong and grounded in your front foot, start to lift the back leg.
Lift the back leg until it is parallel to the floor. Focus on opening your hips so that your entire body is in a single plane – like you could fit between two panes of glass.
Your bottom hand will be reaching for the floor and your top hand will be reaching for the sky. To make this pose a bit more accessible, place your bottom hand on a yoga block instead of reaching for the floor.
When you’re ready to come out of the pose, slowly and intentionally lower the back leg, returning to Triangle pose. Switch which leg is in front in Triangle pose and then set up Half Moon Pose on the other side.
6. Dancer Pose
Dancer pose is one of the more challenging balance poses. It requires a fair amount of flexibility in your quads and your lower back, so make sure you work on these areas before attempting this pose.
To set up Dancer pose, start in mountain pose. Find your grounded, rooted feet. Slowly transfer your weight into your right leg.
Bend your left leg at the knee so your foot comes up to your bottom. Reach behind you and grab the foot of the bent leg.
If you’re just starting out with Dancer pose, you may just practice balancing on one leg while holding the foot of the bent leg.
If you’re ready to take this pose further, start by bending forward at the hips until your chest is parallel to the floor. At the same time, press the top of your foot into your hand and start extending the bent leg so that there is less bend at the knee.
Your front arm will reach in front of you.
Hold for as long as you can. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, start by slowly raising your upper body until you’re standing straight up. Release the foot of the raised leg and slowly lower the raised leg to the floor.
Return to mountain pose, find your grounded, rooted feet, and then set up Dancer pose on the other side.
Practicing Standing Yoga Poses for Balance
These are the most basic standing yoga poses that will help you build your balance, both physically and mentally. When practicing balance poses, it’s best to build up slowly.
Start by making sure you have complete stability in Mountain pose. Then try Tree pose, which provides a bit more stability because the lifted leg is against the standing leg. Then move on to Modified Hand to Big Toe Pose and build up all the way to Dancer pose from there.
There are several other standing yoga poses you can practice to increase your balance, but these are a great place to start. For more information about adding balance poses to your yoga practice, check out our online video series.