For about 90% of us doing yoga, the most difficult yoga postures are not in the typical routine. Many of them require strength, flexibility, balance and care so you can avoid injuring yourself. The following postures are not for the faint at heart and should only be attempted the first time in the presence of a qualified yoga instructor.
This is one of the most difficult yoga postures if not the most difficult one. The handstand scorpion pose requires you to have good balance, plenty of strength and extreme flexibility.
For those of you first attempting this pose use a wall for assistance that is about a foot away. Once you’re in a handstand, arch your back and touch the wall with your toes. Slowly move your feet down towards your head while continuing to arch your back to help you stay balanced. The object is to have your feet just above your head.
Once in position, you should hold it so 5 to 6 breaths then slowly move your legs back up to the straight position and place your feet on the ground. This pose improves your balance while strengthening your shoulders, abdominals and back muscles. Sanskrit name for this posture is Taraksvasana.
The Side Plank
The side plank doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult. But appearances can be deceiving and this one of the most difficult yoga postures for a beginner. This pose requires strength, flexibility and balance.
Place one hand and the side of one foot on the floor and the opposing arm and leg that should be next to the body until you have mastered your balance of this posture.
For beginners the elbow can be used instead of the hand on the floor. For those of you with weak wrists the elbow option is recommended. You hips should be raised so your body is in a straight line from your foot to your shoulders.
After you’ve mastered your balance, the opposing arm and leg can be stretched upwards. Your shoulders should be drawn back to help keep your chest in alignment as you move your arm and leg upwards. The position of your head should be looking toward the wall in front of you or the ceiling.
It may be a good idea to first attempt this posture next to a wall to assist in balance. You should do this posture on both sides of your body and match the time holding it for each side.
When you do this yoga posture you will be strengthening your glutes, abdominals, and obliques. The average time this posture is held is near two minutes. The Sanskrit name for this posture is Vasisthasana.
The plow posture (Halasana) is another deceiving pose that helps to relax a practitioner when accomplished correctly. At first lay on your back then slowly raise your hips until your back is perpendicular to the floor with your head and eyes looking up.
With your legs extended, you should slowly move them over your head until your toes touch the floor with your back remaining perpendicular to the floor. Your arms can be positioned on your back for support or extended outwards in the opposite direction of your legs.
At first most yogis can’t safely touch the floor with their toes. For safety reasons a chair should be placed close so your toes can be situated on the seat of the chair instead of the floor.
This posture requires flexibility and you should always move into the position slowly.
No muscles are stressed in this pose because it’s used to help calm and relax you. When in position this pose should be held for about 5 minutes.
The Tripod Headstand with Lotus Legs
The tripod headstand (Sirsasana Ii Padmasana) with lotus legs looks simple but it’s one of the most difficult yoga postures to get correct and should only be attempted by advanced yoga practitioners. The first step is to practice the lotus legs before attempting to do it inverted with a headstand.
First, you sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Take your right foot and place it on top of your left thigh. Next, take your left foot and place it on your right thigh. You should get into this position slowly because when you’re inverted, any sudden movement can cause you to lose your balance.
The next step is to do a headstand. At first you should have your hand on the floor to help keep you balanced with your legs straight up in the air. Slowly move your right foot to its place on top of your left thigh. Take your left foot and place it on your right thigh.
Once you’re in a loose lotus, snuggle your legs so they fit closer into position. When you have a tight lotus leg then slowly move the knees in front of you with the bottom of your legs parallel to the floor. At first only hold this position for approximately 8 breathes.
This difficult yoga posture requires practice to master. To help at first, do the headstand near a wall to help with the balance when moving the legs into position.
The muscles groups that will benefit from this pose include arms, shoulders, abdominals, hips and neck.
Yoga Sleep Pose
The yoga sleep pose (yoganidrasana) is only for practitioners that are extremely flexible. When accomplished you look like you’re tied like a pretzel. Some yoga practitioners even sleep in this pose which is how it got its name. But, let’s be honest, you need to be pretty hardcore to sleep like that.
Here’s how you do it: First lay on your back, then cross your legs at the ankles and bring your knees to your chest. Slowly move your ankles over your head so they can make contact with the back of your head. If flexibility permits it, move your arms through your thighs and body.
When getting into position, breathing can be difficult. Once in this position, your body will relax and breathing becomes easier.
The biggest benefit of this difficult yoga posture is the full stretching of the spine and associated muscles. This posture will also improve your circulation, reduce your stress, reduces symptoms of menopause and aligns the spine.
Formidable Face Pose
The formable face pose (Gandha Bherundasana) is another one of the most difficult yoga postures that makes you look like a pretzel and is only recommended for advanced yoga practitioners. This pose requires extreme flexibility, balance, and some strength.
To begin you should be on your hands and knees or in the tabletop position. Take your left leg and lift it up while lowering your chin to the floor. Have your hands flat on the floor as far back as you can. Lift your other leg up in a vertical position while keeping your chest on the floor.
The main part of your weight should now be on your shoulders. Slowly bring your legs over the front edge. For those attempting this for the first time use a chair for your feet to rest on which is situated just in front of you.
The aim is to have your feet flat on the ground with your back fully arched. This position should only be held for 3 to 6 breaths. This pose strength’s your shoulders and thighs, stretching your abdominal muscles while increasing your circulation.
Eight Angle Pose
The eight angle pose (Astavakrasana) is for those of you with arm strength, very good balance and why this is considered one of the most difficult yoga postures to do.
Be seated on the floor with your legs open. Place the palm of your right hand between your legs with the left hand on the outside of your left thigh on the floor. Take your right leg and straighten it out to your right side. Take your left leg and move it in front of your right hand, straighten it out and cross your legs at the ankle to the right side.
The last move is where strength is required. While keeping your balance do a pushup with all the weight being on your arms. This position should be held for at least 45 seconds to a minute if possible. The left side should then be done.
The benefits are for your arm, shoulder and abdominal muscles while improving your balance.
The Corpse Pose
While by its appearance the corpse pose (Shavasana) looks like the easiest, but for many, it is the most difficult yoga posture. This is a very common pose done at the end of a yoga session, but many don’t actually know the correct way to perform the pose.
Yoga not only shapes your body, but also your mind. The objective is to release all worries and thoughts while relaxing your entire body. The legs should be slightly spread with your arms at your sides and the palms of your hands up.
With your body totally relaxed, your mind has to be cleared of all thoughts, especially any conflicts in your life. The best way to achieve this pose is not to think. On average it is recommended to stay in this pose for 5 minutes for every 30-minute yoga session you have just completed.
Another thing most practitioners get wrong is how they get up. You should roll to one side with your head still on the mat and breathe several times. Your head should be the last part of your body touching the floor before you sit up.
This pose will relax and rejuvenate your entire being.
One-Handed Tree Pose
The one handed tree pose (Eka Hasta Vrksasanav) is a challenge for even those yoga practitioners that have great balance and strength. The other obstacle is the ability to control both of those variables while inverted.
The first step is the ability to do a 2 handed handstand. Once in that position, you must spread your legs. As you slowing lift one of your hands off the mat, you use your legs to help balance yourself. You should have your shoulders over the hand that is the support on the mat.
This difficult yoga posture develops the wrist and elbows in terms of stability control while strengthening the arm and abdominal muscles. Once your mind is clear, your breathing will be in a relaxed state.
Destroyer of the Universe
The destroyer of the universe pose (ala Bhairavasana) looks difficult to do, but that is deceiving. You should have flexibility in your hips and have the balance and strength to do a side plank. To hold this pose requires a strong mental focus.
To get into this pose, you need to be in the one-arm plank. The next step is to have both feet on the ground and take the lower one and place it behind your head.
Some beginners place their leg behind their head then roll over and lift themselves into the side plank pose. Once in position lift your free arm towards the ceiling while also looking upwards.
This posture develops the abdominal and arm muscles while increasing the flexibility of the hips and hamstring.
These are some of the most difficult yoga postures that practitioners have to deal with in their quest to be an advanced yoga master. Take caution when attempting them for the first time. If your body is not prepared to be contorted or ultra-flexible, you could injure yourself. It’s vital you move into each position slowly so you can assess how you’re feeling as you move through the pose and stop if you need to.