Yoga is not about folding yourself into a pretzel, but let’s be honest, we all love to see the advanced yoga practitioners and teachers tying themselves into unbelievable knots! Careful though, most of the poses are not for the faint hearted (let alone yoga beginners). Needless to say, these are advanced yoga postures and should only be practiced under the guidance of a suitably qualified yoga teacher.
Except Shavasana, go nuts with that one.
Eka Hasta Vrksasana - One Handed Tree Pose
As if balancing upside down on two hands isn’t tricky enough, some yogis do it on one! This pose is part of the 5th and 6th series in Ashtanga, and would obviously only be suitable for anyone who can nail the regular handstand. If you can do this one, you have super impressive core strength, mental focus, and strong wrists given your whole body is balancing on one of them! (Yogi: Dylan Werner)
Sirsa Padasana - Head To Foot Pose
This pose is one of the most intense backbends out there. There is a lot going on: balance, intense mental focus, and the obvious—a combination of muscular strength in the back and deep flexibility of the spine.
Pungu Mayurasana - Wounded Peacock
This pose is essentially Peacock – but using only one arm. Peacock strengthens the wrists, shoulders and arms and helps to improve digestion due to the pressure applied by the arms. The one armed version truly tests mental focus, and in the name of digestive balance should be practiced on both sides! (Yogi: Hannah Franco)
Gandha Bherundasana - Formidable Face Pose
One the most pretzel-esque of all the asanas, and at first glance it looks more contortionist than yoga! The final expression is an intense stretch across the front of the body and as well as a full on flexion of the spine. End result—you can now scratch your nose with your toes. (Yogi: Kino MacGregor)
Sayanasana - Scorpion Pose Variation
Care to stand on your elbows and pull your feet up or towards your head? Boom! Sayanasana (pronounced "Shyanasana"). Not just for shy yoga dudes. (Yogi: Dylan Werner)
Kala Bhairavasana - Destroyer Of The Universe Pose
While this pose looks impressive, it is apparently not as difficult as some of the others on this list. Still, placing one leg behind the head requires very open and flexible hips, and doing it with the body off the floor whilst balancing on one side requires tenacity, mental focus and athleticism (though the translation is a little unsettling, can we please change the name to Protector of the Universe?!). (Yogi: Kino MacGregor)
Taraksvasana - Handstand Scorpion
Taraka = a demon who was slain by Kartikeya, the god of war, Sva = internal power. Handstand Scorpion has two variations, both feet resting the top of the head or one leg raised straight up. While regular Scorpion is practiced on the forearms, this pose cranks up the challenge by coming up on to the hands.
It helps strengthen the abdominals, shoulders, and back muscles, improve balance, and going by the name, helps to increase internal power. (Yogi: Kino MacGregor)
Yoganidrasana - Yoga Sleep Pose
In this deep forward fold you are quite literally folding yourself in to a knot. It is essentially Sleeping Turtle (Supta Kurmasana) flipped on to the back, and it is said to promote a deep feeling of calm. As the name suggests, some yogis reportedly sleep in this position—though for the masses, I’m thinking Shavasana is a better option for a good snooze. (Yogi: Kino MacGregor)
Double Buddhasana - Di Mario’s Knot
Named after a contortionist called Di Mario, this pose is almost impossible to get into by yourself. But wait, perhaps we'll let Kino MacGregor explain... just watch the video. (Yogi: Kino MacGregor)
Shavasana - Corpse Pose
This is considered amongst many traditions to be the most important posture; yet how many of us do it right? In Shavasana, the body is completely still and the mind is relaxed, the latter being a challenge for those of us who are eager to move to something more physically difficult.
Do yourself a massive favor and practice this posture over and over until you get it right, aiming for total stillness inside and out, so you can relax and rejuvenate on every level. (Yogi: Carol F. on YogaTrail)
Which yoga poses do you find extremely challenging?