This guide has everything you need to know to master the ten most difficult yoga poses, including what warm-up poses to try and how to get into the poses. If you find that your go-to poses are no longer providing you the challenge that you crave, try some of these advanced yoga poses.
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Stretches to Prep for Advanced Yoga Poses
Extreme yoga poses often require extreme flexibility, so you should always do some warm-up stretches and easy poses before attempting any advanced poses. The specific warm-up stretches you should do depend on which advanced poses you will be working on. Warm up the parts of your body that you will be engaging in each pose.
- Downward Facing Dog: This stretch is one of the most popular yoga poses. It stretches your legs, back, and neck. This pose is a great full-body warm-up to prepare you for your favorite challenging yoga pose.
- Revolved Side Angle Pose: For a more challenging whole-body stretch, try the revolved side angle pose. This pose stretches the legs, back, shoulders, and chest. For a great warm-up sequence, transition from Downward Facing Dog to Revolved Side Angle Pose.
- Hand Under Foot Pose: Many of the hardest yoga poses put a lot of pressure on the wrists. Stretching the wrists is essential to prevent injury when doing advanced handstand poses. Hand Under Foot Pose stretches your wrists, back, and hamstrings.
Advanced Yoga Poses
Back in the day, achieving hard yoga poses used to be the gold standard of being an advanced yogi, but accidental injuries abounded in yogis where people tried to force themselves into poses. There is still space for the more challenging poses to be part of an advanced practice, but it’s important to know the risks and the safety precautions to avoid injury.
As you advance in your yoga practice, you will be amazed at what your body can do. We understand the desire to push yourself to new levels, physically and mentally. Building a strong yoga community in your city is another great way to improve your practice and find advanced yoga classes.
The list below includes some of the craziest yoga poses to challenge your mind and body. Please do not attempt these poses unless you have years of yoga experience or are under the direction of a qualified yoga teacher. Always warm up to prevent injury.
- Eight Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)
- Handstand Scorpion Pose (Taraksvasana)
- Exorcist Pose
- Yoga Sleep Pose (Yoganidrasana)
- The Tripod Headstand with Lotus Legs Pose (Sirsasana li Padmasana)
- One-Legged Crow Pose (Eka Pada Bakasana)
- Formidable Face Pose (Gandha Bherundasana)
- Compass Pose (Surya Yantrasana)
- Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
- Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)
Eight Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)
Stretches/Works: thighs, abs, arms, and wrists
Poses to Help Prepare: Crow Pose, Handstand, and Chaturanga
Astavakrasana is a popular advanced pose that requires a lot of upper body strength and balance. To successfully hold this pose, you will need to engage every muscle in your body.
The entry to this complicated pose is very important. Start sitting on the ground with one leg out in front of you and the other leg bent. Grab the outside foot of the bent leg with the opposite hand. Lift the bent leg up and over the same-side shoulder using your other hand to guide the leg as needed. Press the leg down into the shoulder. Then, put your hands flat on the ground next to your hips and push down to lift your body off the ground. Push your legs out to the side with your straight leg going underneath the arm.
The legs should be slightly bent in Astavakrasana. Engage your thighs by squeezing your arm. Bend your arms to a 90-degree angle like in the Chaturanga Pose. You can cross your ankles to help anchor you. If you are struggling with arm balancing, look down to stabilize yourself.
Handstand Scorpion Pose (Taraksvasana)
Stretches/Works: shoulders, abs, and back muscles
Poses to Help Prepare: Handstand, backbend poses, and Scorpion Pose
Taraksvasana or Handstand Scorpion Pose is a more advanced variation of the already difficult Scorpion Pose. With Scorpion, the forearms are flat on the ground with elbows bent, but with Taraksvasana, the arms are straight in a handstand position. This pose will really test your balance. It requires strong shoulder and back muscles as well as a solid core. Many yogis consider Taraksvana to be the most difficult asana.
When you are first learning this pose, you can use a wall for assistance. Start with your hands about a foot away from the wall. As you go into the pose, lean your legs onto the wall in a controlled manner. To begin this pose, inhale and go into a standard handstand. As you exhale, bend your back and keep your chest lifted. Bend your feet towards your head and lift your head to meet them.
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Stretches/Works: hamstrings, shoulders, and hips
Poses to Help Prepare: Chair Pose, Bound Triangle Pose, and Destroyer of the Universe Pose
The Exorcist Pose was created by an American yoga practitioner named Kathryn Budig, so it does not have a Sanskrit name. However, it is based on the Destroyer of the Universe Pose (Kala Bhairavasana). Looking at this difficult yoga pose, it’s easy to see why Budig named it the Exorcist Pose. In the pose, one leg is bent in front of you, and the other is straight in the air behind your shoulder.
To enter the Exorcist Pose, start in a seated position with your legs bent in front of you. Grab one foot and use your hands to guide the leg behind your shoulder. Place your calf on top of your shoulder. The same-side arm goes on the ground behind the leg. Push down with both hands flat on the ground while simultaneously swinging your hips forward and up. As you push off the ground, straighten the back leg behind your shoulder and look up to open the chest.
This pose will stretch your hamstrings and open up your hips. It requires a lot of upper body strength to hold yourself off the ground and hamstring strength to hold up the straight leg. Make sure to do this pose on both sides for an even workout.
Yoga Sleep Pose (Yoganidrasana)
Stretches/Works: hips, legs, joints, and tendons
Poses to Help Prepare: Eye of the Needle Pose, Bridge Pose, and Shoulderstand
Yoga Sleep Pose differs from many of the others on this list because it requires a high level of flexibility but not necessarily a high level of strength. No matter how experienced you are, we recommend warming up thoroughly before doing this pose. Yoganidrasana is great for opening up the hips and chest. You will feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings and inner thighs.
Yoganidrasana is also a meditative pose. Advanced yogis can hold this pose for a long time which is likely how it got its name. The pose fosters relaxation, calmness, and body awareness.
To get into Yoganidrasana, start laying flat on your back. While inhaling, bend your knees and reach up to grab your feet. Your feet should be together so that your legs form a diamond. Rotate your hips until your ankles are close to your shoulders. Cross your ankles behind your head and press your shoulders down into your knees. Tuck your hands beneath your tailbone.
The Tripod Headstand with Lotus Legs Pose (Sirsasana li Padmasana)
Stretches/Works: arms, wrists, shoulders, neck, and abs
Poses to Help Prepare: Tripod Dolphin Pose, Headstand, and Lotus Pose
This challenging yoga pose combines two different poses – Tripod Headstand and Lotus Pose. You should master each of these separately before putting them together. Tripod Dolphin Pose is a great starting point if you are not ready to do headstands yet. Headstands can be dangerous and cause neck injury if not done properly. Make sure to build up neck strength before trying this hard yoga pose.
You can practice headstands against a wall for support if you are still learning. Start about a foot away from the wall with your forearms and head on the ground. Make a tripod by clasping your hands together. Put your legs out straight in front of you in a plank pose. Keep your core engaged as you walk your legs up to Tripod Dolphin Pose. From there, you can slowly lift your legs to the wall. Once you can do the Tripod Headstand well, cross your legs into Lotus Pose. For an extra challenge, you can start with just your palms and head on the ground.
One-Legged Crow Pose (Eka Pada Bakasana)
Stretches/Works: arms, wrists, shoulders, and abs
Poses to Help Prepare: Seated Twist Pose, Handstand, and Crow Pose
One-Legged Crow Pose will test your strength and balance. It is a variation of Crow Pose, sometimes referred to as Crane Pose. In Crow Pose, you are balanced on your hands, and the legs are bent with your knees near your elbows. One-Legged Crow Pose takes this move to the next level by straightening one leg up and out behind you. Yogis should master Crow Pose before attempting Eka Pada Bakasana.
For Crow Pose, start in a toe stand with open knees. Press your knees into the back of your triceps, and put your hands flat on the ground. Lean forward onto your arms to lift your feet off the ground keeping your knees tucked. Once you feel very confident in Crow Pose, move into One-Legged Crow by straightening one leg up behind you. You may need to lean forward more for balance as you lift the leg.
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Formidable Face Pose (Gandha Bherundasana)
Stretches/Works: wrists, shoulders, arms, upper back, and abs
Poses to Help Prepare: Cobra Pose, Chaturanga, and Handstand
The Formidable Face Pose is another interesting variation of a handstand. Mastery of this pose is a feat of both strength and balance. Because your face is so close to the ground, your body must be very controlled going into and out of the pose to avoid injury. The key is to engage your core.
While this is certainly an advanced move, the entry is fairly straightforward. Start in a Chaturanga. Then, lift one leg up behind you. Lift the other leg to meet the first leg keeping your arms in Chaturanga and your chin close to the ground.
As the name suggests, this pose is formidable. Don’t fret if you don’t get it the first time! You can place blocks under your shoulders or chest for support as you are learning.
Compass Pose (Surya Yantrasana)
Stretches/Works: arms, shoulders, back, abs, glutes, hips, and hamstrings
Poses to Help Prepare: Happy Baby Pose, Eye of the Needle Pose, and Crooked Monkey Pose
This complicated yoga pose is a full-body workout when done on both sides. It requires a lot of shoulder, hip, and hamstring flexibility. Do lots of stretching poses to warm up for Compass Pose.
The entry to Compass Pose is the beginning of the entry into the Eight Angle Pose. If you aren’t quite able to do Eight Angle yet, practice Compass Pose more. For modifications as you are learning, try placing yoga blocks under your hands. The more you stretch and practice Compass Pose, the easier it will be to straighten that leg behind your shoulder.
Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
Stretches/Works: mind and body
Poses to Help Prepare: Supine Spinal Twist, Child’s Pose, and warrior poses
Shavasana may seem easy, but advanced yogis understand it is one of the most complicated yoga poses to master. It may look like you are just lying still, but the challenge of Shavasana comes from making your mind still.
To do Shavasana, lay flat on your yoga mat as still as possible. Breathe deeply and focus on releasing each body part from your head to your toes until you are completely relaxed. This may take years to fully master.
Practice Corpse Pose anytime you want to quiet your mind or release tensions in your body. According to advanced yoga teacher Mesha Hegna, yoga is a powerful stress reliever. This pose can even help if you are having trouble falling asleep at night. Shavasana is most effective when done after other more physically challenging poses.
Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)
Stretches/Works: back, spine, abs, shoulders, and legs
Poses to Help Prepare: Tree Pose, backbend poses, and warrior poses
Dancer Pose is also sometimes referred to as Lord of the Dance Pose. Balance is vital for this pose. When learning, you can lightly hold on to the back of a chair if needed. Warm up with easier balance poses such as Tree Pose. You should be able to confidently balance on one leg before trying Dancer Pose. You could also warm up with some lunges to open your hips and inner thighs.
Start in a standing position. Lift one foot behind you towards your butt. Grab the inside of that foot with the same side hand. Recenter yourself by squeezing your knees together. The goal of this pose is to always be aligned, centered, and facing forward from your head to your toes.
Reach your other arm out straight and slightly above shoulder height. Keeping your hips level and facing forward, lean forward and lift the bent leg up. It’s important that you do not let go of your foot to maintain control as you move into and out of this move.
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Advanced yoga poses can bring joy to even the most seasoned yogis because they provide both a physical and mental challenge. The most extreme poses combine a high level of strength, flexibility, and balance. They often include variations of handstands or headstands. These poses can be dangerous, so yoga students should only try them with the help of a yoga instructor.
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