Many yoga poses are named after animals and other things in the natural world that they…
10 Intermediate Yoga Poses to Add to Your Practice
Once you’ve established a regular yoga practice, you may want to start adding some intermediate yoga poses as you progress. However, be mindful of the fact that there are no actual “levels” in yoga – just more ways to remain present and aware while practicing various asanas.
Intermediate yoga asanas require more focus and discipline while at the same time allowing you to dive into deeper levels of intensity in terms of flexibility and strength. As is the case with all other yoga practices, the same principles of mindfulness and respecting where your body is currently at apply here as well.
Approach these intermediate yoga poses the same way you would approach any other pose – without harshly judging or critiquing yourself and by practicing whatever variation of the pose works best for you.
10 Intermediate Yoga Poses You Can Practice Now
1. Bakasana / Crow Pose
Bakasana is an arm balance that, as its name suggests, resembles the shape of a crow.
Begin in a yogi squat or Malasana and place your hands on the ground, shoulder width distance apart. Spread your fingers wide and press firmly into your finger pads without putting too much strain on them. Then press firmly into your fingertips and bring your feet together at a foot distance behind your hands. Lift your heels off the mat.
Place your knees just above your elbows, using your bent arms as a shelf. The higher up you place your knees, the more strength you’ll need. Another variation of the pose would be to place your knees on the outside of your upper arms and then squeeze them together while at the same time pressing your upper arms back against your knees.
Focus on a point about three feet (one meter) in front of you – a so-called Drishti. Slightly lift up your hips and shift your weight forward. Without kicking back, lift one or both feet off the ground and shift your weight onto your hands.
As you hold your balance, make sure to take deep, long and steady breaths.
If you’re afraid of tipping forward, try placing a block beneath your feet and two blocks in front of you to rest your forehead on.
2. Garudasana / Eagle Pose
Garudasana is an asymmetrical balancing pose that strengthens the legs and core, improves circulation to the limbs, and just like an eagle perched on a tree, increases focus and attention.
From a standing position, slightly bend your knees and bring your right leg over your left thigh, as if coming into a “lady sit”. Keep your left leg slightly bent. If your ankle flexibility allows you to do so, hook your right foot behind your left calf.
First bring your arms out widely to the sides of your body, then cross your right arm over your left arm. Press the backs of your hands together or double-wrap your hands at your wrists so that your palms face each other. Lift your elbows up and pull your hands away from your forehead. At the same time, draw your shoulders down and away from your ears. Lower your hips.
Point your tailbone towards the ground to lengthen your spine. Keep looking forward. You can either stay in this position or pull your belly button in towards your spine and up towards your rib cage before folding forward until your left elbow touches the top of your left knee. Take a few breaths here, then slowly lift yourself up, release your arms and legs, and switch sides.
3. Ustrasana / Camel Pose
Camel Pose is a deep backbend that also stretches the quads. In this pose it’s very important to engage the core in order to protect the lower back. Work on this pose bit by bit and make sure you’re aware of your body at all times.
Come into a high kneeling position and either tuck your toes under or place the backs of your feet on the mat. Keep your knees hip width distance apart. Activate your inner thighs. Place the palms of your hands on the upper part of your buttocks and squeeze your elbows together. Drop your tailbone down by pressing your lower back into your hands. At the same time, use your hands to press your hips forward. Tuck your chin in and lift your chest up.
You can either stay like this or go one step further by releasing your hands down behind you onto two blocks placed at the outside of your feet (adjust the height of the blocks as needed). Keep your fingers pointing backwards. If you have any neck issues, keep your chin tucked in towards your chest. Otherwise, relax your head backwards to deepen the backbend.
For full camel pose, simultaneously release both of your hands from your lower back down to your heels and either tuck your toes under or place your feet flat on the floor. Shift your hips forward and lift your chest up. Draw your shoulder blades together.
To come out of the pose, either lower your pelvis down onto your heels or press into your feet to come forward again. Wait until then to roll your head back up again.
4. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana / Upward Facing Dog
Upward Facing Dog is a backbend that’s usually part of the Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation Vinyasa, but can also be practiced as a standalone pose.
Begin by lying on your belly, place your palms on the mat next to your ribs and spread your fingers wide. Lift up one of your feet and stretch your leg back. Roll your thigh inwards so that your pinky toe points towards the mat. Release your leg back down to the mat and switch sides. This will open up and lengthen your lower back. Then press down through your toes to lift your kneecaps off the ground.
Roll your shoulders back and squeeze your elbows inwards to hug your rib cage while holding the pose. Lengthen up through the crown of your head.
Using your hands, push down on the ground to lift your body up until just the tips of your toes are in contact with the floor. Activate your thighs, draw your kneecaps up and tilt your tailbone down und forward. Push your chest forward and draw your shoulder blades together. Pull your shoulders down and away from your ears. Lengthen up through the crown of your head or just slightly lift your gaze without compressing your cervical spine.
5. Natarajasana / Lord of the Dance Pose or King Dancer Pose
Natarajasana, or Lord of the Dance (King Dancer) Pose, is an asymmetrical standing balancing pose that requires a good backbend as well as flexibility in the hips, legs and shoulders. Like other balancing poses, it helps improve concentration and focus.
From a standing position, bend your right knee and grab a hold of your right ankle with your right hand. Place your left hand on your hips. Press down through your left big toe. Either keep a microbend in your left leg or straighten it, in which case it’s important to remember to draw your left kneecap up.
Roll your shoulders back and pull your belly button in towards your spine.
Activate your right foot by either flexing it or spreading your toes wide. Keep your hips aligned with each other.
Stretch your left arm out in front of you with your palm facing upwards. Create your own version of this pose. For example, you may want to bring the tips of your index finger and thumb together to create Jnana Mudra.
Extend your right leg back and up. Kick your leg back into your hand while at the same time pressing your hand against your leg. Raise your chest.
Either hold the pose with your left hand extended out in front of you or lift your left arm over your head and reach for your back leg. With the latter variation, you may also want to shift your right hand over your head and reach for your foot. Another option would be to wrap a yoga strap around your right ankle and hold onto it with both hands.
After a few breaths on this side, release the pose and repeat the same steps with your other leg.
6. Sirsasana / Headstand
Sirsasana is an inversion pose that can be challenging depending on your anatomy. Some people have naturally long arms, which allows them to hold a balance without exerting additional pressure on their head and neck. Those with shorter arms must adjust by placing folded towels underneath their forearms or simply avoiding this pose altogether. That’s also the case if you have neck problems of any kind.
Begin in Child’s Pose. To determine the right distance, touch your elbows with your hands (i.e. right hand to left elbow, left hand to right elbow). Then create a triangle shape by interlacing your hands in front of you while keeping your elbows in place.
If you have to make adjustments, remember that you’re creating a tripod. If your elbows are too far apart, it will be harder for you to keep your balance.
Interlace your fingers but keep your palms apart. You’ll be touching the ground with the area of your head that lies between your hairline and your crown. This particular area is different for everybody. Place your head on the ground and find your spot. Slightly squeeze your hands together to support your head at the crown.
It’s important to not just hop into the pose or simply kick your legs up. You’ll want to move into the pose in a slow and controlled manner.
Lift your hips up and walk your legs towards you until your hips are right above your shoulders. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. Strongly activate your core and imagine that you’re wearing a corset. Bend one knee after the other into your chest. Slowly raise your knees towards the ceiling and extend one leg at a time. Continue to lift up through your big toes. Lift your shoulders and push your elbows and hands into the ground to keep the pressure off your head.
To get out of the pose, slowly bend your knees back down to your chest, bring one foot at the time to the mat and come into child’s pose.
Be sure to not move your head to the side in this pose! If you fall backwards, simply tuck in your chin and bring your knees towards your chest to allow yourself to roll out of the headstand safely. If you’re new to this pose, start by practicing it against a wall with half a foot distance between the wall and your hands.
7. Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana / Pigeon Pose or One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
Pigeon Pose requires hip and ankle mobility. It also stretches the arms and legs, as well as the sides of the body.
From a Downward Facing Dog, bring your right leg forward and position your right knee behind your right wrist. There are two ways to position your right leg. Start with placing it at a diagonal so that it runs from your right wrist to your left hip. Activate your right leg by pressing down through the top of your foot and click your toes into the mat. If your hips are very flexible, slide your right leg up to where it is level with your knee, horizontal and parallel to the top of the mat. Flex your right foot and press down the outer edge.
Slide your left leg straight behind you as far as possible and place your foot flat on the mat. Place a block, folded blanket or pillow underneath your left hip to avoid tipping to the left side and to help level your hips.
Use your arms to hold yourself up and keep the pose active. Walk your hands towards your hips or place them at your sides and press down into the mat to lengthen your spine. Roll your shoulders back and reach your chest forward.
To deepen the pose, bend your left leg and lean your left foot into your left elbow. Extend your right arm over your head and reach for your left hand. To practice the full pose in a safe and steady manner, use a strap around your foot or between your hands.
Alternatively, you can also come into a forward fold instead of going into this backbend. To do this, walk your hands forward and fold your upper body over your front leg. You may either rest on your forearms or even place your forehead down onto the mat and stretch your arms out in front of you.
Hold the pose for a few breaths in whatever variation is most accessible to you. Depending on whether you were in a backbend or a forward fold, either release your left leg down or lift yourself up to come out of the pose. Remove your props, tuck the toes of your right foot under, lift your hips up and come back into Downward Facing Dog. Stay here for a few breaths and shift your hips from side to side a few times. Then repeat all of the steps with the other side of your body.
8. Chaturanga Dandasana / Four Limbed Staff Pose
Chaturanga Dandasana is one of the few intermediate yoga poses that, when executed properly, activates the pulling power of the arms. It’s normally practiced as part of a Vinyasa to transition out of Downward Facing Dog.
Come into a Downward Facing Dog. Spread your fingers wide and roll your upper arms in so that the insides of your elbows face forward. From Downward Facing Dog, inhale and lift up to your tiptoes. Straighten your body into Plank Pose. Transfer your weight to your arms and shift forward so that your shoulders are positioned slightly in front of your hands. Reach through the crown of your head and pull your shoulders back. Tuck your tailbone in and strongly engage your core.
As you exhale, gaze forward and bend your elbows while you keep them hugged in towards your rib cage. Lower your upper body until your arms are bent at a right angle. Your shoulders, elbows and hips should all be on the same level. Try this pose with a strap around your upper arms right above your elbows or place two blocks underneath your shoulders. The strap and the block will keep you from lowering down too far.
As a safety precaution, don’t continue to hold the pose if your shoulders sink below the level of your elbows. Only lower yourself to a level where you feel like you’d still be able to press yourself up again into plank without putting in too much effort.
9. Gomukhasana / Cow Face Pose
Gomukhasana, or Cow Face Pose, is one of the seated intermediate yoga poses that opens up the hips and shoulders.
Begin by sitting on a block or directly on the mat and position your bent legs in front of you. Grab your left foot, pull it underneath your right leg and place it next to your right hip with your knee pointing forwards. Place your right knee over your left one and bring your right foot to your left hip. Position both of your feet so that they’re in line with your hips and press your toes into the mat.
Depending on your hip flexibility, your top knee might hover above the other one. You may place a block or folded blankets between your knees to make this more comfortable.
Inhale and extend your right arm above your head, palm facing inwards. Exhale to bend your elbow and place your hand behind your head at the nape of your neck or in between your shoulder blades. Bring your left arm behind you and bend your elbow so that the back of your hand rests against your back. Wiggle your left hand up towards your right hand and grab a hold of your fingers.
If your hands can’t reach each other, use a strap to extend your reach or allow your left arm to cross horizontally behind your back. After a few breaths, release your arms and legs and repeat on the other side of your body.
10. Utthita Hasta Padangustasana / Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose
Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose is a standing balancing asana that stretches the hamstrings, hips and adductors. This pose also challenges the arm and back muscles.
From a standing position, bend your right knee to grab a hold of your big toe with the peace-fingers (index and middle finger) of your right hand. Your right arm touches the inside of your right leg. Extend your leg forward and then out to the side. Keep your left hand on your hip or extend it out to the left for balance.
If you cannot straighten your leg, either keep it bent or use a strap wrapped around your foot to extend your reach.
Either direct your Drishti out in front of you or look over your left shoulder to make this balancing position more challenging.
After a few breaths on this side, release the pose and repeat the same with your left leg lifted and extended.
Practicing intermediate yoga poses simply means that you’re adding more asanas to your yoga practice in order to give yourself more opportunities to practice being present without going into autopilot.
Although they may require more flexibility and strength, these and more yoga poses can easily be added to your routine if you practice yoga regularly.
These intermediate yoga asanas will add a greater dimension to your practice and allow you to remain aware of your body and state of mind while exploring different poses.