If you’ve mastered the basics of yoga, you might be ready to take on something a bit more challenging—like those gravity-defying holds your 6 a.m. front-row is known for. To help you get started, we checked in with Briohny Smyth, an Alo Moves yoga instructor with over ten years of teaching experience (and the flexibility to prove it). Here are 12 advanced yoga poses this seasoned vet swears by, including step-by-step instructions, holistic benefits, beginner modifications and her own personal tips.

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*A proper warm-up is required before attempting any of these poses. We suggest giving them a try during or after an active flow. Start slow and ease your way into each move, incorporating modifications when needed and listening to your body at all times. These poses are for intermediate or advanced yogis only. If it’s your first time on the mat, try some beginner yoga stretches instead.

advanced yoga poses handstand
Alo Moves

1. Handstand Pose (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

How To Do It:

From a standing split position, place your palms onto the mat directly below your shoulders and gaze at the space between your hands. Stack the standing foot directly below your hip with a slight bend in the knee. Engage your core and kick up with control, drawing the thigh up and into the hip socket to lead with the standing leg. Reach the lifted leg straight up and engage through your toes. Bring your legs together with your big toes touching and heels slightly separated.

Benefits of Handstand Pose:

  • Builds upper body strength
  • Strengthens core muscles
  • Boosts energy and mood
  • Increases circulation
  • Improves balance and stability

Tips and Modifications:

“This is my favorite pose ever. I love the empowerment and confidence that is built through a handstanding journey. It is one of the best learning experiences you'll ever have.” To master this pose, engage your core and tuck your ribs and navel in to avoid banana back. Also, make sure your spine is aligned when you’re in your prep position and use your standing leg to kick up, rather than your lifted leg. “Pro tip: Reach your lifted leg up towards the ceiling. When you hop, bring your kicking knee in towards your chest and heel towards your butt.” This will stop your lifted leg from leaning too far backward.

advanced yoga poses twisted floor bow
Alo Moves

2. Twisted Floor Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

How To Do It:

From a sphinx pose, extend your right arm forward. Crawl your left arm over to the opposite side and come down onto your elbow. Make sure that the elbow is lower than your shoulder⁠. Curl your legs up and in as you reach your toes toward your back. Reach back with your right hand and grab hold of the left foot. Reach back with your left hand and grab hold of the right toes. Kick your left foot into your right hand as you lift your knee up to help lift your chest, head and shoulders off the ground.

Benefits of Twisted Floor Bow Pose:

  • Stretches your front body and hip flexors
  • Builds strength in your back muscles
  • Opens your chest and shoulders

Tips and Modifications:

“Twisted Bow is a really great yoga pose for the shoulders. It's a fun variation from Dhanurasana or bow pose. The key to this pose is to use your elbow as a kickstand. Push down through your arm and lift your chest up.”

advanced yoga poses crane
Alo Moves

3. Crane Pose (Bakasana)

How To Do It:

From Malasana or garland pose, place both hands onto the mat directly below your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide with the middle fingers pointing forward. Lift the pelvis up slightly and bend the elbows while rotating your forearms in towards your midline. Lightly press your knees high against your triceps, near your armpits. Gaze down toward the mat just beyond your fingertips. Spread your shoulder blades wide and slowly shift your weight into your hands and engage the core. Keep shifting your weight forward to lift your feet off the mat. Point your toes and kick your heels toward your butt to engage the hamstrings. Straighten your arms to complete the pose.

Benefits of Crane Pose:

  • Strengthens your entire upper body
  • Improves your core strength
  • Aids in digestion and detoxification of internal organs

Tips and Modifications:

“Crane pose is a wonderful way to get yourself started and learn the foundations of arm balancing. My two favorite drills to achieve it involve crow kickbacks and using your yoga blocks as support,” either beneath your feet or at the crown of your head. You can also put a pillow or blanket beneath your head if you’re fearful of falling.

advanced yoga poses splits
Alo Moves

4. Split Pose (Hanumanasana)

How To Do It:

From Ardha Hanumanasana or half monkey pose, shift your torso up and place your fingertips directly below your shoulders. Flex your front foot and engage your quad to protect your knee. Begin to slide the back knee back and the front heel forward until your front sit bone makes contact with the ground. If it does not touch the ground, grab a block, a bolster or a folded-up blanket to prop it up. Square your hips as much as possible by rolling the inner thigh of the back leg up. Inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale to fold over the front leg drawing your ribs and your navel in. For extra support, keep your hands down at your sides. For an added challenge, reach your arms up above your head.

Benefits of Split Pose:

  • Strengthens and stretches your hamstrings, quads and groin muscles
  • Increases hip flexibility when practiced regularly
  • Stretches the lower back muscles

Tips and Modifications:

Blocks, bolsters and blankets are your friends here. Use them for support wherever needed. Hip openers and hamstring lengtheners will also help build up your flexibility. “Splits are great for stretching your entire lower body. When practiced on a regular basis, they can greatly improve your hip mobility.” Slow and steady wins the race splits!

advanced yoga poses one legged king pigeon
Alo Moves

5. One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

How To Do It:

From downward-facing dog, lift one leg up high off the ground and bend it at the knee. Shift forward and bring the lifted leg to the mat behind your hands, laying your shin down perpendicular to your body. Flex the ankle to protect the bent knee. Untuck the back toes and lower down to the mat, ensuring that your back leg is extended in a straight line behind you. Square off your hips and bend your straight leg to a 90-degree angle. Knit your shoulder blades together and down to draw the chest forward as you slowly gaze up towards the sky. Extend your arms high and back, reaching for your foot as your lengthen out your neck. To deepen the hip stretch, release your foot and fold forward, walking your hands out in front of you or coming down onto your forearms.

Benefits of One-Legged King Pigeon Pose:

  • Opens your chest and shoulders
  • Stretches your thighs, groin, hip flexors, abdomen and neck
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs

Tips and Modifications:

“One-legged king pigeon is a deep backbend and hip-opener that requires a lot of flexibility. With regular practice, you can royally enjoy the benefits of this pose.” Everyone’s hips are different, so listen to your muscles and only go as far as feels good in your body to avoid overstretching.

advanced yoga poses forearm hollow back
Alo Moves

6. Forearm Hollow Back Pose (Pincha Mayurasana)

How To Do It:

From feathered peacock pose, bend your knees coming into a pike shape. Point your toes and actively press your heels back towards your butt. Begin to drop your head, pushing down firmly through the entire forearm. Bring your head and your chest through the gateway of the arms. Reach your butt back and knees in the opposite direction, creating a counterbalance, extending one foot down towards the ground while the other hovers above your hips.

Benefits of Forearm Hollow Back Pose:

  • Strengthens arms, back and shoulders
  • Stretches chest, neck and abdomen
  • Improves balance

Tips and Modifications:

“Forearm hollow back is a challenging pose with many therapeutic benefits,” including relieving stress and lifting your mood. Keep your heart open and your spine long to avoid over-rounding or falling into your lower back.

advanced yoga poses scorpion handstand
Alo Moves

7. Scorpion Handstand (Vrschikasana B)

How To Do It:

Begin in a handstand with your legs together⁠. Bend one knee while maintaining a straight leg overhead⁠. Drop your chest and lift your head up and back to create a mini backbend while simultaneously shifting the toes of your bent leg toward your head. Now, bend the straight leg and bring your toes to touch. Reach both toes toward the ground as your continue to lift your head up.

Benefits of Scorpion Pose:

  • Stretches your front body and opens your heart
  • Builds deep core strength
  • Increases strength and stability in your upper body
  • Improves balance and coordination

Tips and Modifications:

“If you’re looking to learn some advanced inversions, scorpion pose is a great place to start. This pose requires a solid handstand practice, but the time you put in will be totally worth it,” so master pose number one in this list before moving on to scorpion.

advanced yoga poses one legged crow
Alo Moves

8. One-Legged Crow Pose (Eka Pada Bakasana)

How To Do It:

From crow pose (similar to crane, but elbows are bent), point your toes and pull your heels in towards your butt, engaging your hamstrings. Draw your navel in and spread your shoulder blades wide⁠⁠. Pull your right knee in toward your chest. Begin to shift your weight forward as you extend and straighten your right leg at a diagonal up towards the sky.

Benefits of One-Legged Crow Pose:

  • Strengthens wrists, shoulders and core
  • Improves balance
  • Energizes your whole body

Tips and Modifications:

“One-legged crow pose is an advanced arm balance that requires great strength and coordination. It is a challenging variation of crow pose. Remember to maintain the correct hand position when in your set-up and to engage (like really, really engage) your core and hamstrings.”⁠ It’s a full-body pose, people!

advanced yoga poses flying pigeon
Alo Moves

9. Flying Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Galavasana)

How To Do It:

From standing, lift your right leg and cross your ankle over your left knee in a figure four position. Keep the right foot flexed. Bend your left leg and lower down to place your hands on the mat directly below your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide with the middle fingers pointing forward. Without shifting your weight, press your right shin into the tops of your triceps with the flexed foot wrapping around the left arm. Gaze down at the mat just beyond your fingertips and rise up onto the ball of the back foot. Engage the core, bend your elbows and shift forward. Push energetically through the back foot and lift the leg up towards the sky, straightening and pointing as you balance and hold.

Benefits of Flying Pigeon Pose:

  • Opens your hips
  • Strengthens upper body and core
  • Improves your balance

Tips and Modifications:

“Flying pigeon is a challenging arm balance that requires a great deal of strength and openness. However, once you master this pose, you will truly soar.” If you’re giving it a try for the first time, wedge a yoga block between the ground and your forehead for additional support as you build up strength and stamina.

advanced yoga poses eight angle
Alo Moves

10. Eight-Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)

How To Do It:

From a seated position, bend one leg and grab the pinky-side edge of the foot with the opposite hand. Lift the foot high to reach your free arm underneath the leg. Place the knee high on top of your shoulder. Hugging the lifted leg in towards the midline, place hands shoulder-distance apart on the mat next to your hips. Spread your fingers wide with the middle fingers pointing forward. Engage the core and root down through your hands to lift your hips up off the ground. Draw the bottom leg into the hip socket and shift the hips back to lift the legs. Cross your bottom ankle over the top ankle to anchor the pose. Extend your legs out to the side and squeeze your bicep with the inner thighs. Brings arms to Chaturanga by bending halfway down to the ground.

Benefits of Eight-Angle Pose:

  • Tones your core
  • Improves balance and focus
  • Strengthens upper body and wrists

Tips and Modifications:

“Arm balancing can be a very challenging journey⁠ but remember: Practice makes perfect. Here are my three favorite tips to help you conquer eight-angle pose.” ⁠

  1. Get your top knee behind your shoulder.
  2. Lift your hips up off the floor.
  3. Cross your ankles and bend your elbows into a Chaturanga-like posture. The lower your center of gravity, the easier it is to balance. ⁠⁠

advanced yoga poses king dancer
Alo Moves

11. King Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)

How To Do It:

Begin in a standing position with your feet together. ⁠Draw the left leg up and in towards your chest and begin to root down through all four corners of your standing foot⁠. Lift the kneecap to engage the ⁠standing leg quadriceps and squeeze your glutes to stabilize the pelvis⁠. Grab the ankle of your left leg with the same side arm. ⁠Bring the left knee down in line with the standing leg⁠, foot back toward your butt. Begin to tip forward and reach the left foot up and back behind you⁠. Take your free arm and reach it back behind you, grabbing onto the outside of the lifted left foot. Kick the foot up as you press the chest forward and straighten your standing leg⁠.

Benefits of Dancer Pose:

  • Opens your chest, shoulders and hips
  • Strengthens legs and ankle muscles
  • Improves balance and flexibility

Tips and Modifications:

“King dancer pose is a beautiful balancing pose that opens your entire front body.” Give it a try if you feel like your posture could use a refresh. To maintain your balance, don’t look down. Focus on a stationary object at eye level a few feet in front of you.

advanced yoga poses two legged inverted staff
Alo Moves

12. Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose (Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana)

How To Do It:

Begin on your back with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward and shins straight. Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up off the ground while raising your arms up above your head. Plant your palms next to your ears with your fingers pointing in. Push down through your hands and feet to lift your torso and lightly come onto the crown of your head. Lower one forearm down at a time and interlace your fingers behind your head. Make sure your elbows are directly in line with your shoulders and squeeze everything (inner thighs included) in towards your midline. Push down through your elbows and lift your head up off the ground, opening your chest and pressing out through the gateway of your shoulders. To shorten and deepen your stance, inch your feet closer to your hands. For the one-legged variation, balance on one foot while reaching your other foot high towards the sky.

Benefits of Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose:

  • Opens your chest, shoulders and hips
  • Strengthens and tones your upper and lower body
  • Improves lung capacity and digestion

Tips and Modifications:

“Two-legged inverted staff is a dynamic pose that gives you a deep backbend stretch. Be sure to warm up before attempting this pose.” Flow through bridge and wheel pose to loosen up your spine and shoulders.

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