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By Danielle Watkins

Get toned muscles with these 7 yoga poses

One thing that makes yoga a great workout is that in one practice the whole body is given direct attention without leaving the mat. Poses are versatile and forgiving, leaving room to set one's own strengthening goals. A good yoga practice will address the entire body as well as the mind. The balancing aspect of some of the following poses makes the muscles work harder to keep the body upright. Practicing the following postures will lead to a firm and sculpted body.

If you are a beginner, a tip to consider with some of these balancing postures is to use a yoga block or hold yourself up next to a wall. (A yoga block is a foam rectangular prop.) Always remember to breathe and be mindful of each pose.

Seven yoga poses that gain and maintain fit and toned muscles

Boat works the core by having you balance on the tailbone. With the arms and legs up in the air, the body has nothing else to rely on but the strength of the abs. Essentially, the Boat offers the same range of motion as sit-ups but works the core more efficiently.

Chaturanga puts your whole body to the test. Hovering low and close to the ground activates all muscles in the arms, legs and core. Chaturanga slightly mimics a pushup, but the muscles are given more attention by holding up the weight of the entire body for a period of time.

Locust works to open up the chest with a slight backbend. The arms are pinned behind to help lift the chest up. The back muscles, specifically the lats, are heavily relied on to keep the upper body from falling face down back to the ground.

Extended Hand to Big Toe is a more advanced pose that focuses on the thigh muscles. Instead of being on the ground and reaching one arm to one foot, a balancing aspect is added. In Extended Hand to Big Toe, one is standing on one leg while the other leg is held up in the air with the hand holding the foot.

Chair pose is designed to help both the calf and thigh muscles. The most efficient way to get the best out of Chair is by sitting deeper into the posture. Squeezing a yoga block between the thighs works the muscles harder and ensures getting the most out of the pose.

Half Moon strengthens both the core and the glutes. Half of the body is held up in the air horizontally. Both the arm and the leg are touching the floor, holding the body steady. A good tip for beginners attempting the Half Moon is to use a yoga block to shorten the distance to the ground. Having a shorter stance will help keep the balance in check.

Most importantly, the Mind gets a good workout. In yoga, thoughts are observed in each pose and the focus always comes back to the breath.

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