Yoga, of course, isn’t about perfecting advanced poses. But let’s be honest: They can be really fun to try. I chose these 10 challenging postures because they remind me of summer (I can never let the season pass without attempting Firefly!) and because sand is a nice, soft landing pad if I happen to lose my balance.
From Baby Grasshopper to Frog to Lizard to Bird of Paradise, these animal and nature-inspired poses will inspire you to play more and release stress and tension—which is what summer is all about.
Summer Challenge: 10 Advanced Poses Perfect for the Beach
How-to: Start in Downward-Facing Dog. Step your right foot forward and take an easy twist with the left hand down and the right hand up. Come to the pinky edge of both feet and sit down on your outer left hip and leg. Your right foot is flat on the mat with the knee at 90 degrees. Reach your right arm in front of your right shin and grab the outside edge of your left foot (or use a strap). Place your left forearm down, elbow directly under shoulder. Press into the left forearm and the right foot and lift your seat up and back as you lift your chest forward. Maybe your right arm and left foot lift. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Why it’s perfect for summer: This deep twist/hip opener takes a lot of repetition and practice—hopefully, you’ll have a little more time to try it in the summer months. Plus, the warmer weather will encourage your muscles to loosen up.
See also Challenge Pose: Grasshopper
How-to: Start in Child’s Pose in the center of the mat. Walk your hands under your shoulders. Turn your knees out toward the short edges of the mat so the inner knees touch the ground. Turn your feet out in the same direction. Place your knees at 90 degrees. Thighs should be parallel to the long edge of the mat, and your ankles should be under your knees. Your hips will be high or low depending on your natural flexibility. Come down to your forearms with your elbows under your shoulders. Some of you will have the flexibility to come down to your forehead and chest. Stay for 10 to 20 breaths.
Why it’s perfect for summer: This is a very deep hip opener and release. It’s great for slowing down, feeling your body, and contemplating life, which is what summer is all about. It’s supposed to be a little uncomfortable. Go to your body’s edge and then back off a little to reap the most benefits.
How-to: From Downward-Facing Dog, walk your thumbs together at the top of your mat. Step your right foot outside your right pinky finger. Extend the back knee forward or backward as needed (listen to your hips!). Bring your forearms to blocks, stay on palms, or come down to your forearms. Hug the right knee into the shoulder. Gaze forward to keep the chest and neck long. Find a balance of effort and ease as you stay for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Why it’s perfect for summer: Summer is a great time to play more and release stress and tension. This hip-opening pose will help you relax and renew, whether you’re at home or on a beach vacation.
See also A Yoga Sequence for Deep Hip Opening
How-to: From Garland Pose, place two blocks just behind your heels. Lift your seat, keeping your knees bent. Wriggle the right shoulder under the right knee and the left shoulder under the left knee. Place your hands on the blocks with the fingertips pointing toward the heels. Bend your elbows about 90 degrees and let your thighs rest on your biceps like a shelf. Maybe your toes start to lift off the ground one at a time. If that happens, push your tailbone back and jut your chest forward as you lengthen your legs, pressing through your heels. Point your toes. Hold Firefly for five breaths.
Why it’s perfect for summer: Firefly season is short, and this pose celebrates the “lightning bugs” that fascinated us during childhood. Plus, it builds strength in your upper body as you open your hips and hamstrings.
Bird of Paradise
How-to: From Warrior II with the right foot forward, bring your right hand inside your right foot on a block or mat. Extend your left arm high to the sky into Extended Side Angle. Wrap your left arm around your back to the top of your right thigh. Wriggle your right arm under your right thigh and clasp hands behind your back for the bind. Lean forward and heel-toe or step your left foot to the top of the mat. Press into the left foot, and stand on it, keeping the bind and bringing the right knee into your chest. Open the right knee to the right. For the full expression, extend your right heel toward the ceiling, pointing your toes. Straighten the leg as much as possible. Push your right foot to the right and gaze to the left. Hold Bird of Paradise for 5 breaths. Come out by lowering the right foot to the mat, passing through Extended Side Angle and making your way back to Warrior II. Repeat on the left side.
Why it’s perfect for summer: Did you know Bird of Paradise is actually a flower? You’ll feel like you’re blossoming open and enjoying summer in all its glory. This challenging asana will open shoulders, hips, and hamstrings while it strengthens your entire body.
How-to: From Downward-Facing Dog, hop your right foot in halfway. Bend the right knee and kick up with the left foot. While the left foot is tall and long in the air, bend your right knee and place your right foot on your upper inner left calf or thigh. Tree upside down! Catch it for half a second or maybe you can hold it for a few quick breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Why it’s perfect for summer: Celebrate your strength, courage, and stamina while you honor the beautiful trees that provide much-needed shade from the summer sun.
Feather Peacock Pose (Pincha Mayurasana)
How-to: From Plank, place the right forearm down, then place the left forearm down. Elbows need to be right under shoulders and forearms should be parallel like railroad tracks. Lift your pelvis and walk your toes in toward your elbows as far as you can go. Slide your shoulders down your back, gaze slightly forward, and lift your right leg up as you reach through the heel. Maybe your left leg lifts too! Hold Feather Peacock Pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
Why it’s perfect for summer: Feather Peacock builds a strong core for summer activities like surfing and SUP yoga, along with shoulder and arm strength.
How-to: From Feathered Peacock pose, slide your shoulders down your back more. Start to arch the back as you lift the chest toward the top of the mat. Keep your belly lifted in and up to protect your low back. Bend your knees and imagine that your toes will touch your head one day. (Tip: Make a really big bun on top of your head—it helps!) This is just a backbend in Forearm Stand.
Why it’s perfect for summer: This pose helps you lengthen and strengthen your posterior back while you open your heart to all of the new and exciting possibilities of summer.
Cat Tail Pose
How-to: Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Extend your arms into a T. Let the knees fall to the left in line with your navel. Bend your left knee so the foot is behind your back. Grab the left foot with your right hand. Extend your right leg long to the side and reach for the outer edge of the foot with the left hand. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths. Switch sides.
Why it’s perfect for summer: Relax in this bendy, pretzel-y pose while imagining you’re near a summer pond filled with flowering cattail plants. Cat Tail pose stretches your hamstrings and quadriceps and feels great at any time, especially after practice.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
How-to: Lie on your back, straighten your legs, and turn your toes out to the sides. Let the arms be by your sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes and release your tongue in the bottom of your mouth. Separate your teeth. Let your eyes be heavy in your skull. Relax in Savasana for 5, 10, or 15 minutes.
Why it’s perfect for summer: Summer is all about taking a break! After you tackle the first nine poses, relax in Savasana, which is, after all, the most advanced pose of all.
About Our Writer
Kristen Kemp, E-RYT 500, teaches 10 yoga classes a week to Type A adults who like it hot, wiggly kids who need to move and meditate, and even women prisoners who hope to relieve stress and anxiety. She’s been a longtime writer for Scholastic, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, The New York Post, and many more. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, and guinea pigs.