By Yoga Journal
Yoga teacher Leslie Howard recommends this seven-pose sequence for a strong, balanced backside.
Diagnostic poses: Use poses 1 and 2 to assess what your glutes are up to.
Strengthening poses: Get your glutes firing with poses 3-5.
Practice poses: Apply what you've learned to these final, standing poses.
Locust Pose, variation
Lie on your belly, with your forehead supported by a folded blanket and your arms by your sides, palms down. Place your right fingertips in the center of your right rear and engage your glutes -- all three of them. Fire up your core a bit. Then inhale to lift the right leg, paying attention to and feeling around for which muscles are working, and how tightly. It's possible to lift your leg with just your hamstring or quadratus lumborum muscles, so if your glutes aren't engaging, notice what is. You want your glutes and hamstrings to firm right as you lift your leg, sharing the load. Exhale to release and switch sides. If you find that your glutes are clenching and can't relax, take a moment to stretch them in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose).
Half Bow Pose, variation
Ardha Dhanurasana, variation
To help compare imbalances from left to right, stay on your belly with your forehead resting on the blanket and inhale to bend your knees, bringing your shins to a 90-degree angle with your thighs. Keep your heels over your knees and your feet flexed. Place your fingertips at the center of your gluteus maximus, on both sides, and turn on those muscles, along with slight core engagement. Mildly rotate your legs out, pressing the feet into one another, to help you engage. On another inhale, lift your knees and shins straight up, sending your feet closer to the ceiling, as much as possible. It won't be a big lift. You are trying to simultaneously turn on both the glutes and hamstrings, so if you notice an imbalance, push the heel on the lazy-cheek side into the heel of the harder-working side to try to activate the weak glute. Stay here for as long as it takes to assess your glutes. Exhale to release.
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, variation
Supta Padangusthasana, variation
Lie on your back with your legs extended in front of you. Bring your arms by your sides, bending the elbows and pressing them into the floor. Engage the quadriceps and point the kneecaps toward the ceiling. Flex the feet. On an inhalation, use your left glute and your arms and obliques to lift the right leg as close to perpendicular to the floor as possible. Aim to keep both hips pressing into the floor, which can provide instant feedback -- you'll be able to feel immediately if the body parts in contact with the floor are working, and you may even feel the fibers of your left gluteus maximus run from where your buttocks meet to your outer left hip. If you notice that your left glutes aren't working, ease off the arms. If that doesn't help, your right hamstrings may be taking over and you should, after your glute sequence, work on gentle hamstring stretches like Downward Dog and Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Repeat the leg lift 8-10 times on the right before lowering the leg on an exhalation and starting over on the other side. Feel free to do more repetitions on your weaker side, making sure to fire your glutes before lifting your leg.
Continue the practice with four additional poses to firm and tone your glutes.
About the Author Leslie Howard
Based in Oakland, California, she specializes in all things pelvic. She leads trainings nationally, and her teaching is informed by more than 3,000 hours of study with senior Iyengar teachers. Check out her website to learn more.