There are certain poses you’ll encounter in almost any yoga class – mountain, downward facing dog, and of course savasana. Those go-to poses are common for a reason; they’re some of the foundational postures of yoga, and they offer a host of benefits.
But what about the less common, unique yoga poses? While no class can include every pose, these are a few underappreciated ones that should really be practiced more often. Consider trying some of these underrated yoga poses.
Five Underrated and Unique Yoga Poses
The most obvious difference between dolphin pose and downward facing dog is that the forearms, rather than the palms, are on the ground. The shoulders also come right above the elbows, and the feet can be closer to the body.
Dolphin pose provides the same benefits as downward facing dog, but avoids the strain on the wrists and palms, so you won’t have to use gloves.
Because it’s so similar to down dog but feels so different, it offers a new perspective and helps bring students into the present moment. For yogis working toward forearm stand or headstand, dolphin is also a great preparation pose.
Yoga offers many different poses for stretching the hip flexors, but lizard is not the most commonly practiced one. It’s similar to a low lunge (anjaneyasana), but the front foot is further to the side, allowing both hands to come inside the leg.
Lizard offers an even deeper stretch than other lunge options, and it’s unique in that it can be held for an extended amount of time. With options to rest the weight of the torso on the hands or the forearms, it also offers different levels of intensity depending on flexibility.
Reverse Table Top
In reverse table top, the hands and feet press into the mat, and the torso comes parallel to the ground with the belly facing the ceiling.
This pose opens the chest and offers a counter to the standard table top, as well as to most people’s everyday sitting posture. It’s also a good preparation pose for bridge, which uses a similar motion of pressing into the feet to lift the hips.
Yogi Squat (Garland Pose)
Yogi squat is usually taught with the feet mat-distance apart. Students simply sink their hips down as far as possible without compromising the alignment, possibly bringing the elbows to the inner thighs. Consider incorporating a bolster if aren’t yet comfortable going all the way down.
Garland pose strengthens the thighs like a regular squat, but it opens the hips as well. Because it’s so easy to rest into this pose, it also offers a mental challenge and pushes students to stay engaged. Students can sink their hips any amount in the pose, so it can be successfully practiced at any level.
Figure Four Balance
Figure four is more common as a reclined pose than a standing one, and as a balance, the top ankle comes over the standing leg above the knee.
Figure four is a great balance for beginners, as many people find it more accessible than other balancing poses. The option to bend the standing knee and hinge forward offers a range of variations, and it’s easy for students to move between the different options. Figure four balance is also the foundation for flying pigeon, and gives more advanced students a way to start working toward the arm balance.
And hey, if you want to go beyond, check out our list of weird and crazy yoga poses!
Which are your favorite unique yoga poses?
Jen Ambrose is a yoga teacher and freelance writer currently traveling in Southeast Asia.