Leg Raises/Leg Lifts (Double & Single)
Photo of Maggie Anderson taken by Maggie Anderson
Leg Lifts are great to include in a core-based yoga sequence. We are building our ab strength while practicing these lifts. It’s particularly important to do this with good alignment so as not to tweak or twinge anything in the lower back or neck. This pose is great to practice for strong abdominal strength and back muscles as well. We need this for poses such as Headstand and Shoulder Stand. We’re
really warming up the body and heating
up our internal fire flowing into and out of this pose. I practice this sequence of Double Leg Raises daily as a part of the Five Tibetan Rites Sequence. Physical and Therapeutic benefits of this pose are:
- Tones and strengthens leg muscles
- Stretches the hamstrings
- Strengthens the lower back
- Tones stomach muscles
- Reduces belly fat
- Massages the organs of the abdomen
- Improves digestion, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of toxins from the body
- Helps in weight loss
- Improves the alignment of the spine
- May help balance out sugar levels and treat diabetes
Directions on how to come into the pose:
Begin in lying flat on the floor, face up. Fully extend your arms along your sides and place the palms of your hands against the floor, keeping fingers close together.
For Double Leg Raises: Breathe in, then on your exhale raise your head off the floor tucking your chin into your chest. Neck is relaxed throughout. Simultaneously, feet flexed, lift your legs, knees straight, into a vertical position. Press your lower back into the mat, preventing injury to the lower back and spine. (If this isn’t feeling accessible, take your palms and place them under your hip bones to allow for better lower back alignment.) Press the navel towards the spine. If possible, extend the legs over the body towards your head. Do your best not let the knees bend.
Then, inhale, slowly lower the legs and head to the floor, always keeping the knees straight. Allow the muscles to relax a moment, and repeat 5-10x or more as you gain strength, for both sides. Rest back in Savasana when complete.
For Single Leg Raises: To modify, only lower one leg at a time. The opposite leg can either be extended straight out on the mat or knee bent, foot flat on the floor for extra support. Here you may take your hands and wrap it around your thigh or calf for an extra stretch, then release and repeat. Do this for both sides. Rest back in Savasana when complete.
Single Leg Raises are great to take one at a time and hold for a longer extended stretch. You may lower the head for this variation. Hands can either hold the thigh, calf or we can take our two peace fingers and wrap them around the big toe pulling down and up towards our head for an extra stretch. To modify, you can take a strap and wrap it around at the middle of your foot pulling down on the strap. Do both sides and then rest back in Savasana when complete.
As a beginner, you can push down with your palms to help lift your leg off the floor. This also prevents the back from arching.
When not to do this pose or to modify/Contraindications:
You may need to modify even more by allowing a slight bend in one or both knees as you lift and lower, but as you practice and get stronger, this will get easier. If you have exceptionally weak stomach muscles, interlock your fingers and place them over your abdomen. These then work as an extra set of ‘stomach muscles.’ As you raise your legs, press your fingers down for an extra burst of strength. Also, avoid leg raises if you have neck or back problems. Skip the head lift portion of this pose if you have neck injuries.
Check out my calendar for group yoga classes dates and time.