If you’re into yoga, you’ll already know about its many benefits. Yoga can improve balance, flexibility, mobility, and strength – as well as boost energy and metabolism, and support weight loss. Plus, it’s great for our mental health.. But no matter how good yoga is for you, doing the same poses can become boring.

If you’ve been practising yoga for a while and would like to try some more challenging poses, now might be the time to expand your horizons. Difficult postures work different muscles, improve flexibility, and also get you out of your comfort zone and keep you interested.

While it’s important to listen to your body and only try new poses if you think you’re ready, pushing yourself to try something new, and difficult, can be incredibly inspiring. Our bodies are often capable of far more than we give them credit for – and trying a new yoga pose is a great way to find out just what we can do.

So, to inspire you, here are eight challenging yoga poses.

1. Crow pose

Crow pose

If you’re looking for a pose that will make you feel just as strong as flexible, then you might want to try the crow pose.

This is an advanced arm balance that strengthens wrists, shoulders and core, improves balance, and focuses the mind. It requires significant core strength, and the flexibility to bring your knees up to the back of your arms.

To do a crow pose, you should begin in a squatting position. Then, stand on your toes and lean forward, place your hands on the floor in front of you, and push your knees into the back of your arms. Next, begin to move your body weight forwards. Slowly lift one foot off the ground, and then the other, until you’re balancing your whole body weight evenly through your hands.

You really need to engage your core for this pose – and you also need to have considerate upper body strength. The balancing act often requires some trial and error, so don’t be afraid to mess up, wobble, or fall. You might want to place a pillow or blanket beneath you to soften any landings!

For more on crow pose, have a read of this guide by Yoga Journal, or check out the video below.

2. Eight-angle pose

Eight-angle pose

Another pose that takes significant upper body strength and balance to master is the eight-angle pose – and this one is also a bit of a mental test.

The eight-angle pose is named after the Hindu sage Ashtavakra, who was born with eight bends in his body. But in spite of his birth defect, he could read Vedic scriptures and eventually achieved enlightenment.

The eight-angle pose is about overcoming any challenge that life throws at you – and it’s also about perseverance, as it may take several months to work up to it.

To do the eight-angle pose, you usually need to be able to do the crow pose – and you also need good upper back strength. This pose strengthens your upper body, improves balance, tones your core, and works the inner thighs.

To do the eight-angle pose, bend your right leg while in a seated position, and thread your right arm under your leg so your knee rests on your shoulder. Tilt gently forward and place your hands on the mat on each side of your hips. Engage your core and push through your hands to lift your hips and left leg off the floor. Then, cross your ankles and extend your legs out as you bend your arms.

For more on mastering the eight-angle pose, have a read of this guide by Yoga Journal, or watch the video below.

3. Flying pigeon pose

Flying pigeon pose

The flying pigeon pose is another arm balance that requires flexibility, strength, and skill – but it’s a pose that inspires awe in many yogis, so working towards mastering it is well worth it!

The worry of teetering forward and landing on your face means you need to draw on mental strength too, and just like other arm balances, you might want to lie on a cushion on the floor while you practise.

From a physical perspective, the flying pigeon pose strengthens your upper body and core, improves your balance, and opens your hips – but it can have a powerful effect on your confidence and self-belief too. Once you master this pose, it’ll probably give you the boost to try even harder yoga poses, as you’ll understand how much you’re really capable of.

To do this pose, begin standing, then bring your right leg over your left knee, bending your knee into a figure four position. Fold forward, place your hands flat on the floor, and hook your right foot around your left arm. Bring your right shin as high up on your arm as you can, rise onto your toes, engage the core, and bend your elbows. Lean forward and push, pulling your left leg up.

For more on flying pigeon pose, have a read of this guide by Yoga Journal, or watch the video below.

4. Wheel pose

Wheel pose

An excellent advanced yoga pose that works the back is the wheel pose – and this one is especially good if you sit down for long periods of time.

The wheel pose is characterised as a beginner’s backbend, but you still need strength and flexibility to master it. Backbends are generally performed near the end of yoga practice.

There are many benefits to the wheel pose. It improves spinal mobility and opens up the chest, shoulders, and hips in a way that offsets posture slumps caused by sitting for too long. It also strengthens the arms, shoulders, and legs, thoroughly stretches the front of the body, improves general posture, acts as an energiser, and is even said to boost mood.

To do the wheel pose, lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet hip-width apart close to your buttocks. Bend your elbows, bring your palms to your ears, fingers facing down. Press into your hands and feet and lift your shoulders and hips, straightening your arms as you lift your head. Keep your feet parallel, and your knees in line with your feet – and for an extra challenge, lift one leg up!

For more on wheel pose, have a read of this guide by Yoga Journal, or watch the video below.

5. King dancer pose

King dancer pose

Many of yoga’s most challenging poses require putting together a combination of skills, and the king dancer pose is no exception.

This standing balancing pose requires strong balance, open shoulders, and intense back bending, skills which take time to master. But this beautiful, elegant pose is absolutely worth working on.

King dancer pose opens the entire front of your body, from your chest, shoulders, and hips, so it’s a great way to counteract tight hips that develop from sitting down for too long. It also strengthens your legs and ankle muscles, improves balance and flexibility, works your core, and helps you hone your concentration. It’s a good way to refresh your posture.

To do king dancer pose, begin standing with your feet together. ⁠Pull your left leg towards your chest, then grab your ankle with your left arm. Bring your left knee down, then lean slowly forward as you pull your left leg behind you. With your free arm, reach behind you and grab the outside of your left foot. Press your chest forward, kick your left foot back and up, and straighten up your standing leg.

For more on mastering the king dancer pose, have a read of this guide by Yoga Journal, or watch the video below.

6. Standing splits

Standing splits

One pose that many yogis want to master is the monkey pose – which is also known as front-to-back splits. The splits usually take time to work up to, and one of the best poses to practise to prepare your body for it is the standing splits.

The standing splits stretches the hamstrings, calves, and quads; improving flexibility in your legs and hips while also improving your balancing skills.

The standing splits are considered a mild inversion. Inversion poses involve placing your head below your heart and hips, causing an increased flow of blood to the brain which can relieve anxiety, stress, fatigue, insomnia, and even mild depression. This means that the standing splits is also a good way to work up to more challenging inversion poses.

Begin in the Uttanasana Pose – the standing forward bend. Lean on your fingers, then lift your right leg up behind you, parallel to the floor. Roll your inner thigh up and rotate the right leg inwards, then fold over your standing leg. Bring your hands back to your left foot while raising your right leg as high as you can. Keep your left leg engaged by lifting the knee and pressing through your left foot.

For more on doing standing splits, have a read of this guide by Yoga Journal, or watch the video below.

7. Monkey pose

Monkey pose

If you think you’re ready to do the full splits, it’s time to work on the monkey pose! Unless you’re unusually flexible, most people find the splits a real challenge, which is why it’s important to work up to monkey pose, slowly and steadily.

Each time you try it, push a little bit further to stretch your hips and hamstring – but then back off when you reach your limit, to avoid injury.

There are many benefits to being able to do the monkey pose. Not only does it look seriously impressive, but it’s a great way to stretch and strengthen your hamstrings, groin, and quads, stretch out your lower back, and, when practised regularly, it can even improve hip flexibility and mobility. It’s also a yoga pose that feels very grounding.

To do the monkey pose, come into a kneeling position, and place your fingertips on the floor. Stretch your right leg straight out in front of you, keeping your heel on the floor, and slide your foot forward, making sure your leg is straight. As you do this, extend your left leg behind you, keeping it as straight as you can. Keep your hips facing forward, and hold the pose for 5-10 breaths for alternating legs.

For more on doing monkey pose, have a read of this guide by Yoga Journal, or watch the video below.

8. Scorpion pose


If you’re really looking for a challenge – and you’re already a competent yogi – then you might want to attempt the scorpion pose.

Widely considered one of the toughest yoga poses around, the scorpion pose mimics the position of a scorpion ready to strike, and the extreme backbend involved requires serious strength, flexibility, and balance.

Before you attempt this advanced pose, you need to be able to perform a forearm balance and a backbend – so if you can’t yet, it’s best to work on mastering those poses before trying the scorpion pose. While difficult, this pose is great for strengthening your shoulders, arms, core, and back, stretching your hip flexors and chest muscles, and improving the flexibility of your spine.

To do the scorpion pose, begin in a forearm stand, then pull your spine into a strong curve as you bend your knees. Look forward to tilt your head, and then make sure your hips and pelvis drop forward as you curve your spine, so your feet are hanging over your head. Draw your two big toes toward each other until they touch while making sure your knees remain wide apart.

For more on doing scorpion pose, have a read of this guide by Yoga Journal, or watch the video below.

Final thoughts…

Yoga is one of the most beneficial activities around, and it’s just as effective for boosting mood and mental health as it is for improving strength, balance, and flexibility.

If you’re already a keen yogi and would like to take your yoga to the next level, we hope these poses have inspired you to push yourself further – while taking all the necessary precautions, of course, and making sure you work up to each pose slowly, steadily, and methodically.

If you’ve only just started yoga – or you’ve never tried it but always wanted to learn – we hope this article has helped show just how much the human body is capable of. While it will take time and patience to master poses like these, even the most basic yoga poses noticeably improve mental and physical wellbeing. And the good news is that it’s never too late to start!

To find out more, you might want to read our introduction to yoga.