10 Yoga Stretches For Legs You Need To Be Doing For Strong & Lean Legs

Picture this: a stunning dress paired with high heels and lean, toned legs that steal the show. Or, gentleman, donning those trendy slim-fitting shorts that put those quads front and center. Sure, the aesthetics of great gams are undeniably attractive. But let's not forget that strong and supple legs hold far greater importance in both yoga practice and daily life. And how to counter all of those moves that build those strong legs we’re referring to? With yoga stretches for legs, of course!

In yoga, our legs are our foundation. They give us stability, balance, and strength to tackle challenging asanas and delve deeper into our favorite poses. In this article, we'll explore 10 yoga stretches for legs for beginners and beyond.

And yes, yoga can tone your legs by engaging in full-body activation. Many yogis miss this entire concept! Even Mountain pose, when done right, can activate and tone the quads. Your quads should be engaged even in a simple Mountain Pose, and you do this by pulling the kneecaps up.

Read on for my 10 go-to asanas for increasing leg flexibility, building strength, and melting away tension in this article about the best yoga stretches for legs.

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The 10 best yoga stretches for legs 

List of the 10 best yoga stretches for legs 1. Downward Facing Dog 2. Uttanasana 3. Pyramid Pose 4. Kneeling Lunge with Quad Stretch 5. Supine Hero Pose 6. Supine Hamstring Stretch 7, Half Splits Pose, 8. Dancer Pose 9. Warrior 3, 10. Malasana.

The following yoga poses are all wonderful stretches for loosening the leg muscles. These stretches can also help you make your legs for flexible for yoga. Combining these postures will create a well-rounded stretch-out for your legs, targeting the hamstrings, calves, and quads. 

1. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)

Yogini in downward facing dog.

The downward-facing dog is the best asana for loosening the leg muscles. It gives a deep stretch to the hamstrings, glutes, calves, ankles, and feet. It is also a great warm-up posture for preparing for deeper leg stretches.

How to do downward-facing dog:

  1. From a tabletop position, spread your fingers and press your palms firmly into the mat.
  2. Tuck your toes, lift your knees, and press your hips back and up. 
  3. Straighten your legs as much as possible as you lift your hips to the ceiling. Press your chest to the thighs, keeping the spine straight. Your body should create an inverted V shape with the weight evenly distributed between your upper and lower body.
  4. Press your heels toward the ground. While it is not essential to have your feet flat, the more you flex your feet, the deeper the stretch in the calf muscles and Achilles tendons.
  5. Relax your head, gazing at the ground between your legs. Hold here for 5 to 10 slow and deep breaths.

2. Forward bend (Uttanasana)

Yogini in Uttanasana, forward fold yoga pose.

Uttanasana (standing forward fold) is another deep stretch for the entire back of the legs (hamstrings, calves, glutes) and the lower back. In addition, as you straighten your legs here, you engage the quadriceps, strengthening the muscles in the front of the legs. 

How to do Uttanasana:

  1. From a downward-facing dog, bend your knees and walk your feet forwards, bringing them between your hands. 
  2. Let your arms and head hang as you lift your sit bones to the sky, bringing the hips directly over the ankles. 
  3. Press firmly into the soles of your feet as you draw your chest and torso towards your legs. As you do this, draw your navel to the spine to maintain length.
  4. If you have some tightness in the legs, keep a slight bend in the knees. Otherwise, extend the legs.
  5. Take ten slow and deep breaths, sending your breath to the back of the thighs. 

3. Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)

Yogini in Pyramid Pose yoga pose.

How to do Pyramid Pose:

  1. From a standing position, step one leg back (2 – 3 feet apart). Turn your back foot out to 45 degrees and keep both heels aligned.
  2. Ensure your hips are facing forwards. If your hips are opening to the side, widen the stance of your feet slightly.
  3. With your hands on your hips, inhale to straighten your spine. Then, micro bend your front knee, and as you exhale, hinge from the hips to fold over your front leg, keeping your spine long.
  4. Release your hands to either side of the front foot (either on the ground or blocks). Draw your chest closer to the front thigh, keeping both legs straight. 
  5. Relax your head and hold here for 5 to 10 breaths. Remember to repeat on the other side.

4. Kneeling Lunge With Quad Stretch

Yogini doing a kneeling lunge with quad stretch.

Lunges give a deep stretch to the inner thigh and small hip flexor muscles. Stretching these muscles is vital as tight hips can cause tight hamstrings. Thus, by working on hip mobility, you, in turn, improve leg flexibility.

In addition to the lunge position, the additional quad stretch lengthens the muscles in the front thigh.

How to do a kneeling lunge with quad stretch:

  1. From the tabletop pose, step one foot forward in between your hands. 
  2. Release your back foot and bring your hands onto your front thigh, straightening the spine. 
  3. Lower your hips so you feel a stretch in the front thigh but ensure your front knee is directly above the ankle.
  4. Reach one or both arms behind you as you bend your back knee and pick up the foot. Gently press the sole to the buttocks, staying in an upright position.
  5. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.

5. Supine Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)

Yogini doing Supine Hero Pose yoga pose.

Hero pose is a brilliant stretch for the quads and hip flexors. It also strengthens the ankles and knees. Sitting upright in the hero pose will be enough if you have a lot of tightness in your thighs. However, if your body allows, lowering your back halfway or all the way will deepen the quad stretch further. 

How to do Supine Hero Pose:

  1. From a kneeling position with your knees together, slide your feet out to the sides to bring the sitting bones onto the ground between your feet. You may need to sit on a folded blanket or pillow.
  2. Stay here with a straight spine if this is already an intense thigh stretch. Alternatively, bring your hands behind you and lean back. 
  3. To go deeper, come down onto the forearms. Or, if your body allows, release your back to the floor.
  4. If you are in the final position, relax your arms by your sides with the hands on the feet, or extend the arms overhead for an additional stretch to the side bodies.
  5. Take 5 to 10 breaths, sending your breath to the quads. 

You can also do a single-leg variation of this pose with one leg extended, which can be a gentler alternative. Just remember to switch legs and do both sides.  

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The best yoga stretches for leg flexibility for beginners 

There are many beginner-level yoga stretches for legs that can help uplevel your flexibility, even if you currently have a lot of muscle tightness. I've found the following two stretches particularly effective in my students for reducing tightness and moving toward their maximum flexibility. 

6. Supine Hamstring Stretch

Yogini doing a Supine Hamstring stretch.

If you experience tight hamstring muscles, I recommend trying the supported version of this supine pose. Thanks to the use of a strap, you can control the depth of the stretch. Gently pulling the strap towards you loosens tight hamstring muscles. The further you pull the leg towards you, the more the intensity increases.

How to do Supine Hamstring Stretch:

  1. From a reclined position with both legs straight, bend one knee and place the strap on the sole of the foot.
  2. Holding the strap with both hands, slowly extend your leg to the ceiling, bringing it to a 90-degree angle. Walk your hands down the strap as needed.
  3. Straighten the leg and flex the foot towards you. Relax your shoulders on the ground and hold for ten breaths.
  4. Release and repeat on the other leg.

You can also loosen tight calf, ankle, or foot muscles by dynamically flexing and pointing the foot in this position. Loosen the strap slightly as you point the toes up to the sky, then flex the foot, pointing the toes towards you. Pull on the strap gently as you do so, repeating this movement 5 to 10 times. 

7. Half-Splits Pose (Ardha Hanumanasana)

Yogini doing half-splits yoga pose.

While the Splits pose requires high flexibility and strength, the half-splits variation offers a pathway to this challenging asana. Plus, if you want to take it further, using blocks under the sitting bones can help you slowly progress into the final version.

How to Half-Splits Pose:

  1. Step one foot forward in between the hands from a tabletop position, coming into a kneeling lunge.
  2. Press your sit bones back to your heels and straighten your front leg.
  3. Take an inhale as you lengthen your spine, then exhale to hinge from the hips and fold over the front leg. 
  4. To deepen the stretch, flex the front foot, pointing the toes toward you. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, release, and repeat on the other side.

If you want to move towards the full splits, slide your front foot forward and back foot back to lower the hips. Place your hands by your sides, sit upright, and place one or two blocks underneath your sit bones (filling the gap) for stability and safety.

The best yoga stretches for slim legs & thighs

Yoga stretches for legs not only improve flexibility and reduce tightness, but they can also tone and firm the lower body. The best postures for toning your thighs and calves are standing balances. Squatting positions where you sink the hips to the ground are also beneficial for firming the thighs and glutes.

8. Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)

Yogini doing Dancers Pose yoga pose.

Dancer Pose is both a strengthening and stretching asana for the legs. First, all the muscles of the standing leg work to stabilize the lower body and maintain balance.

Meanwhile, the hamstrings of the lifted leg are activated while the quad receives a juicy stretch. In addition, the back bending position stretches the front of the hips, including the psoas muscles.

How to do Dancer Pose:

  1. From a standing position with the feet together, shift your weight into the right foot. Press firmly between all four corners of that foot and lift the kneecap to engage the thigh muscles.
  2. Bend the left leg, reaching your left arm behind to grab the foot from the inside of the foot or ankle.
  3. Reach your right arm to the sky, bringing the thumb and index finger to touch.
  4. Slowly kick your back foot into your hand, moving the foot away from the buttocks. At the same time, arch the back and press the chest forwards.
  5. Keep kicking into the lifted foot as you take five deep breaths into the heart space.
  6. Release and repeat on the other side.

9. Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III)

Yogini doing Warrior 3 yoga pose.

Warrior 3 is another strong standing balance that activates and strengthens all the leg muscles in the standing leg. It also builds strength in the ankles and knees. Meanwhile, the hamstrings and glutes of the floating leg work to hold the position, firming the entire lower body.

How to do Warrior 3:

  1. From a standing position with the feet together, shift your weight into the right foot. Press firmly between all four corners of that foot and lift the kneecap to engage the thigh muscles.
  2. With your hands on your hips, slowly float the left leg back as you lower your upper body, Bring both the floating leg and upper body in one straight line parallel to the ground, forming the shape of a letter T. 
  3. Activate your core muscles for stability by drawing the navel to the spine.
  4. Keep your arms on your hips or reach them alongside your ears for the full expression of the posture.
  5. Hold for five breaths, release, and repeat on the other side.

10. Yogi Squat (Malasana)

Yogini doing Malasana squat yoga pose.

Malasana (garland pose) deeply stretches the inner thigh muscles and glutes to firm the bum and thighs. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle or work a sit-down job, practicing malasana daily will prevent your legs from losing strength and suppleness.

How to do Malasana:

  1. Start in a standing position with your feet wider than hip distance apart and your toes pointing out at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Bring your palms together at the heart center, bend your knees, and sink your hips down and back. 
  3. Lower your hips as far down as possible, bringing the sit bones close to the ground. However, if your heels lift, raise your hips slightly.
  4. Gently press your elbows into your inner knees to deepen the hip stretch as you hold for 5 to 10 breaths. If you lose balance, bring your fingertips to the floor or a block for support.

Takeaway on yoga stretches for legs

Don't underestimate the power of your legs in your yoga practice or anywhere for that matter! A strong and flexible lower body is the secret ingredient to conquering challenging poses and finding balance on and off the mat. By including these 10 yoga stretches for legs in your practice, you'll not only build toned and lean legs, but take your flexibility to the next level too.

Other articles you might enjoy for further asana understanding: Best malasana modifications, how to do parsva balasana, the best yoga poses for strong abs, and best yoga poses to build strong arms.

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Gemma is a Certified Yoga Teacher of over 5 years. Aside from being a CYT 200, Gemma is also certified in Yin and Yoga Nidra. Gemma is passionate about sharing her expertise of yoga and wellness through words, guiding others along the path of personal and spiritual development. She is in LOVE with everything related to personal-growth and psychology. Aside from helping others find more peace and stillness, Gemma runs a kitten rescue project in Thailand, where she is currently residing. Gemma can be reached at gemmac@theyogatique.com, or you can connect with Gemma on LinkedIn.

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