A great booty is the new black! Nowadays, the butt has taken on celebrity status as the one part of the body we all want to lift, shape, tighten and tone. Not only does a head-turning posterior round out (pun intended) the perfect fit physique, it also helps our body come into balance practically, by assisting in posture and reducing pain in the low back.
By far the largest group of muscles in our body, our gluteals and hamstrings are responsible for pelvic stabilization as well as strength and mobility in the hips. Properly trained, these powerful back body muscles help keep tension out of our low back and joints by improving our functional movement and optimally balancing our body weight. In addition, we all know that when we build lean muscle mass, we increase our resting metabolic rate. Strategically working our body’s biggest muscle group can accelerate fat burning and actually help us keep weight off. So let’s start building that booty!
Here’s the basic anatomy 411: Our gluteals are comprised of 3 main muscles: The gluteus maximus (which makes up the muscular bulk of our seat, and has the potential to be the most powerful muscle in the human body) and the gluteus medius and minimus, which are responsible for adduction and abduction of the hips.
When well toned, these three muscles can improve mobility, rotation and extension in the hip, while also preventing imbalances that would otherwise strain our joints. In addition to injury prevention and improved functional movement (standing, sitting, walking, heavy lifting, etc.), strong well toned gluteals can help bring our entire body into balance.
Yoga is a wonderful way to tone and shape all the gluteal muscles without using any weights, equipment or machines. Since yoga uses our own body weight to build muscle, it can be an effective way to shape your booty with a low risk of injury. Below are my tried-and-true moves to help lift and round your seat, while strengthening the hips and improving flexibility.
Here Are 6 Yoga Poses for a Better Booty:
1. Hands and Knees with Leg Lifts
Come to your hands and knees and pull your belly button in to engage the core and support the lower back. Keeping your hips square, lift your right leg until it is parallel to the ground. If you feel balanced, reach the left arm forward to further challenge the core. From here, round the back, draw in the right knee toward your chest and bend your left elbow to tap the right knee. This crunch works your core, and as you re-extend the arm and leg out, you strengthen the larger gluteal muscle (gluteus maximus).
Inhale as you reach out and exhale as you crunch the abdominals, keeping the hips steady and parallel to the ground. Repeat this 5-10 times on the right side, and then repeat the exercise on the left. Feel the burn and enjoy the natural butt lift!
2. Downward Dog Split and Hip Circles
From downward facing dog, keep the hips square to the ground as you extend your right leg up and back. The height of your leg is irrelevant, and that flexibility will come with time and practice. For now, as you breathe, focus on your gluteal lift, as you defy gravity with that lifted leg. Hold for 5-10 breaths here, then bend your right knee and lift it to the side, opening up the hip.
If you feel balanced, add some hip circles by rotating the knee in a circular motion. This rotation of the hip engages the smaller gluteal muscles (gluteus medius and minimus). Make 5-10 large circles with the right knee then repeat on the other side. After a few weeks of daily practice, your hips will be feeling stronger and more flexible!
3. Crescent Warrior
From downward dog, step the right foot forward between the thumbs and lift the torso up either extending the arms toward the ceiling or bringing your hands together at your chest. Be sure to keep the front knee bent and safely supported directly above the ankle. When we first practice crescent, we want to keep a slight bend in the back knee. You want to lengthen the lower back and feel the front hip bones tilt slightly upward, so you can engage your core, and help create a safe and stable posture.
Once this pelvic alignment is in place, you can work on possibly extending the back leg straight. This crescent pose will strengthen the gluteus maximus of the back leg, and the outer hip and seat of the front leg as well. Hold crescent for 5-10 breaths, and repeat on the left. If you’re wanting a bit more intensity, add a twist to this pose. If your right leg is in front bring your palms together, twist your upper body to the right and press your left tricep onto the outer edge of your right leg.
4. Warrior 3
This classic balancing pose is fantastically effective for seat work, as you will be engaging the outer hip muscles of the standing leg (gluteus medius and minimus) as well as the strong gluteal and hamstring muscles of the lifting leg. From crescent warrior, hinge forward and place your weight on to your front foot as you lift the back leg off the mat, keeping the hips square. Your neck, heart and back leg are as close to parallel to the ground as you can. Your hands come to two blocks that are just under your shoulders. This will help you stabilize, and from there, as you gain strength and balance, you can begin to bring the hands to the heart, or wide like airplane arms. Take 5-10 breaths in this pose.
On each inhale, focus on engaging the muscles of your butt by energizing and straightening the lifting leg. On each exhale, focus on engaging your core connection and lengthening your lower back. Repeat on the other side. Remember: both legs are working in this pose, so don’t be alarmed if you feel the side gluteal muscles of your standing leg burning as much as your lifted leg.
5. Chair Pose
Chair pose is the yoga version of a traditional squat. From a standing position, draw the hips back and down to knee level, while shifting your weight into your heels, and lengthening your tailbone toward the mat. This pose will engage your powerful hamstrings as well as your gluteals. To add a fun gluteal challenge, find chair pose – then press the leg up and back to warrior 3, then back to chair, then repeat this motion on the other side, returning to chair between each warrior 3. Try this 3-4 times per leg for a deep derriere burn!
6. Locust Pose
This is a fantastic posture for strengthening the entire back body, head to toe. Lie down on your belly in a prone position with your arms down by your sides. Begin by lengthening the tailbone toward your heels so there is no compression in the lumbar region. Using the muscles of the middle and upper back, lift your shoulders, arms and torso off the mat, keeping the back of the neck in alignment with the rest of the spine. Then, keeping the legs relatively straight, lift the legs off the floor, engaging the gluteals and hamstrings. Focus on using the base of the butt (gluteus maximus) to lift the legs rather than the muscles of the low back. Hold this elevation for 5 breaths, extending the legs energetically and feeling the strength in your seat and hamstrings. Repeat 3 times, going for more length and elevation with each round.
Try these moves, and join me on 3 Week Yoga Retreat for even more amazing yoga moves that will help you get the booty you’ve always wanted!
Photos by Jamie Lebowitz