Progress pose: Standing leg raise

I came to yoga with some natural flexibility in my hamstrings. So, when I saw someone do standing leg raise, I figured it’d be a cinch. I was wrong. I struggled to remain standing without falling over, I struggled to straighten my standing leg, I struggled to keep my top leg raised and straightened. Still, I loved the pose for some reason. I think it was a pose where I could see possibility, and every struggle seemed like a step toward realizing that possibility.

This picture was taken last April — about two years after I did my first wobbly version. As you can see, I’m grabbing my big toe with my peace fingers — that’s as far as I could go. You can also see that my legs are mostly straight, I’m upright, and I’m even smiling!

I took the picture below yesterday. Three years after trying the pose, I can reach the foot of my raised leg, I can remain mostly stable, and I can straighten both legs. Still smiling! 

Sometimes I find it helpful to remind myself of the progress I’m making. Because progress is so incremental, it’s easy to think that it’s not happening, or not happening quickly enough. But in the mat or off, progress does happen, if only by degrees.

I’m I glad I can do this pose without falling over? Yes — it’s pretty cool to observe the wonders of possibility in the body. Even more than that, though, I’m happy that I kept trying a pose that didn’t come naturally, and that I didn’t give up when progress wasn’t immediate.

What about you? Where have you seen progress in your practice — or where are you hoping to see progress?


  1. This is actually a great pose for me. In the beginning I couldn’t really do it all that well, but after doing it regularly for a while I felt I got much more out of it. Wish I had taken the before picture, haha.

      1. Very true. It helps me to be patient I thin. Even on a bad day I am further than on a good day three years ago.

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