All You Need Is a Blanket for This Strength-Building Yoga Routine

by Carla Henderson

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Most of the time when a teacher tells you to grab a yoga blanket, it’s for padding or warmth. This sequence will get you warm for sure. But here, you’ll use the blanket to develop strength—targeting muscles that don’t typically get much attention in a traditional yoga practice.

This yoga class uses four supersets of two alternating exercises for a designated rep count — sound familiar, gym rats? For each set, go right from the first drill into the second, then rest for about a minute and repeat the whole set a total of three times. If you’re not used to practicing this way, it can take some getting used to. But this approach maximizes your functional strength and cardiovascular benefits.

Don’t forget to check in with your breath. In general, I use a slow inhale for the phase in which your muscles lengthen (eccentric phase), and a short exhale for the phase in which your muscles shorten (concentric phase). While you rest, focus on a slow ujjayi breath to help slow your heart rate.

You can use a towel if a blanket is not available, but you will need a slick surface—like smooth wood, cement, or a tile floor—on which to practice.

Slippery Surya Namaskar A

Rocky Heron's in modified Surya Namaskar A with blanket (Photos: Rocky Heron)

Warm up with 3–5 Sun Salutations, with your feet on the blanket. (If you have a preferred full-body warm up, you can do that instead.)

Superset 1

Plank Slide Forwards

Rocky Heron Plank slide forwards 14a/b (Photo: Rocky Heron)

This drill targets your abdominal muscles and hip flexors. Begin in Plank Pose with your feet on the blanket. Push into the floor to broaden your shoulder blades and draw your ribs toward the ceiling. Pull your tailbone in and firm your legs. On an exhale, bend your knees toward your arms and slide the blanket up. Inhale to straighten your legs. Complete 10–15 reps.

Transition to Crescent Warrior

A person demonstrates a Low Lunge with their back foot resting on a blanket (Photo: Rocky Heron)

From Plank, keep your left foot on the blanket and step your right foot between your hands. Raise your torso and arrive in Crescent Warrior.

Warrior Slides

Rocky Heron in a Warrior 1 variation with blanket (Photo: Rocky Heron)

From Crescent Warrior, exhale, push into your right heel and slide your left foot forward with the blanket. Inhale and slide back. Complete 10–15 reps then lower your hands and switch legs.

Rest for 1 minute then repeat the superset a total of 3 times

Superset 2

Cobra Slides

Rocky Heron in Cobra variation with blankets (Photo: Rocky Heron)

Place the folded blanket under your pelvis and lay face down on the floor. Reach your arms forward and lift your chest and legs. Press your hands apart, exhale and slide yourself forward, arriving in cobra pose. Inhale and push yourself back to the starting position. Complete 5–10 reps.

Modified Chaturanga Flies

Rocky Heron in a modified chaturanga (Photo: Rocky Heron)

Press yourself up onto your hands and knees and place the blanket under your left hand. Lower your pelvis to form a straight line from your knees, through your hips, shoulders and head. Stabilize through your trunk as you did earlier in plank pose. Inhale and bend your right elbow as you slide the blanket at a diagonal to the side and slightly in front of you. Lower as far down as you can while still being able to return. Exhale and pull your hands together as your straighten your right arm, returning to the starting position. Complete 8–12 reps and switch sides.

Rest for 1 minute then repeat the superset a total of 3 times

Superset 3

Adductor Slides

Side by side image of feet on yoga blanket (Photo: Rocky Heron)

Stand up and unfold the blanket so it is long. Stand with your feet wide on the blanket, then slide them in hips-width apart so there is some bunched up blanket between your feet. Inhale and slide your right foot out to the side. Exhale and slide back in. Only slide out as far as you can without losing the capacity to return with straight legs. It won’t take much! Complete 7–10 reps then switch the anchored leg and the sliding leg.

Pigeon Glute Slides

Rocky Heron doing pigeon glute slide (Photo: Rocky Heron)

Have a seat and bring your right shin in front of you on the floor. Bend your left knee into your chest and place your left foot on the blanket.  Place your right hand beside you to help keep your torso upright. Exhale and slide the blanket out to the side and as far back as you can. You should feel the contraction in the glutes of your back leg. Inhale and slide the blanket back to the starting position. Complete 10–15 reps and switch sides.

Rest for 1 minute then return to the standing position to repeat the superset a total of 3 times

Superset 4

Hamstring Bridge Slides

Rocky Heron in bridge variation with blanket (Photo: Rocky Heron)

Lie on your back with your knees bent and place your feet on the blanket. Lift your hips into Bridge Pose and press your arms into the floor beside you. Inhale and slide your legs away from your hips, straightening your knees. Keep your hips lifted throughout as best you can. Exhale, press into your heels and slide your feet back in. Complete 8–12 reps.

Supine Side Bend Slides

Rocky Heron in supine oblique bend (Photo: Rocky Heron)

Unfold the blanket so it is long. Lie down on the blanket with your legs straight. Clasp your hands behind your head and lift your head up slightly. Exhale and side bend in one direction, sliding the blanket so that it moves with your torso. Inhale to return to the starting position, then repeat on the other side. This is 1 rep. Complete a total of 10+ reps.

When you complete the four supersets of this class, you can end with some cool-down stretches of your choice. A calming pranayama practice can help regulate your nervous system. Of course, Savasana is always a good choice after a very active practice such as this.

About our contributor

Rocky Heron is an internationally acclaimed yoga and movement educator, artist, and musician. Known for his uncanny wisdom and in-depth understanding of human anatomy, Rocky’s teaching is informed by years of study in many yoga styles and movement modalities. Considered a “teacher’s teacher,” Rocky works worldwide and online facilitating trainings and continuing education for teachers. Rocky works in collaboration with Noah Mazé as a faculty member and key contributor to the curriculum at the Mazé Method, and as a featured teacher on Yoga International. Rocky enjoys a rich and dynamic life with his magnificent community of artists, and is a founding member of the Queer Wellness Collective, which seeks to promote well-being to members of the queer community. Students steep themselves in Rocky’s teaching for his intelligence, humor, and innovative approach to movement, as well as his ability to make complex concepts accessible. Follow him on Instagram @rockyheron.

— From Yoga Journal