As much as yoga asanas are a lot about strength, and of course flexibility, we often underestimate how important it is to create a sense of ease and softness around these physically intense poses.
Here are two strong poses that could use a little softening sometimes:
Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
The Warrior II base for this base requires your legs to work, and there is a beautiful (and intense) opening that can come from moving deeply into Extended Side Angle Pose. By pressing the tricep closest to your front knee into the side of your knee, while simultaneously pressing your knee into your outer arm, you will feel that deep opening in the hip of the bent leg.
A lot of practitioners struggle in this pose if they don’t allow themselves to surrender into their strength. One great way to do this is to take your head and neck out of the picture: wrap your upper arm around your low back and find a half bind, grabbing for the inner thigh of the bent front leg (or a piece of your waist band). Allow the ear closest to the ground to drop down into the shoulder closest to that ear, creating a neck release and allowing you to harness focused and calm energy into the strength and opening of your legs and hips.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge Pose is another active pose in your legs, but there is something especially rich about making this a more restorative pose. You can use a block underneath your low back, at any height, to support your elevated hips in this pose.
Once you have the block on a sturdy and comfortable spot on your sacrum, open out your arms into a cactus position (like a goal post), and feel the back side of your heart surrender down towards the earth. With your heart fully open and your hips supported, this is a perfect time to sink into the depth of your practice from a very introspective place. Sit with this pose and let whatever is not serving you fall out of a place of tension and away from your body.