Yoga For Strength
Yoga For Strength

Everyone knows that yoga can increase your flexibility, but it is also an excellent form of exercise that helps strengthen and tone your muscles. In fact, famous yoga teachers like Kino McGregor and Baron Baptiste are known for their strong, muscular bodies!

Depending on what kind of yoga you practice, your results may look a little different, but in general yoga can definitely help you get leaner, more defined muscles in your arms, a strong core, and powerful legs. The key to building your muscles with yoga is to hold poses for longer and focus on proper alignment. And of course, you will want to focus on faster paced forms of yoga like Power Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga over gentle, restorative yoga.

Can Yoga Replace Strength Training?

Believe it or not, yoga can indeed replace strength straining in your exercise lineup. There are numerous health benefits when it comes to practicing yoga – everything from injury prevention to lowering stress levels. However, you have to be realistic about how yoga will strengthen your body. Because you will be working with your own bodyweight, not dumbbells or kettle bells, the muscles you develop will be leaner and longer. In other words, you are not likely to bulk up from a strengthening yoga practice, but you will increase muscle tone!

The key to using yoga for strength is to hold the poses for longer than you normally would and perform more vigorous styles of yoga. Here are 10 yoga poses that can be performed to build strength in your arms, back, core, and legs!

Adho Mukha Svanasana — Downward Facing Dog Pose

Adho Mukha Svanasana — Downward Facing Dog Pose
Adho Mukha Svanasana — Downward Facing Dog Pose

This is likely one of the most popular poses in any yoga class because it has so many modifications! Whether you are a beginner or advanced yogi, you can strengthen your shoulders and upper back with this pose while also getting a nice, deep stretch in the hamstrings.

Pose Instructions:

Begin in a table top position with your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees hip distance apart. Tuck your toes underneath and place them on the mat. Press the hands firmly against the yoga mat and engage the arms. Keep your knees bent, lift them off of the mat, and lift your hips up towards the ceiling. Rotate your shoulders away from the spine and press your chest back towards your thighs. Straighten the legs as much as you can to keep the spine elongated throughout. As you hold this pose, alternate pushing each heel to the mat for a deeper stretch in the back of the legs.

To modify this pose, bend the knees deeper to take the pressur off the hamstrings. You can perform this pose with a partner; just loop a strap around your waist and have them pull back on it to lift your hips higher and give more space to the lower back.

Phalakasana — Plank Pose

Phalakasana — Plank Pose
Phalakasana — Plank Pose

It’s no secret that plank pose is incredible for sculpting your arms, back, and core! This pose is often seen in all kinds of fitness classes – from Pilates to HIIT workouts. You can perform the classic plank pose with the arms straight, or you can drop down onto your elbows. And of course, you can always mix things up and practice side plank, which is excellent for strengthening the oblique and side body muscles.

Pose Instructions:

To get into this pose, start in tabletop with your hands in line with your shoulders and knees hip-width apart. Step both feet back and keep your body elevated above the yoga mat. You should be in the start of a push-up position with your arms straight and active. Squeeze your glutes and tighten your stomach muscles. Make sure you keep your head and neck neutral, not too soft nor too stiff. Hold as long as possible but feel free to drop the knees if it becomes too challenging!

Bhujangasana — Cobra Pose

Bhujangasana — Cobra Pose
Bhujangasana — Cobra Pose

Aside from having a cool name, Cobra Pose is an excellent strengthening pose for your core and back muscles. This pose is a deep back extension that can also help to improve your posture. While this pose definitely focuses on the upper body and core, you might also feel a little strengthening action in the thighs, as they are used in this pose to keep the body stable.

Pose Instructions:

To start, lay on your stomach with your legs extended to the back of the mat. Scoot your feet as close together as you can. Place your hands flat on the mat underneath the shoulders. Draw your elbows in towards the midline of the body. Press your lower belly against the mat and tuck your tailbone towards your yoga mat. Lift your upper torso off of the mat, keeping your hands pressing into the mat and your elbows slightly bent. Extend the top of your head up to the ceiling and continue to lift your belly off the floor, now using the hands to extend your spine. Roll your shoulders down and back to create space for the chest to open and keep the back arched as much as possible. As you lift up in Cobra, it should feel like your spine is getting longer – not crunched!

Paripurna Navasana — Boat Pose

Paripurna Navasana — Boat Pose
Paripurna Navasana — Boat Pose

Boat pose is likely one of the most popular yoga poses for strengthen the core, arms, and back. This pose is very challenging because it takes a lot of strength to hold your legs and arms stable while balancing on your bottom.  Many beginners struggle with this pose, so feel free to modify as needed! Even if you aren’t in the full pose, you can get the strengthening benefits and work your way up to full boat pose. One option for making the pose a little more beginner friendly is to keep the knees bent and lower them close to the ground.

Pose Instructions:

Begin in a seated position with knees bent and hands at your hips. Keep your spine straight and lift your legs off the ground. Draw your lower back in and lift your chest. Extend your arms along your sides with palms facing each other. Focus on keeping your body in a “V” shape. Say for 5 breaths or more if you are able. Continue to lift the legs higher and keep the back slightly arched. Feel free to hold this pose for as long as you can, but aim for a minimum of 10 breathes for a real challenge!

Virabhadrasana II — Warrior II Pose

Virabhadrasana II — Warrior II Pose
Virabhadrasana II — Warrior II Pose

Warrior II Pose is an excellent pose for building both strength and confidence. This powerful pose improves posture by lengthening the spine, and it also strengthens your back, core muscles, arms, and legs. The longer you hold this pose the stronger you will get! If you want an extra challenge, you can also practice this pose while holding two light dumbbells or wrist weights.

Pose Instructions:

This pose will be practiced on both sides of the body. Begin Warrior II on the right side. Step your feet wide along the long side of your mat. Point the front foot toward the top of the mat and put a deep bend in the front knee. Keep the knee tracking over the ankle. Extend the arms out to form a T-shape and look towards the front of your mat. Keep your torso centered over your pelvis. Hold for a minimum of 10 breaths before switching to the left side.

Ardha Chandrasana — Half-Moon Pose

Half-Moon Pose is a dynamic yoga poses that involves balance, strength, and flexibility. Make sure you take advantage of yoga props like blocks or a wall while practicing this pose. Half-Moon Pose strengthens the core, back, legs, arms, and pelvic floor muscles all at once. It is also known for increasing spinal flexibility and alignment, and the slight inversion helps to move lymphatic fluid in the body. Half-Moon Pose works the muscles in a lateral position, which can make the pose more challenging for some people.

Pose Instructions:

Begin in Tadasana holding a yoga block in your right hand. Upon inhale, raise the arms up and ehale forward, placing the yoga block slightly in front of your head on the floor. Use it for leverage to lift the leg leg up and back, while keeping the lower leg strong and stable. For extra support, you can steady the lifted foot flat against a wall. Remember to repeat the pose on the other side when you are complete. Hold each side up to 1 minute if possible!

Utkatasana — Chair Pose

Utkatasana — Chair Pose
Utkatasana — Chair Pose

Chair Pose is basically the yogic version of a squat! This pose strengthens the spine, core, arms and all muscles in the lower body simultaneously. If you hold this pose for 10 breaths, you will definitely feel the burn in your lower body and shoulders. If you want to hold it longer, you can always support the spine by practcing this pose with your back against the wall.

Pose Instructions:

Begin in Mountain Pose and lift your arms in front of you to shoulder height, palms facing down. Keeping your belly and tailbone tucked, bend your knees and lower your hips. Continue to lower down into a 90 degree angle squat, but make sure that your knees are directly in line with your hips. Basically, it should look like you are sitting in an invisible chair. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or longer if you really want to build strength!

Strengthening With The Sun Salutations

Strengthening With The Sun Salutations
Strengthening With The Sun Salutations

Obviously, if you want a really good strength training workout from your yoga practice, you are going to need to practice the above poses three or four times in a session for about 30 minutes. Another option is to practice the Sun Salutations.

One of the most efficient ways to build strength using yoga is by practicing Sun Salutation version A! These poses are traditionally done in the morning to wake up your body and get your blood flowing, but coincidentally the sequence features many of the poses listed above. For a guaranteed great workout, practice the sequence listed below for 30 minutes every day.

Pose Instructions:

1. Tadasana — Standing Mountain Pose

Stand at the front of your mat with your feet hip-width apart. Press your palms together at your sternum in prayer position. Take a few deep breaths.

2. Urdhva Hastasana — Upward Salute Pose

Inhale as you lift your arms out to the sides and over your heard. Gently arch your back and gaze toward the sky.

3. Uttanasana — Standing Forward Fold

Exhale as you fold forward from the hips. Bend your knees to take the pressure off your hamstrings.

4. Ardha Uttanasana — Half Standing Forward Fold Pose

Inhale as you lift your torso halfway, lengthening your spine forward. You can place your hands on your shins or on the floor, depending on your flexibility.

5. Adho Mukha Svanasana — Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Exhale as you lift your hips to come into Downward Facing Dog Pose. Bend your knees if you need to and make sure your push through your hands.  Feel the length in your spin as you draw your hips towards the sky.

6. Chaturanga Dandasana — Four-Limbed Staff Pose

Exhale as you step or jump back into Plank Pose. Lower into Chaturanga (keeping elbows tucked to your sides) and drop your knees if needed.

7. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana — Upward-Facing Dog Pose

Inhale as you sweep your chest forward and lengthen your arms. Draw your shoulders back and lift your heart to the sky. If you press through the top of your feet it will help engage your legs.

8. Adho Mukha Svanasana — Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Exhale as you lift your hips to come into Downward Facing Dog Pose. Bend your knees if you need to and make sure your push through your hands.  Feel the length in your spin as you draw your hips towards the sky.

9. Ardha Uttanasana — Half Standing Forward Fold Pose

Inhale as you step or jump both feet between your hands. Lift your torso halfway, so that your back is flat. Your hands come to your shins or the floor.

10. Uttanasana — Standing Forward Fold Pose

Exhale and release your torso over your thighs. Arms can hang down towards your mat or your can fold them under your head. Let the upper body release.

11. Urdhva Hastasana — Upward Salute Pose

Inhale as you lift your arms out to the sides and over your heard. Gently arch your back and gaze toward the sky.

12. Tadasana — Tadasana Mountain Pose

Exhale as you come back into Mountain Pose. Feet should be hip-width apart. Press your palms together at your sternum in prayer position. Take a few deep breaths. Repeat as needed to warm up.

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