Flexibility and relaxation are the two most common associations with yoga. It’s a trendy practice that is beneficial for all ages and levels of fitness. Whether you know it or not, yoga can double as a form of strength training. In fact, many of the poses require a lot of strength, especially in regards to the core muscle groups. This article will explore seven yoga poses that help improve strength.
Flexibility and strength go hand in hand, and one benefits the other. The key to getting stronger via yoga poses, however, is by holding the poses for longer than normal. Instead of a quick flow through a series of poses, hold each pose for at least 10 deep breaths. This is no easy feat, but test yourself to see if you are up for the challenge. You can always start with a lower breath count and increase the amount of breaths you take as you get stronger.
Begin in a tabletop position with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Lower yourself down so that your elbows and forearms are on the mat. Your elbows should be shoulder-width apart. Step your feet back and tuck your toes under. Make your torso is parallel to the floor and root yourself into your elbows. Engage your glutes and core and hold this pose for 10 deep breaths. Aim to build up to a one-minute plank hold.
Low Side Plank
The best way to enter this pose is via the previous forearm plank position. From the forearm plank, lean to your right side and press down firmly with your right forearm, placing your palm flat for extra support. Roll to the outer edge of the right foot, placing the left foot on top. The rest of the left leg should be hugging your right leg. Use your glutes and obliques to lift away from the ground and hold the pose for 10 breaths. You can either rest your left arm along your side or extend it up toward the ceiling. Repeat on the left side.
People have their ways of entering this pose, be it from a low lunge or standing straight up. From a standing position, step your right foot forward to land in a lunge position, but keep your left leg straight. Turn your left foot out to face the outside of your mat and make sure the right knee doesn’t extend over the right foot. You should feel a stretch in your inner thighs, but you should also feel the burn in the right quadriceps. Bring your arms into a T-shape, focusing your gaze beyond your right hand out in front of you. Hold this pose for 10 deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Begin in a tabletop position with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Bring the forearms to the floor and spread your fingers wide. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the mat. Try to walk your feet forward to a comfortable position where you feel a stretch. This position is like Downward Dog, but you keep the forearms on the floor. Press your heels and forearms into the ground and remain in the position for 10 deep breaths.
Stand up straight with your feet hip-distance apart. Shift your weight to your right foot and bring your left knee up in front of you. Grab your ankle with your hands and place the sole of your left foot on the inside of your right thigh above the knee. If you can’t place your foot that high up, place it on the inside of the knee. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes and thighs, making sure not to arch your back. Bring your hands to your heart’s center in a prayer position. You can also raise your arms overhead for a higher degree of difficulty. Hold this position for 10 breaths and then switch sides.
Start by sitting up straight with your legs extended out in front. Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are on the mat. As you lean back slowly, extend your feet up so that your body is in a “V” shape. Keep your back straight and reach your arms a little past your thighs. Hold this pose for 10 deep breaths and then return to the starting position.
Begin by lying flat on your stomach with your arms by your sides. Engage your glutes and slowly lift your head and upper torso off the ground. Lift your arms up and raise your legs as you arch your back. Make sure that you continue to lift your chest, keeping your shoulder blades spread apart. Hold the pose for 10 breaths and then lower your body back to the ground.