Yoga is a relaxing exercise that helps form a better connection between the mind and body. Although a lot of people categorize yoga as a restorative practice, which it can most certainly be, many of the poses require a significant amount of strength and balance. Do you ever notice that experienced yogis can hold inverted poses and then transition to push-ups with ease? Until you take your first yoga class, you don’t realize how much strength the practice actually requires.
Yoga helps to enhance strength in the form of bodyweight training. Studies have shown that bodyweight training can be just as effective as weight training for gaining muscle mass. Developing more strength in your yoga practices will depend on the level of class you take. For this reason, be mindful of your strength training goals when choosing your classes. That said, if you truly want to develop bulky muscles, consider weight lifting to achieve that goal. Regardless of your goals, yoga is a beneficial exercise to incorporate into your routine because it helps hone your balance, improve flexibility, and meditation efforts.
Introducing your body to a variety of movements and tasks is how to keep it limber and ready for anything. As always with yoga, do what makes your body happy and don’t push it to the point of pain. Consider the following yoga poses to help build strength.
This pose doesn’t seem that difficult at first, but you start to feel the burn in your quads the longer you hold it. The stronger you get, the longer you’ll be able to hold it. Begin by standing upright with your feet together and arms by your sides. Balance your weight onto the heels as you sink your butt back as if you were about to sit in a chair. As you do this, keep your back straight and extend your arms overhead so that they are in line with your back. Keep the hips even and breathe deeply for four long breaths before returning to the starting position.
As a great foundational pose, warrior II can help strengthen your lower body. It’s not as difficult as the high lunge, but it can help deepen your high lunge and increase strength the longer you practice it. Begin in a wide stance with your feet past your hips facing forward. Make sure that you feel balanced in this position before you turn your left toes inward and right toes outward toward the front of your mat. Hold in your lower abdomen and lengthen your spine. Bring your arms up so that they are parallel with the floor and in line with your body. Bend your right knee slowly, but make sure your knee doesn’t extend past your toes. Hold this pose for five deep breaths before you switch sides.
Sometimes referred to as horse pose, goddess squat is a great pose to develop better glute muscles and open up your hips. The deeper you squat, the more it works your inner thighs! Begin by standing straight up with your feet hip-distance apart. Widen your stance and face your toes outward as you tuck your pelvis and sink into a squat. The goal of this pose is to squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Don’t roll your knees in and keep your back straight. You can rest your hands on your thighs for support, or extend them up overhead while keeping your shoulders dropped. Hold this pose for five deep breaths, aiming to sink deeper with each exhale.
This pose challenges your core in the best way possible! Practicing this pose will help you hold other poses for longer periods with a lot less effort. Begin in a seated position with your legs extended out in front of you. Bend one knee at a time and keep your feet flat on the floor. Lean back slowly and lift your feet off the ground; you should start to feel your core engage. Raise your feet so that your shins are parallel to the ground and extend your arms toward your feet to help balance. Remain here for 10-20 seconds, increasing the time as you get stronger.
If you suffer from poor posture and want to correct it or reduce upper back pain, this is a great pose to practice. Begin by lying face down on the ground and extend your arms out in front of you. Take a deep breath in and, as you exhale, engage your back muscles, glutes, and upper back to lift as much of your body off the ground as possible. You basically want to balance on your upper thighs and abdominals. Stretch from your fingertips to your toes, being conscious to drop your shoulders away from your ears. Hold this pose for three to five breaths and then return to the starting position.
This takes the regular plank up a notch, but many people find this plank variation easier because it takes more pressure off your wrists. That said, this pose forces you to engage your core more than regular plank because you are closer to the ground. Begin on all fours in a tabletop position, stacking your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. Lower yourself down to your forearms and then step your feet back one at a time. Engage your core and lift through your belly button to maintain a flat back. Hold for 20-30 seconds to start and increase the time as you get stronger.
This pose proves difficult because it requires you to hover your entire body just above the ground. Your arms may shake more than usual when you first start, but that will fade as you get stronger. Begin on all fours in a tabletop position, stacking your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. Come into a high plank position by stepping your feet back. Hug your elbows close to your sides as you lower down so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Hover a few inches above the ground and engage your chest and core. Hold for three to five deep breaths and then release.