Building Strength with Yoga
Do you think of your yoga practice as a tool for building strength? If you don’t, think again. There are many opportunities for building strength with yoga. In many of the physical postures, we use the weight of our bodies to build the muscles of our arms and legs. The practice is also excellent for building core strength!
Why Building Strength with Yoga Matters
In addition to flexibility and endurance, strength training is an important part of physical fitness. Building muscle is especially vital as we age. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more efficient your metabolism.
It’s also great to be strong! You probably know this intuitively, but do you know why? With more physical strength, you can do more with ease. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to reap the benefits of being strong, but don’t neglect your muscles! Building strength with yoga is more enjoyable than working out with weights because of the other benefits a yoga practice offers as well!
Yoga Poses for Muscle Building
Strengthening poses are ones in which we engage the arms, legs, and/or core. When you practice the poses, concentrate on contracting muscles around the bone. What’s ideal about yoga is you strengthen and lengthen (stretch) at the same time.
Here are some great poses for building strength with yoga:
Awkward Chair Pose– Chair pose is excellent for building strength in the thighs. Unlike traditional squats, where you come in and out of a squat, in chair pose, you sit in the squat and hold it. While you do this, your muscles hug the bones in your legs. You’ll engage those muscles while lengthening in the upper body at the same time.
Warrior Poses – Warrior one and two are great ways to strengthen the legs, abdominals, hips, and core. In warrior one, you sink into your front leg and engage the front thigh while lifting the thigh of the back leg. Hug the muscles around the bones and lift the arms. In warrior two, again, you lengthen deep into the lunge, pulling the muscles back towards the midline. At the same time, you’re building arm strength in both warrior poses.
Downward Dog – You may not think of downward dog as a strengthening pose, but it is. You work your arms, abdominal muscles, and legs in this pose!
Upward Facing Dog – This is another powerful strengthening pose. You build strength in the upper body while holding the thighs off the ground. Upward Dog is a great for building strength in the triceps muscles.
Backbends (bridge, wheel) –Backbends are especially beneficial for strengthening the legs. These poses build strength in the back of the thighs and the buttocks.
Plank – Plank, of course, builds core strength. It is also great for building arm strength, especially if you move from plank to chaturanga.
In addition to the individual poses, flows are ideal to practice if you’re interested in building strength with yoga. A great sequence to try is plank to upward-facing dog to downward-facing dog. These three postures help strengthen the entire body. Add warrior one and two the flow and you’ll really get a full-body strength-building workout!
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She is the star of over 100 videos, a contributing editor at Health Magazine and a spokeswoman for many brands and causes she believes in. Kristin also appears frequently on television. A proud mom to three, she sure keeps herself busy!