Has Strength Training Gotten a Little Boring? Build Your Muscles with Yoga Instead
Flexibility is often touted as the primary benefit of yoga, but it's far from the only advantage. Performing yoga poses also helps you strengthen your muscles and bones. These five poses are an excellent addition to your strength training routine.
The plank pose isn't hard to do but it can be difficult to maintain the position for long, at least at first. While you perform the pose, you'll keep your back straight as a plank of wood as you balance your weight on your toes and hands. Try holding the plank for 30 seconds initially, then gradually increase the duration over the next few weeks.
The plank is an excellent all-over pose that strengthens these parts of the body:
- Abdominal Muscles
The pose can be performed on its own or as part of a yoga sequence. In addition to its strengthening benefits, the plank tests your stamina and helps relieve stress.
High Lunge (Ashta Chandrasana)
Recommended by the Yoga Journal for its leg-strengthening benefits, the high lunge strengthens the glutes, calves, quadriceps and hamstrings. Perform the pose by inhaling as you stand with your feet hip-width apart. As you exhale, step back with your right leg and bend your left leg.
Keep the toes of your right foot on the mat and lift your heel toward the ceiling. When you perform this pose, you'll feel a stretch in your groin, hip flexors and legs.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
Downward facing dog is included in many yoga sequences for good reason. The pose opens the chest and shoulders, relieves neck tension, reduces stress, boosts circulation, improves balance, and strengthens the hands, fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders and upper back.
Start downward facing dog on your hands and knees. Walk your hands to the front of the mat, then raise your upper body to form an inverted "V" shape. Slowly inhale and exhale, holding the pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
The chair pose is a good choice if you want stronger thighs, ankles and abdominal muscles. In addition to working your thigh muscles, the pose also tones the hip and back, opens the chest, and improves balance, flexibility and posture.
Start the chair pose by standing with your feet together. Inhale and raise your hands upward above your head. As you exhale, sit back as if you're trying to sit on a chair. (Be sure to move your hips back, rather than simply bending your knees.)
The chair pose may seem a little daunting at first, but you'll soon find that it's easy to hold the pose for 10 breaths or longer. If you feel a little wobbly, try moving your feet apart a few inches to increase stability.
Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Do you sit most of the day? When you're sitting, you're not working the muscles in your legs, back, neck and core. Eventually, those muscles can become weak, which can lead to back and neck pain, balance problems and poor posture. When you perform the locust pose, you'll stretch and strengthen your core and upper and lower body at the same time. Performing the pose on a regular basis tones your abdomen and butt, opens your chest, and improves digestion.
Begin the locuset pose face down on the mat with your arms at your side, palms up. Inhale and raise your head, chest and legs. Keep your legs straight as you lift them. Try to keep your weight centered on your ribs and pelvis. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths before returning to the starting position.
Would you like to enjoy the strengthening benefits of yoga? Joining a yoga class is an excellent way to perfect these and other poses. Contact us to sign up for your first class.
Yoga Journal: Skip the Gym. These Are the Best Yoga Poses for Strength, 10/29/2021
WebMD: The Health Benefits of Yoga, 9/2/2022