When you hear the term strength training, you probably think weight training but you can increase muscle tone, definition, and even muscle size with yoga.
How does yoga build strength? Different types of yoga poses build muscle tone in different ways. Holding standing poses strengthen the legs. Inverted poses are effective for building core and upper body strength because they flex groups of smaller muscles — not just the major muscles you work with weights— to support the body’s weight during the pose.
There are several reasons to include yoga in your workouts. Integrating yoga into your weight training regime can break up the monotony so you don’t feel like a slave to weight machines, dumbbells or resistance bands. Additionally, including yoga in your workouts will continue to test and push your body in different ways, and you’ll keep growing as a fitness enthusiast. You can also practice yoga with a partner which can infuse your workouts with fresh energy and fun!
A word of caution: because you are lifting your own body weight in yoga, it may take a lot more skill, time and determination to build muscle than it would with lifting weights. Don’t rush into advanced poses thinking you’re fast-tracking to “cut” arms. If you have questions about the poses below, check with a registered yoga teacher in your area.
Benefits: Strengthens the ankles, legs, shoulders and back; improves balance and posture; tones the abdomen
From a standing position, bend forward and step your right foot back into a lunge, fingertips perched on the floor on both sides of your left foot. With your chest on your left thigh, raise your
arms forward, parallel to the floor and parallel to each other, palms facing each other. Simultaneously, (1) bring the hips and body weight forward onto the left leg, (2) straighten the left leg, (c) step the right leg in and raise it to the level of the right hip. As best as you can, keep the right hip down. Stay in this position for 5-10 seconds. Bend the left knee and release the right leg back to the lunge as you bring your hands to the floor on either side of your left foot. Step your right foot forward. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Strengthens the core, shoulders, arms, and wrists; improves balance
Kneel down on the floor on all fours with your back to a wall, facing away from the wall. Crawl backwards toward the wall until your toe tips touch the base board. Flip your toes and press the balls of your feet into the baseboard. If your shoulders are tight, turn your index fingers out slightly. Firm your shoulder blades against your back torso and pull them toward your tailbone. Then rotate your upper arms outward, to keep the shoulder blades broad, and hug your outer arms inward. Finally spread your palms and press the bases of the index fingers firmly against the floor.
On an exhale, lift your knees away from the floor and the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Push your top thighs back and stretch your heels downward onto the baseboard, straightening your knees. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly.
If this 90 degree angle feels too intense, spend a few weeks practicing it.
Next bend one knee and step first one foot and then the other on the wall so that your legs are parallel to the floor and in line with your buttock bones. Press your heels strongly into the wall. Lift one leg into the air in line with its sitting bone as you continue to press the opposite heel into the wall. Stay for 5 seconds, breathing deeply. Switch sides.
Slowly walk down the wall and rest in Child’s Pose.