Practicing Yoga for Strength: 6 Exercises to Try
Yoga is an amazing way to get moving and get stronger. You don't necessarily have to spend hours in the gym lifting heavy weights to build strength. Don't get me wrong - traditional strength training is excellent and offers a load of health (and aesthetic) benefits! But for those of you, like me, who are not that fond of the gym, there are alternative methods of building strength and stamina that you could explore. Yoga is one of them.
Can you build strength with yoga?
The simple answer is yes. When we talk about building strength, there are many different factors to consider. For example, what does “strength” mean? Is it the ability to lift heavy weights? Or is it more about having a strong core and being able to stand up straight? It turns out that both of these definitions are important for our health and well-being. Yoga is a great way to build strength in both definitions. As you practice yoga, you will gain the ability to lift more weight, as well as have more control over your body. This includes being able to stand up straight (and not just for photos), but also being able to lift heavy objects off the ground with ease.
Here are 6 yoga exercises you can try in all your yoga clothes for women and how you can use yoga for strength and flexibility training:
1. Downward Dog (Adho mukha svanasana)
The downward dog is probably the most popular yoga pose, and it's also one of the best exercises for building strength and flexibility. Downward dog stretches your hamstrings and calves, while also working your shoulders, arms, back, and abs. You can modify this exercise by placing your hands on a wall or chair if you're just getting started with yoga. This is one of the best poses for you to try if you want to take up yoga for leg strength. This pose also strengthens your arms. It is a must-have in your yoga strength training regimen.
How to Perform the Downward Dog:
This pose can be performed anywhere and does not require much prep. A sturdy yoga mat with a good grip can help you get it right. To perform the pose, move from the plank pose to the downward dog by bending your knees and curling up into a downward-facing dog position in your comfortable yoga pants. Once you're in position, hold this pose for 10–20 seconds, without allowing your knees to bend or dip toward the ground. The key is to keep your shoulders aligned with your hips and pelvis.
2. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana)
Virabhadrasana is one of the best poses there is if you are practicing yoga for strength. This is among those yoga poses for strength that pays almost equal attention to your upper as well as your lower body. While it looks rather simple, this is one of those yoga poses that require proper alignment and precision. As far as your yoga strength training goes, this is also among the most comprehensive poses. It helps strengthen your glute muscles (buttocks) and your legs. Your thighs, ankles and hamstrings also love the stretch offered by this pose. Just like your shoulders, chest, back and arms do.
How to Perform Warrior I:
To perform the Warrior I pose, stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, and turn your right foot out 45 degrees. Keeping the torso upright, step forward with the right leg until it’s straight. Bend your left knee over the ankle until it touches the ground, but keep your chest and arms lifted up perpendicular to the floor. Take a deep breath in as you lower yourself into this pose, and exhale as you push up through your hands onto your feet again. Try to hold this pose for as long as possible (up to 60 seconds), then repeat on the other side.
3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
This is among those yoga poses for strength that you must learn if you want to work on your lower back. This pose works wonders on your hamstrings and thighs and is also a great option of yoga for bone strength. It also stretches the muscles in your calves, ankles, and glutes. The Standing Forward Fold is not just about stretching. It is also a great way of strengthening your quadriceps. This is one of the most basic yoga poses there is but it works great on your entire back while also being a great option when including yoga for stamina. More importantly, Uttanasana is great for helping you build balance and manage your stress levels better.
How to Perform Standing Forward Bend:
Stand with your weight evenly balanced on both feet, arms at your sides. Inhale as you lengthen your spine. Exhale, and lift your chest by raising the chin upward as you bend forward from your hips. Keep the tailbone in and the knees soft. Lower down to where you can easily feel a stretch in the backs of your legs and into the hamstrings of your backside.
4. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
The cobra pose is great for those trying out yoga for strength and flexibility as well as yoga for balance. Moreover, it is one of the stretchiest poses you could try out to give your whole body relief from fatigue and lower back pain. I have many of those long days when I just want to get home and stretch it out and the cobra pose lets me do just that. The soreness you are currently experiencing in your lower back just goes away and you find yourself experiencing renewed energy as a result. If you want to practice yoga to increase strength or want to indulge in yoga for stamina, you can’t miss out on the cobra pose.
How to Perform the Cobra Pose:
Lie on your stomach and bring your hands by your shoulders. Push yourself up, using the strength of your arms. Keep your back straight, push up as much as you can with your arms straight, and then back down again. This is one repetition. Repeat 10 times for a set, and increase the number of sets each week to three or four.
5. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Looking for yoga for strong arms? The Chair Pose has got your back! And well, other parts of you. Not only is Bhujangasana great on your arms and legs, it also helps improve the strength and functioning of your heart and diaphragm. Moreover, this is yet another great option for you if yoga for balance is something you are after. Adding Bhujangasana to your yoga practice helps you build core strength and ensures that you unwind effectively. As I felt my arms get stronger with this pose, I was totally motivated to keep going.
How to Perform Chair Pose:
To perform this yoga for strength pose, stand straight with your arms to the sides. Raise your arms high enough to bring your biceps close to your ears. Take a deep breath as you extend your arms upwards. Exhale as you start to bend and keep bending your knees as much as you can. Ideally, your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Meanwhile, your palms must come closer above your head. Hold this position for half a minute and repeat 10 times.
6. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Locust pose is a challenging position that works your back and core muscles while strengthening the arms and legs. This is one of the most important yoga poses for beginners as it strengthens your lower back and improves flexibility in the spine. It also helps relieve stress and fatigue and improves your posture. This is one of those poses that are termed as 'heart openers' because of how wide you expose your chest while you perform this yoga pose. Other notable benefits include improved mobility of your spine, whereas some people go as far as to say they experience improved digestion on account of including this yoga pose for core strength in their yoga practice.
How to Perform Locust Pose:
Lie on your stomach on a mat with your hands stretched out under you (making sure to keep your elbows in) so that you can support your weight. Squeeze the cheeks of your bottom and mildly lift them off the floor, keeping your legs together. Hold this position for as long as you comfortably can. Try not to move while you're doing this pose because it will help you to focus on breathing deeply and hold yourself still.
So, there we go. Let me know in the comments below which of these poses you are excited to try in your yoga shorts and more.