When you hear the term strength training, you might think weight lifting. However, you can increase muscle tone, definition and muscle size with yoga.
How does yoga build strength? Different types of yoga poses build muscle tone in different ways. Standing poses strengthens your legs. Inverted poses are effective to build a strong core and upper body strength because they flex groups of smaller muscles to support the body’s weight during the pose.
There are several reasons to include yoga in your workouts. Integrate yoga into your weight training regime to help break up your routine.
In addition, yoga will help test and push your body in different ways. You can also practice yoga with a partner, which can infuse your workouts with fresh energy and fun.
A word of caution: because you lift 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 on the fast-track 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
Instructions: From a standing position, bend forward and step your right foot back into a lunge. Keep your 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. Make sure palms face each other.
- Bring the hips and body weight forward onto the left leg.
- Straighten the left leg.
- Step the right leg in and raise it to the level of the right hip.
Keep the right hip down as best as you can. Stay in this position for five to 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
Instructions: Kneel down on the floor on all fours with your back to a 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 sits bones toward the ceiling. Push your top thighs back and stretch your heels downward onto the baseboard, straighten 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 five seconds and breathe deeply. Switch sides.
Slowly walk down the wall and rest in Child’s Pose.
Accomplished yoga teacher, Lynn Burgess, combines her unique alignment based style with over 20 years of teaching experience to help athletes achieve their goals. Visit www.yogafromtheheart.com to learn more.