We have already established that equilibrium is key in yoga. The harmony between flexibility and strength in asana practice is one physical manifestation of this. Despite yoga’s reputation for relaxation and flexibility, its more forceful, aggressive, and vigorous aspects are just as vital. It’s common for people who come to yoga already in good physical shape to work on their flexibility. The converse is also true: those who are already exceptionally flexible should work on building strength and stability to protect themselves from harm.
Flexibility and strength can be organically developed by novices practising various poses regularly. Beginners who commit to their yoga practice will notice an increase in their strength in no time, from the major muscular groups (core, legs, arms, back) to the many more tiny support muscles you probably didn’t even realise you had until you were sore in the strangest places. When practising more difficult yoga postures like inversions and arm balances, it might be helpful for intermediate and advanced practitioners to focus their strengthening efforts on specific muscle groups.
Yoga develops our muscles and minds, though this effect may be harder to quantify than your newly developed triceps (thanks, Chaturanga!). Consistent yoga asana practise will have positive mental consequences, even if you don’t start teleporting household goods any time soon. The ability to persist through setbacks, embrace change, bounce back from setbacks (and setbacks again), and achieve mastery over one’s thoughts are all lessons one can glean from the experience. Exploring the physical side of yoga often leads to an interest in mindfulness, but you don’t need a formal meditation practise to start feeling the mental advantages of yoga.
Is Yoga Enough To Build Strength?
Although it drives true yogis mad, this is a common enough question that it warrants an explanation. Our firm response is that it is conditional. Many factors come into play here, including your definition of “enough,” your strength-related goals, and your prefered way of living. Weight training is more efficient than other methods to gain muscle mass.
When doing bodyweight exercises like yoga, you have to work within the limits imposed by your size. Because you can keep adding plates to your barbell until the cows come home, weightlifting has no such limits. Muscles are strengthened through both types of training by being worked to exhaustion.
We may all benefit physically and mentally from including more forms of activity in our daily routines. Yoga is great for cardiovascular activities like swimming, jogging, and vice versa. Strength training and other core exercises will enhance your yoga practice by allowing you to do stronger postures and giving you greater stamina and balance in your daily life. Everything connects. Whatever makes your physical self happy should be pursued. But try to let go of the thought that your efforts are never sufficient.
Best Yoga Styles For Gaining Strength
For individuals keen to augment their muscle strength, it might be instinctive to enrol in intense sessions. However, it’s essential to remain conscious of the session’s complexity. A beginner’s session, though seemingly simplistic, could demand more muscular effort than a rapid transition between postures in a more advanced session. One investigation into a 10-week tailored chair yoga regimen tailored for the elderly revealed considerable strength enhancement, even though all postures were executed whilst seated.
Whilst many yoga techniques can bolster strength, the following three are particularly noteworthy:
- Ashtanga Yoga: Characterised by its brisk pace and concise posture holds Ashtanga yoga is particularly beneficial for upper body muscle fortification.
- Vinyasa Flow: Originating from Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa centres on synchronising breath with movement. Experts like Moses-Allen advocate for instructors who stress on sustained postural engagement and seamless transitions between postures.
- Iyengar Yoga: Notable for its extended posture holds, Iyengar compels muscles to engage in a unique manner compared to quicker sessions. Despite its prolonged holds, it often maintains a more accelerated pace, making it apt for newcomers.
Strength-Building Yoga Poses That Work
Strong muscles can be developed through more vigorous forms of yoga. They are the same as performing numerous repetitions of bodyweight exercises. One of the most efficient styles of yoga is Ashtanga, which emphasises regular practice, a large number of vinyasas, and the mastery of postures in a certain order. The Ashtanga-inspired Power Yoga styles generally deliver on their promise. In addition to Jivamukti Yoga, Rocket Yoga is another powerful practice. Both have vigorous movements that feature a lot of balancing and inverted poses.
Planks are a tried-and-true method of building strength in the shoulders, abdominals, and lower back. While planking may seem easy, using proper form is important to avoid injuring your shoulders. If you don’t have a mirror handy, ask a buddy if your hips are too high or too low because it’s difficult to detect for yourself. Planks are great for moving from one yoga pose to another quickly. Holding planks for a minute or more has been shown to increase strength.
Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
Plank’s Chaturanga practice spreads like warm butter on toast. Remember everything we mentioned about alignment in Plank, and then apply it even more strictly to the Chaturanga. Building up your triceps to its maximum potential is pointless if your shoulders will give up on you in a few years. Assuming proper form, Chaturanga is unparalleled for strengthening the arms, back, shoulders, and abdominals.
You may think of it as a mindful push-up, and that’s what it is. Do five Chaturangas in a row, returning to Plank after each one. Upward Facing Dog is the first posture in a traditional vinyasa sequence, although you can retain the low position or do an extra Chaturanga afterwards. Similar to the plank position, bringing the knees to the floor is an excellent alternative for novices.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
There’s more to the Low Cobra than just a transition to the Upward Facing Dog. It’s a rare chance to use those back muscles you never thought to work. To fully enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the Cobra Pose, one must first make a solemn oath not to cheat the pose. People immediately start pressing into their hands and straightening their arms when we tell them to “lift their chest as high as possible,” but this does not engage the back muscles. Accept that your Cobra will likely be small as a first step. Keep your elbows bent back at a 90-degree angle to avoid straining your hands while lifting.
Boat Pose (Navasana)
When performed properly, Boat Pose is one of the most effective yoga exercises for toning the abdominal muscles. We are not concerned with your ability to fully extend your legs. The connection between your midsection and your lower body is crucial. The V form should be kept crisp and sharp. Keep your knees bent for the time being if standing with your legs fully extended causes your V to sag and loosen.
Your Boat will perform more like a crunch if you give it some kinetic motion. Exhale and sink towards the floor as if you were going to lie down, but keep your shoulders and heels above the ground. There’s a name for this kind of sailing: Low Boat. Then, with a deep breath, rise back up into Boat. Five to ten repetitions of standing on your tiptoes may help.
Warrior Ii (Virabhadrasana Ii)
Warrior II fortifies all four limbs and the trunk. Make sure your body is in the most advantageous position possible, and then hold it for as long as you can, preferably at least ten breaths. Because of the way your feet are positioned, maintaining balance requires using your abdominal muscles. Muscle fatigue sets very quickly in the front thigh as you deepen the knee to the point where the leg is parallel to the floor. The biceps and deltoids benefit from holding an extended arm position.
Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
Standing poses that involve balancing on one leg are excellent for building strength because they force the body to work various muscles. Although one hand remains on the floor, the abdominals and legs are still engaged in Half Moon Pose. Most of the effort should come from your core, so use this hand lightly.
Putting a block underneath your hand can provide you with a helping hand when you need it most. As your strength increases, you can gradually shift your body’s weight to your top hand. Flaring your toes as you lift your foot can help keep your whole leg active.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Regular balancing training can benefit the legs, back, and abdominal muscles. The tree position is often the first standing position that novices do, but it also benefits more advanced practitioners, especially if it has been a while since they’ve done it. Putting all your weight on one leg while keeping your hips in a stable, upright position and not tumbling over is quite a feat.
Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself overbalancing in the beginning; positions of this nature tend to be very tippy, and it frequently takes a bit of abrupt swaying to find the centre. It takes a little practice to get back in the swing of standing on one leg, a skill most adults rarely use.
Awkward Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
If you hold Chair Pose for a long time while seated low, your thighs will feel the proverbial “burn.” Different yoga traditions may modify this posture subtly, but they all agree that a comfortable, substantial seat is essential. The muscles in your shoulders, upper back, and upper arms all get a workout as you lift your arms overhead.
In addition to keeping your knees from caving in or splaying out, you should keep your legs in a half-squat position. Although the chair pose is typically only held for a few breaths at the end of a vinyasa sequence, you can increase your strength by holding it for longer.
Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
Though it may seem daunting at first, practising handstands is great for building strength in the arms, the abdominals (hello, balance again), and one’s sense of personal power. Because most people have difficulty holding this position, it provides a great setting for trial-and-error learning that fosters a growth mindset. Build the core strength you’ll need to get upside down by doing Plank and downward Dog if you’re starting. Learning this position with or without a wall is a topic of some discussion.
Yoga Strength-Building Technique
- Flex your muscle tissue. Many people, especially those with hypermobile bodies, tend to sit in a pose rather than using their muscles to support their weight, leading to poor posture. A good mental image before starting a movement is of saran wrap gently enveloping your bones.
- Slow down. Only some things that move slowly are dull. Unlike when you’re flowing rapidly through a sequence when you’re moving slowly, you have time to be attentive to your actions, which allows you to urge your muscles to fire differently.
- Stand back. As joint loading might occur if you force yourself into a stance you don’t yet have the strength. Try Locust Pose, where you elevate one leg at a time, or Plank Pose, where you rest on your forearms.
- Make use of resistance tools. In the book “Yoga Where You Are: Customise Your Practise for Your Body and Your Life,” the authors discuss how to modify yoga postures for various body types. It’s only sometimes the case that a posture’s variation will make it simpler to hold. Increasing the difficulty of a pose by using resistance bands or weights.
- Strike a pose. Moses-Allen suggests finding instructors who are comfortable holding poses and understand functional anatomy. She has found that holding poses for longer periods (such as ten breaths in a properly aligned Warrior III) helps her to gain strength.
- Repeat. While repeating the same posture repeatedly increases the risk of injury, practising it deliberately for an extra time or two can help you improve endurance and strength.
Yoga for strength is a powerful practice that helps the body stay in balance and become more flexible and strong. It’s important for both newbies and experts to work on strengthening their core and support muscles. Yoga can also help improve mental health by teaching people how to deal with setbacks, accept change, and take control of their thinking.
But yoga isn’t always good for building strength because it depends on things like a person’s idea of “enough,” their goals for building strength, and their living preferences. Weight training is a better way to gain muscle mass than yoga, but you have to work within the limits of your size.
Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, and Iyengar Yoga are all types of yoga that can help you get stronger. Ashtanga yoga is great for building strength in the upper body, while Vinyasa Flow works on holding poses for a long time and moving smoothly between them. Iyengar Yoga is known for holding poses for a long time and moving quickly, which makes it good for beginners.
Yoga styles that are harder, like Ashtanga, Power Yoga, Jivamukti Yoga, and Rocket Yoga, can help you build strong muscles. Plank exercises, like the Plank Pose, help build strength in the shoulders, abdominals, and lower back. Chaturanga poses, like the Four-Legged Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana), are also good for building the arms, back, shoulders, and abdominals.
Yoga for strength is a strong and effective practice that can help people reach their exercise goals and keep their physical and mental health in good shape. By adding yoga to your daily exercise, you can get stronger and feel better all around.
The Cobra Pose, or Bhujangasana, is a healing yoga move that supports the body by using the back muscles. It’s important not to cheat and to keep your back straight so your hands don’t get tired. The Boat Pose (Navasana) is a good way to strengthen the stomach and lower body while toning the abdominal muscles. Warrior II strengthens all four arms and the trunk, while Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana) makes you stronger by having you stand on one leg.
Tree Pose, or Vrksasana, is a standing pose that helps strengthen the muscles in the legs, back, and stomach. To keep your balance and avoid falling over, you need to practise standing regularly. The Utkatasana, or “Awkward Chair Pose,” is a difficult pose that works the shoulders, upper back, and upper arms.
A handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) is a great way to build arm strength, belly strength, and personal power. It’s a great place to learn by making mistakes and helps people have a growth attitude.
To get stronger, you must stretch your muscles, slow down, take a step back, use resistance tools, strike a pose, and do the same pose over and over again. These methods can help people, especially those with bodies that move too much, get stronger and more durable.
- Yoga beautifully balances both flexibility and strength in its asana practice.
- Those with good physical strength often use yoga to improve flexibility.
- Conversely, highly flexible individuals can build strength through yoga to prevent injuries.
- Newcomers to yoga can organically develop both flexibility and strength by practising regularly.
- With dedication, beginners quickly notice strength enhancements across various muscle groups.
- For those mastering advanced postures, focusing on specific muscle groups is beneficial.
- Consistent yoga practice can also enhance mental resilience and well-being.
- Yoga’s effects on the mind, while profound, may be subtler than its impact on physical strength.
- Whether yoga alone can build strength is subjective, depending on individual goals.
- Weight training is more direct for muscle mass gain than bodyweight exercises like yoga.
- However, both weight training and yoga work muscles to exhaustion, building strength.
- Incorporating various forms of exercise, including yoga, can yield comprehensive benefits.
- Yoga complements cardiovascular exercises like swimming and jogging.
- Strength training can also amplify the benefits gained from a yoga practice.
- While many yoga styles enhance strength, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Iyengar stand out.
- Ashtanga yoga offers a brisk pace, ideal for upper body fortification.
- Vinyasa focuses on breath-movement synchronisation, with an emphasis on posture engagement.
- Iyengar is renowned for long posture holds but is still often suitable for beginners.
- Vigorous yoga forms can equate to performing bodyweight exercise repetitions.
- Ashtanga-inspired Power Yoga styles are notably effective in building strength.
- Jivamukti and Rocket Yoga both emphasise strong, balancing movements.
- Planks are foundational for building strength in shoulders, abdominals, and the lower back.
- Proper alignment is crucial during planking to avoid shoulder injuries.
- The Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana) is excellent for strengthening arms and back.
- When performed correctly, the Chaturanga can be likened to a mindful push-up.
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) activates those often overlooked back muscles.
- Engaging the back muscles genuinely in Cobra Pose can provide therapeutic benefits.
- Boat Pose (Navasana) is highly effective for toning the abdominal muscles.
- The key to Boat Pose is maintaining a crisp V form, focusing on the core-leg connection.
- Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) works on all four limbs and the trunk.
- Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana) emphasises balance and engages the core and legs.
- Tree Pose (Vrksasana) is beneficial for the legs, back, and abdominal muscles.
- Balancing on one leg, as in Tree Pose, requires stability and strengthens various muscles.
- The Awkward Chair Pose (Utkatasana) activates the thighs, shoulders, and upper back.
- Handstands are beneficial for arm strength, balance, and fostering a growth mindset.
- Handstands also encourage a sense of empowerment and self-confidence.
- Building strength in yoga is also about engaging muscles actively in poses.
- Moving slowly in yoga sequences allows for muscle activation and mindful alignment.
- It’s essential not to force oneself into poses to avoid undue stress on joints.
- Modifying yoga poses for different body types can help tailor the practice.
- Using resistance tools, such as bands, can enhance the intensity of yoga postures.
- Instructors knowledgeable in anatomy and pose holding can assist in strength-building.
- Holding poses for extended periods, like in Warrior III, can be very effective.
- Deliberate repetition of postures can enhance both endurance and strength.
- However, excessive repetition of the same pose can heighten injury risk.
- Yoga’s foundation is in harmonising flexibility and strength.
- For holistic wellness, incorporating yoga with other exercises is often beneficial.
- Yoga transcends mere physical strength, also fostering mental resilience.
- Yoga’s strength-building technique goes beyond poses, involving mindset and approach.
- At its core, yoga encourages an integrated approach to strength, both mental and physical.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Yoga Help You Build Strength?
Yoga is a strength-based practice. It excels at using your body weight to make you stronger and increase muscle tone. Unlike weight training regimes that isolate movements, yoga is a whole-body workout. It builds strength you can use in your everyday activities.
What Yoga Is Best For Strength?
Many who practice yoga consistently can easily lift their body’s weight. If you want to build strength, consider Ashtanga, power, or rocket yoga. All three practices will help you get toned, strong, and healthy from the inside out.
How Often Should You Do Yoga To Build Strength?
Yoga isn’t just good for flexibility — since you’re using your body’s weight throughout the movements, it can also help you get stronger. If your goal for yoga is to increase strength, you should aim for three weekly sessions. Leave enough time between sessions to give your muscles time to recover.
How Long To Hold Yoga Poses For Strength?
Research suggests that a one-minute hold is sufficient to build strength and flexibility, provided the hold is repeated five times a week. There is an emphasis on precision in Iyengar yoga, which often relies on props to achieve the “perfect” alignment in a posture.
What Yoga Moves Are Strength Training?
You’ll learn to incorporate new strength-building yoga poses, such as Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana), Upward-facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana), and Downward-facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). You may even be inspired to challenge yourself with inversions to build strength, such as a headstand or a handstand.