Looking to tone up but hate the gym? Or maybe you’re keen to add a little more variety to your existing workout schedule. Either way, yoga is a great way to build muscle strength across the entire body. Plus, yoga provides a whole host of additional mental and physical benefits, from increased range of motion, reduced stress/anxiety and better sleep, to improved digestion and a stronger immune system.
But for now, let’s focus on strength. So, why is yoga such an effective way of building muscle?
Helps aid muscle recovery
After any workout, it’s important to stretch out your muscles as this will ease any tension, remove lactic acid and help prevent injury. However, many of us are often too busy (or too exhausted) to stretch out properly post-workout.
The great thing about yoga is, that despite the fact your muscles are working hard, most intense poses are usually followed by a counter-stretch to help relieve any tension accumulated in the posture, meaning quicker recovery and less chance of developing an injury.
Increases your range of movement
Increased muscle mass will often result in decreased range of movement. But by combining stretching and strengthening, you’ll build muscle and increase flexibility simultaneously. It’s a win-win.
No weights or props required
Unlike going to the gym, yoga doesn’t require any machines, weights or props, meaning you can practice anywhere! That being said, props such as blocks or yoga wheels can be a great addition to your yoga practice if you want to create a deeper stretch or make a pose more accessible.
Reduces the likelihood of long-term injury
Lifting weights can put a lot of stress and pressure on your joints, which over time can lead to serious problems. Yoga on the other hand, focuses on natural, low-impact movements which help protect your joints and tissues from excessive wear and tear.
Best Yoga Poses for Strength Training
So, we’ve explained why yoga is good for strength training. Now it’s time to share some of the poses that will help you achieve the best results.
High lunge is a great pose to fire up your quads and build strength in the legs.
Begin in mountain pose, with your feet hip-distance apart and slowly bring one foot backwards.
Keep your hips and shoulders squared and facing forwards, then slowly bend the front knee so that your leg is at a 90-degree angle to the floor, with your knee stacked over your ankle.
Distribute the weight evenly through both feet and when you’ve got your balance, engage your core, straighten your torso and slowly bring your hands to the sky with your palms facing each other.
If you want, you can also create a little back-bend at the same time, by opening your chest and reaching your hands behind your head towards the back of the room.
Hold for as long as you like, then repeat on the other side.
Plank is a pose that challenges your core and upper body.
Begin in a table-top position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and knees under your hips.
Enter plank pose by extending one foot back, and then the other. Once in plank position, it’s important to keep your torso in a straight line from your head to your heels - don’t let your hips sink or stick up.
Remember to breathe, and hold the pose for 30-60 seconds.
This is a pose that will help tone your core, whilst strengthening the hip flexors too.
Start in a seated position with your legs pointed straight out in front of you. Gently lean backwards and raise your legs off the floor, drawing them in towards your torso.
If you want to take the full pose, then straighten your legs to make a V-shape with your body, and extend your arms forwards so they are parallel to the ground. But if this is too challenging, don’t worry. You can modify the pose by bending your knees slightly.
Whichever variation you choose, be sure to keep your back straight and your core engaged - don’t allow your spine to curve. Hold the pose for ten breaths. If you want more of a challenge try holding it even longer!
A more advanced pose that can take time to perfect. However, Crow is a great workout for your upper body.
Begin in a forward fold and position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands resting on the mat just in front of your feet.
Slowly start to lean forward, lifting your heels and allowing your knees to rest on the back of your arms, and begin to transition your weight into your palms.
If you can, continue to shift your weight forward until your feet are completely off the ground. Balance here for as long as you can and remember, breathe.
If you’re struggling to master the full pose, try using blocks under your feet to bring the ground closer towards you, or place a block under your forehead for support.
This pose is a real leg burner that will light up the whole lower body.
To begin, start in Mountain pose at the front of your mat with your big toes touching and your spine long and straight.
On an inhale, step your left foot back and rotate your heel so your toes are pointing 45 degrees outward. Your right heel should be in line with the left heel, with your right toes also pointing outwards at 45 degrees.
On an exhale, bend your knees and allow yourself to sink lower so that your thighs run parallel to the floor.
Keep your back straight, tuck your tailbone and raise both arms over your head, turn your palms to face each other then slowly bring your hands level to your chest.
Try holding for 30 seconds, or if you want more, a full minute.
And there you have our top five poses for building strength. If you want to make any of these poses more challenging, you can always hold the postures for longer or repeat them a few times. Alternatively, if you’re finding a pose too difficult you can always modify it with blocks as needed.
Browse our eco-friendly cork yoga blocks and our full range of yoga products now.