Now that we’ve been posting and writing so often about Yoga and Pilates, we really have been receiving so many questions about these practices. Is Yoga good strength training? What are the best Yoga poses to create stronger muscles? What about types of Yoga… are there types that are better for strength, rather than flexibility?!
So we thought, let’s wrap it all up in a post so we can answer all your questions!
Absolutely, Yoga is a form of strength training, there are so many Yoga poses that can be used to increase muscle. You can definitely target and strengthen a specific muscle group with Yoga. Often we will say: Yoga is no joke. Just the other day I (Carla) did a class with (what felt like) a bazillion Warrior III and Warrior I variations. These poses are extremely difficult and predominantly use your glute muscles. I felt like I couldn’t walk properly for days (not in a bad way but a good way), it was like I had done 100 kilo squats! Ha!
So yes! Practising different kinds of Yoga can help to build muscle, build strength, and assist in increasing flexibility and balance. There are some particular types of Yoga, such as Hatha Yoga (we do this inside MerryBody during our flow classes), Ashtanga Yoga, or Power Yoga, which can help to develop muscle strength and muscle endurance. This happens as you will use your body weight to hold poses for longer periods of time (think 10 breaths in a deep Warrior II… hello booty burn!).
Creating consistency with your Yoga classes will make you stronger. You will create lean muscle over time. Add in the correct alignment and control within your Yoga movement, which will then create more resistance, and you have a pretty solid strength training practice!
But if your goal is to build major muscles, then Yoga, and other bodyweight exercises won’t get you the results you’re looking for. If that is your goal you should opt for weight training and weight lifting instead.
Why not combine both? We love to make sure our exercise regime is varied, that way we’re always feeling excited and motivated to move. We combine regular Yoga, Yin Yoga, Pilates and Walking, for us this is a perfect combination.
The Benefits of Strength Training
It has been proven by several medical studies that regular strength training provides some seriously amazing health benefits, both mental and physical. These include:
- Improving cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides
- Boosting the metabolism
- Decreasing inflammation markers
- Improving insulin sensitivity
- Promoting bone density
- Sharpening cognitive abilities
- Reducing pain related to conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis
- Improving the strength and endurance to perform daily activities without any issues and getting out of breath, such as carrying the groceries, walking up and down the stairs, or lifting your kids or grandkids (aka making life easier!).
Yoga Poses for Building Strength
When you hear the word Yoga, you might be quick to think that Yoga is all about stretching and finding your inner calm. And yes! Yoga absolutely is all of this, especially slow flow and Yin Yoga classes. However, many different styles of Yoga and poses can build some serious muscle strength too. As we mentioned before, it’s in the deep, long holds that you’ll build this strength.
Here are just a few Yoga poses that are going to make your muscles work very hard, you will feel your body work, you might sweat, and yeah you might just love it:
- Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
- Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose)
- Navasana (Boat Pose)
- Kumbhakasana (Plank Pose)
Still think Yoga is just to get flexi?!
Tips For Building Strength with Yoga
As we said, Yoga will build strength and there are several things to be mindful of to make the most out of every class and every Yoga pose. This is why, in MerryBody, we do bonus alignment tutorials for form and technique. We know you don’t have much time to get on the mat so we want your 20-45 minutes of movement to be safe and effective.
If your goal is to build strength by practicing Yoga, here are some tips and tricks that are going to help you with this goal.
Engage the right muscles
Many people tend to rely on their flexibility and joints to maintain a posture instead of using their muscles to hold the pose and support their body weight. This is why the mind-muscle connection is so important. Make sure to think of your muscles and engage them before, during and after initiating a movement.
Really tune into your Yoga instructor. They should inform you of what and how to engage each muscle. For example, in Warrior II, pressing your long leg foot into the Earth will help you switch on your booty muscles.
Move slowly through your Yoga poses
Imagine doing a squat, for example. What is more challenging, doing it very fast or lowering yourself down very, very slowly? Slowing down your movements during a Yoga class allows you to be mindful of your limbs, this in turn building strength and endurance.
Slow movement will also benefit your mind and help you be more present within your practice and life.
Modify certain Yoga poses
If you find yourself in a Pose and the teacher is saying you should be feeling your XYZ muscle working but you are absolutely not feeling it, then modify your pose. This is why we provide regression and progression Poses during our MerryBody classes. An example would be if you’re in a high plank but you’re not feeling your core engaged, it’s just hurting your shoulders, you might drop to your knees.
Maybe you’re feeling tired that day, or perhaps your strength just simply isn’t there yet. It’s important to remember that practise makes progress. And that the safety of your body is most important.
Simplifying poses and movements also allows you to find muscular engagement. It is better to simplify a pose than to go too far, too fast.
Like I mentioned earlier, when I was doing a bazillion Warrior III and I’s. It is common in a Yoga class that some postures will be repeated once, twice, five times! You will notice that during a flow each round may vary slightly or build up from the last one. Mindfully performing a pose one or two additional times can help you build endurance and strength (both mentally and physically).
So now what? Now that you’ve read about all this Yoga goodness, we think it’s about time to get you on the mat! We have the perfect 5 Day program for you and it is completely free. We’ve combined Yoga and Pilates classes which we think will really kick start your strength training (with your own body weight!).
Emma + Carla