Yoga For Strength Training: Toughen Your Body With These Yoga Poses

Want a tighter core, solid arms and sculpted legs? Not only can yoga make you more flexible and reduce stress, but it can also make your body strong. Practised consistently (and correctly!) over time, these poses will make you stronger—and prepare you for those advanced asanas. 

By starting with poses like dolphin push-ups and half handstands, you can build and tone muscle groups throughout the body, and your mind will get a workout too. Suddenly, you’ll feel more powerful and ready to tackle that Handstand in your yoga classes (yes, really).

Now roll out your yoga mat and get ready to sweat! You’ll be amazed by what you can do.

 

Why does building strength matter through power yoga? 

Yoga works on the front, back and side of the body, from head to toe. It builds strength in your arms, legs and core. Yoga also helps improve balance, flexibility and focus. Practising yoga regularly can help you burn calories and lose excess body weight.

Stronger lean muscle mass helps to stabilise the joints. This can help to prevent injuries – especially important for those with hypermobile joints.

Beyond fostering the ability to conquer those challenging poses, strength is important for your overall health. Working on your body’s physical strength can produce higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the “good cholesterol” in your entire body, increase your bone density—and even improve your thinking skills. 

When you combine yoga practice with a healthy diet and regular exercise, you’re more likely to see results faster than if you just work out alone.

 

Yoga poses that build strength

1. Dolphin push-ups

What it does: Strengthens your triceps, shoulders and core.

How to do it: Get into Dolphin pose with your hands on a yoga block or two yoga blocks with one end on the floor and the other end on a chair behind you. Bend your knees and push down, lifting yourself up as high as you can. Hold for 10 breaths, then lower back down. Do 3 sets of 10 reps, resting in Child’s Pose between each set.

2. Half handstand

What it does: Strengthens your upper body from head to toe including biceps, back and abs. Plus it’ll boost your self-confidence! (Hey, we all need that.)

How to do it: Stand on a mat with your feet together and arms extended straight overhead in line with your shoulders (fingers pointing towards the ceiling). Raise one leg up behind you (so you’re balancing on one foot), then bend that knee so that the foot is flat against the wall or floor behind you (if there’s space). Step one foot out at a time until you feel comfortable holding the pose. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then repeat on the other side. Do 3 sets of 5 reps, resting in Child’s Pose between each set.

3. Handstand

What it does: Strengthens your arms, core and legs (plus it’s just plain fun).

How to do it: The best way to get into a handstand is to use a wall for support. Stand with your back against the wall and walk your feet up towards the wall until you can press your palms flat against the wall with your fingers pointing towards you. Walk your feet up the wall and lift yourself up until you are in a handstand position with your legs straight (or as straight as you can get them). Hold for 5-10 breaths, then lower down slowly into Child’s Pose. 

Do 3 sets of 5 reps, resting in Child’s Pose between each set. If this is too challenging at first, start by holding for just one breath before lowering down into Child’s Pose again – this will teach you how to stay stable in the handstand position with proper alignment. Once that becomes more comfortable, try holding for 5-10 breaths.

4. Plank pose

What it does: Boosts upper body strength and core. Plus, it’s a great way to get a mini-core workout whenever you have a few minutes to spare!

How to do it: Get down on your hands and knees with your arms shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Keeping your back straight, lift up onto the balls of your feet, then walk them forward until they are directly under your shoulders, forming a straight line from head to heels. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then lower down slowly into Child’s Pose. Do 3 sets of 5 reps, resting in Child’s Yoga Pose between each set.

5. Downward facing dog

What it does: Strengthens your arms, shoulders and legs (plus you’ll feel like a puppy!).

How to do it: Take Child’s Pose with your butt resting on your heels and hands on the floor in front of you. Walk your hands forward until they are shoulder-width apart, then walk your feet back until they are hip-width apart. Press down through your hands and straighten out your arms to lift up onto the balls of your feet so that you are in a downward-facing dog position. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then lower down slowly into Child’s Pose. Do 3 sets of 5 reps, resting in Child’s Pose between each set.

6. Side plank pose

What it does: Strengthens your arms, shoulders and legs (plus you’ll feel like you’re getting a great arm workout!).

How to do it: Get down on your hands and knees with your arms shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Keeping your back straight, lift up onto the balls of your feet, then walk them forward until they are directly under your shoulders, forming a straight line from head to heels. 

Lift one hand off the floor and turn that side of your body towards the ceiling (this is called lateral flexion). Hold for 5-10 breaths, then lower down slowly into Child’s Pose. Do 3 sets of 5 reps, resting in Child’s Pose between each set. Then repeat on the other side.

7. Mountain climber leg raises

What it does: Strengthens and tones your core muscles, as well as those in your upper body and lower body! Plus it will get you breathing hard – so you can consider this an awesome cardio interval workout!

How to do it: Get down on your hands and knees with your arms shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Keeping your back straight, lift up onto the balls of your feet, then walk them forward until they are directly under your shoulders, forming a straight line from head to heels. 

Lift one foot off the floor and bring it towards your butt, while you raise the opposite arm (and leg) up towards the ceiling (this is called lateral flexion). Hold for 5-10 breaths, then lower down slowly into Child’s Pose. Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each side (20 total), resting in Child’s Pose between each set.

8. Low lunge with chest expansion

What it does: Strengthens and tones muscles in your legs and core. Plus this pose will strengthen the muscles in your shoulders!

How to do it: Stand with one foot forward and one foot back. Bend both knees so that you are in a low lunge position with both knees bent at 90 degrees or so (knees over ankles). Look out over the front knee and press into the floor through that front heel as you press your chest forward and up, keeping the back flat. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then come out of the pose and repeat on the other side. Do 3 sets of 5 reps on each side, resting in Child’s Pose between each set.

9. Warrior III

What it does: Strengthens your legs and core. Plus it’s a great way to stretch out your upper back, shoulders and chest!

How to do it: Stand with feet about 3-4 feet apart. Bend both knees slightly, then lift up onto the balls of your feet and raise one leg behind you so that the foot is parallel to the floor (this is Warrior I). Next, bend your front knee until the thigh is at a 90-degree angle or so, keeping that foot parallel to the floor (this is Warrior II). Finally, lift up onto the ball of your back foot while you raise your torso up towards the ceiling (this is Warrior III). 

Hold for 5-10 breaths, then come out of the pose and repeat on another side. Do 3 sets of 5 reps on each side, resting in Child’s Pose between each set.

10. Awkward chair pose

What it does: Strengthens your legs, core and balance.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and hands on the hips. Press down into the floor through your feet as you bend one knee, then the other, drawing both knees to the floor (you’ll be in a low squat). At this point, you’re going to try and keep your butt up towards the ceiling while you bend forward at the waist and bring your hands down to touch either side of your feet (or as close as you can get!) Hold for 5-10 breaths, then bring yourself back up into a standing position. Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each side (20 total), resting in Child’s Pose between each set.

11. Half lord of the fishes pose

What it does: Strengthens your thighs and calves while stretching out the upper back, shoulders and chest. Plus it feels amazing!

How to do it: Start by lying on your back with both legs straight out in front of you so that they are forming a “V” shape with your body. Bring one knee towards your chest while placing one hand on top of that knee, then the other hand on top of the opposite elbow. From here, you’re going to want to bring your shoulders down towards the floor and away from your ears as you lift your hips up towards the ceiling (this is called spinal extension). Hold for 5-10 breaths, then lower back down and repeat on the other side. Do 3 sets of 5 reps on each side (10 total), resting in Child’s Pose between each set.

 

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