I know strength training offers many benefits to the body, from protecting bone health to increasing muscle mass. I’ve recently started yoga and I’m really enjoying it. Is there a way to practice yoga for strength training specifically, and can yoga replace my other strength-focused workouts?
Our Short Answer
In some yoga poses, you’re already building strength by lifting your entire body weight and activating different muscle groups. It's just that this time, you're not doing repetitions, and you're using your body as a giant dumbell. So depending on the poses and style of yoga you practice...yes, you can practice yoga for strength training.
When you eventually hit your plateau, however, you may need to increase your weight-bearing activity (either with more complex weight-bearing yoga poses, or by using weights and other specialized gym tools) to keep progressing in your strength training.
Our Long Answer
Yoga can be considered a weight-bearing activity, since the practice makes use of your own body weight as you move and hold different poses. In your practice, are you spending a lot of time in weight-bearing poses like four-limbed staff pose or chaturanga? Do you do leg-strengthening poses like high lunge often?
Per the Department of Health and Human Services, we need at least two full-body strength training sessions weekly to maintain our health and weight. If you practice yoga at least twice a week, you can use it to build muscle too! To do this, however, you need to practice poses targeting specific muscle groups (e.g. core, abs, or legs) more often.
So, aside from increasing your flexibility and inner peace, yoga—if done right—can also give you a stronger physique. Here’s a quick list of asanas proving you can use yoga for strength training.
- Plank pose - This pose strengthens your vertebrae, arms, wrists, and core.
- Side plank - This plank variation strengthens your obliques or side abs and your biceps.
- Dolphin plank pose - This full-body exercise activates your biceps, core, and calves.
- Crow pose - This pose builds strength in the arms, shoulders, and core.
- Handstand - This popular yoga inversion is great not just for building arm and core strength, but also for improving your balance. Note: Don’t haphazardly practice this pose; start low and slow, and ask for a yoga teacher’s help to practice safely.
Here’s a good strength-building guide (with tips and videos) that teaches you how to strengthen different muscle groups with yoga.
However, as in strength training, you'll likewise hit a plateau. When this happens, you'll have to increase the weight you bear to keep getting optimal results from your strength-focused yoga practice.
To keep building strength, consider supplementing your yoga practice with a targeted weight or strength training routine! You can also combine the two and incorporate dumbbells and resistance bands in your asana practice.