Some people are drawn to yoga for the spiritual aspect, mediation and relaxation. Others are drawn for the more physical, self-challenging aspect yoga can provide, while others are a little bit of both. Whatever brings one to yoga the end goal tends to remain the same; to make the body healthier, stronger, and overall more balanced. Sometimes we underestimate the forces of our bodies, both internally and externally. Yoga can relax the mind, de-stress the soul and strengthen the body, allowing muscles to grow and tone. Muscularly, yoga offers many positions that shape and tighten while bridging the gap from mental to physical through breath work.
Yoga For Relaxation, Strength
The foundations of yoga movement are using the strength of ones own muscles to stretch, balance, support and strengthen the body. There are yoga poses (also referred to as asanas) that target specific muscles. The following are a list of yoga postures that help build muscle and strengthen the body.
- Plank pose, one of the most basic positions, or the top of a push-up is a great pose for strengthening muscles in the arms and core. Test your strength by holding this position for up to one minute.
- The lower plank pose variation offers deep core strengthening and leaves the stomach feeling achy (in a good way). Start from the top of a push-up and lower onto both forearms. Hold this pose for up to one minute.
- Downward facing dog is great for building muscle in the arms while stretching out the backs of the legs.The pose requires you to be one both hands and feet, with your arms pushing your buttocks up to the sky, stretching the back of the legs. This posture works a lot of different muscles, both in the upper and lower body. Holding this pose for one minute will leave your arms shaking.
- Other poses that are great for strength training are handstands and headstands. For practice, use the wall for support.
If you are looking to deepen your yoga practice while toning up your body, an excellent way to start is by picking a few muscle-building postures and practicing them one by one in your living room. Start by holding each pose for about a minute comfortably and ease in and out of the postures by transitioning into child’s pose, or easy rest pose. Home practice is a great way to prepare your body for harder classes. Books on yoga strength training are also great ways to get visualizations of how the postures affect the muscles. Books for this are Yoga Anatomy, first and second edition, by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, and Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Eric Schiffmann. Reading books that give anatomically accurate images of what yoga postures do physically to the muscle can help visualize how the poses can strengthen the body.
Sometimes the greatest weight that can be lifted is the weight of our own bodies. Yoga shows us that we can utilize our bodies to exercise, strengthen, tone and lose weight.