Not only can yoga make you more flexible, spiritual, and mindful, it can also make your body strong. There are hundreds of Yoga Asanas (postures) you can choose from depending upon your goals. Today we will learn about the asanas which are perfect for you to strengthen your major muscle groups which are the core, arms, legs, and back. In fact, flexibility and strength go hand in hand, for example having a stronger core means that you can access deeper forward folds. More upper body strength allows you to perform difficult yoga asanas with ease.
Science of Strength
Before we talk about the list of Yoga asanas that will make you stronger, let's talk about the physiological basis of strength training. Why do our bodies get stronger and how do we generate this response?
Muscle growth or hypertrophy – typically refers to an increase in the volume of myofibrils, the long proteins that makeup muscle cells. This growth occurs as a biological response to stimuli, such as the intensive anaerobic exercise engaged in by power-lifters, bodybuilders, and other physique or strength athletes.
Strength training actually damages muscle fibers, and afterward, the body starts to repair that damage. It is the muscle repair that turns into muscle growth, and it does not happen during the workout. It occurs during periods of rest, up to 48 hours following the workout.
Is Yoga Enough?
This is the question that gets asked a lot when we talk about how yoga builds strength. Is yoga enough for strength training? The answer is, it depends on your goals. If you want to bulk up and get bigger, there are other more effective ways such as weight-lifting. Yoga limits you in how much weight you can lift as it essentially deals with bodyweight training. Both types of training will help you build strength when muscles are worked until they are fatigued. You can choose between both of them according to your goals, or do both.
Here are a set of Asanas that will surely make you stronger if you practice them daily.
1.Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word “utkatasana” is “powerful pose”. Utkatasana strengthens the thighs and ankles while toning the shoulders, butt, hips, and back. It immediately engages the strength of your legs, back, and ankles. It stretches the Achilles tendons and shins. It is known to be therapeutic for flat feet. It also stretches the shoulders and opens the chest. It tones your digestive organs and heart.
As a matter of caution, I should also mention who should not do Utkatasana: Those with knee conditions should not bend their knees too much. Those who are flat-footed should curl their toes. Women with the prolapsed uterus or who are in the first trimester of pregnancy should avoid this pose.
2.Four-limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
The Sanskrit meaning of Chaturanga Dandasana is “four-limbed staff pose”. It is also referred to as low plank and is often shortened to just “Chaturanga”. Chaturanga strengthens and tones the wrists, arms, abdominal muscles, and lower back. It will prepare your body for more challenging arm balances. It also strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine, similar to a traditional push-up.
But remember, Chaturanga is not for the beginner yogi. To develop your strength and prepare yourself for Chaturanga, you can learn these Yoga Asanas first: Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Plank Pose, Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), Dolphin Pose (Makarasana) to name few.
3.Boat Pose (Navasana)
“Navasana” literally means “boat pose”. It tones and strengthens your abdominal muscles, improves balance and digestion, stretches your hamstrings, strengthens your spine and hip flexors, aids in stress relief, and stimulates the kidneys, thyroid and prostate glands, and intestines.
4.Crow Pose (Bakasana)
Bakasana will help you build and tone the cores. It also strengthens the arms, wrists, upper back, inner thighs, and abdominal muscles. Practicing Crow Pose will improve your balance and deepen concentration and focus. It may look “easy”, it is actually very challenging and takes patience to master.
5.Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Virabhadrasana or Warrior II is a standing pose, named after the ancient Indian warrior Virabhadra. It stretches your hips, groins, and shoulders, opens your chest and lungs energizes tired limbs, stimulates your abdominal organs. It will also help you develop balance and stability as well as improve circulation and respiration.
To learn these asanas from an expert teacher and practice yoga with the aim to build strength, don't forget to take a look at our schedule for live yoga classes and join in!