It is no secret that maintaining muscle strength is an essential component of building and retaining excellent health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults practice muscle-strengthening activity two days a week, and one of their preferred methods of strength training is Yoga.
By both holding and flowing through poses, Hatha, Ashtanga, Power, and Vinyasa Yoga build strength in virtually all areas of the body. A consistent Yoga practice can build both strength and flexibility in muscles, bones, joints, ligaments and tendons. Listed below are some of the top strength-building Yoga poses.
Students often recognize Four-Limbed Staff Pose, also known as “Chaturanga,” as an intense challenge for the triceps, chest, and shoulders. The practitioner begins in plank pose, and then lowers him or herself halfway to the floor by bending the elbows until the upper arms are parallel to the torso. The abdominal and chest muscles work to secure the pose, as do the quadriceps. Since the wrists are supporting much of the weight, they too get stronger.
Utkatasana: Fierce Pose (also known as Chair Pose) is a standing posture in which the practitioner looks as if he or she is sitting in an imaginary chair. This creates an enormous challenge to the thighs and ankles. In addition, the arms and shoulders build strength as the student raises and holds them pointed toward the ceiling. Since Fierce Pose is a mild back-bending pose, the muscles along the spine also work to maintain the posture.
Virabhadrasana III: Warrior Three (also known as Stick Pose) is a standing balancing posture in which the non-balancing leg and torso are parallel to the floor. In the full version, the student raises his or her arms until they are next to the ears with fingers pointed forward. Holding this pose requires activation of the ankles, legs and arms. Additionally, the abdominal and back muscles tone as they labor to hold the posture steady.
Bakasana: Crow Pose and other arm balancing postures use the body’s weight to stimulate the arms, shoulders and chest. They are also outstanding for toning the abdominal muscles, as the core muscles must contract to keep the body lifted.
Salabhasana: Locust pose is a tremendous back strengthener. In it, the practitioner lies prone on the ground and lifts the head, chest, arms and legs off the floor. The spine, buttocks, arms and legs all engage to maintain the posture.
In addition to building muscle strength, Yoga also cultivates mental and emotional strength that supports the ability to concentrate and remain present.