One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga strength training is that you have get "bulky" in order for it to be effective. Not so. Consistent practice of particular asanas, flow sequences, and proper form will tone all the major muscles groups and construct a solid core of power.
Yoga Strength Training Basics
Yoga will help you build strength and tone muscles, but studies indicate that yoga alone will not replace lost muscle mass in the same way that weightlifting will. Granted, a sedentary person just beginning a yoga routine will see a greater improvement in his or her muscles than an experienced yogi. As the beginner continues to advance, however, he or she will need to further enhance workouts in order to consistently build muscle.
Most yoga strength training programs combine the features of both programs for the optimum benefit. Certain styles such as Power yoga are established in the primary foundation of yoga, but expand upon that in various ways to build strength. Modifications include:
- Duration of holding postures
- Rapidity of movement through sequences
- Increased number of balancing poses within the sequence
- Performing weight repetitions during certain postures
The benefits of yoga strength training include:
- Strength training prevents osteoarthritis and burns fat more quickly
- Yoga improves core strength and flexibility
- Greater strength improves a foundational yoga practice
- A stronger mind-body focus reduces stress and improves clarity
- Combined workouts maximize time
A seasoned yogi with incredible fitness will maintain that level of quality by incorporating strength training with a regular yoga practice. Most fitness experts recommend doing strength training three or four times a week. Another strength-building alternative for more experienced yogis is to visit a yoga retreat specializing in advanced yoga techniques.
Equipment and Props
The type of equipment you need for a combined yoga/strength practice depends on your intensity.
For example, in a Vinyasa flow yoga sequence, holding any variation of Warrior Pose for a longer period of time activates the leg muscles, especially the quadriceps. Moving from Plank Pose into Upward Facing Dog Pose or Cobra Pose a few times builds strength in the upper body.
But, some practitioners utilize ankle or wrist weights while moving through postures, or lift dumbbells while in standing power poses.
Yoga equipment such as straps can be used like resistance bands and are handy for general stretching of tight muscles. You can also purchase 10-pound yoga sandbags to lift during certain postures.
DVDs Focused on Yoga Plus Strength
Many popular yoga instructors recognize the benefits of a well-rounded body movement routine, so it's easy to find DVDs to help you practice at home.
Considered the founder of the modern Power yoga practice, Baron Baptiste demonstrates his technique in Soul of Strength DVD. A live class DVD, yogis of all levels can find someone to relate to and practice along. Also check out Baptiste's Journey into Power series.
Rodney Yee also hosts a number of Power Yoga DVDs, including Total Workout, Stamina, Yoga Burn, and Advanced Yoga. Yee's instruction is consistent and yogis wanting to advance their practice won't be disappointed with his challenging routines.