Strength Training for Yoga

By Shauna Harrison, PhD

Greater flexibility less  tension and increased awareness are just some of the benefits of yoga.  But let’s not forget strength. Yes, yoga builds strength. And, as it turns out, strength benefits your yoga practice. Strength training for yoga is quickly becoming one of the most popular exercise methods, here’s why.

What is Yoga Strength Training?
Yoga strength training involves many of the same stretches and poses as traditional yoga, but the goal is to intensify muscle  contraction by “freezing” opposing groups of muscles at the same time. Stopping in mid-movement allows you to use bodyweight resistance to hold the pose for an extended period of time.  

Even some of the seemingly “easier” poses can become insanely challenging when held for longer than usual.  In many instances, it’s a simple matter of learning which muscles to engage and how to strengthen them.  

Incorporate Blocks Into Your Workout
Blocks can support a  pose,and they can also make them more challenging by requiring more core control and strength. For example, hold a block between your thighs just above your knees while doing a vinyasa and say hello to your inner thighs and core. Use the same placement to make on-your-back abdominal work (think yoga crunches) more challenging. You’ll build strength, which will help you keep your muscles engaged even when you are not using a block.

Use  Straps to  Challenge Your  Muscles
Yoga straps can help bridge the gap when it’s difficult to reach your feet. They are also useful for  keeping arms and legs in positions. Use straps more like a resistance band but one that doesn’t actually stretch. Imagine doing a Lat Pull-Down with a resistance band. Now, think about doing that with a yoga strap (knowing that it won’t stretch) while in a Warrior I or Crescent Lunge. The strap engages the upper body in a way that we really struggle to engage in yoga. I use this same concept for a few different arm variations and poses. Again, this builds strength as you’re doing the pose and it gives the feeling of what it’s like to engage those muscles without the prop.

Use Blankets for Strength Training
Blankets for strength? Believe it. When working on a smooth floor, blankets can be used for  insane core work. Place your hands in on the floor with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees or feet on a blanket. Drag your knees towards your chest or pike your hips as you drag the blanket towards your hands. Or slide both knees to one shoulder then the other. Try the same thing in a bridge pose  to activate your hamstrings.

TRX
The TRX suspension training system is an excellent tool for building strength through all kinds of movement, including yoga. Use TRX straps with specific poses such as arm balances and inversions to help build strength and muscle memory. Learm more about how to incorporate the TRX Suspension Trainer into your yoga practice at www.trxtraining.com/yoga


Self-proclaimed nerd, hip-hop head, jock, and yogi, Shauna Harrison is a graduate of Stanford, UCLA and Johns Hopkins, with a PhD in Public Health.Shauna teaches fitness classes across the Bay Area. She created the #SweatADay challenge on Instagram, which she moderates and continues to grow.