5 Yoga Poses To Build Strength

There are many fantastic reasons to practice yoga. If your goal of doing yoga is to feel strong and gain muscle, here are five yoga poses to build strength. Yoga helps build lean muscles that create a strong physique. It also has the advantageous effect of developing your core muscles that help you stabilize.

For each pose or exercise, there is always a way to modify to help adapt the pose to your body on a given day. I list modifications for each pose. Also, note the precautions mentioned here. When in doubt, ask your healthcare provider before you start an exercise program. Note as you feel the sensation as you do each pose. Ask yourself, does it hurt? If so, then please stop at once and modify or move on. Or maybe the sensation that you feel is the discomfort? If this is the case challenge yourself to stay for a few more breaths and notice how your body feels as you grow strength in your body, but also in your mind.

As you move through or hold each pose to build strength, keep breathing. Sometimes the tendency is to hold your breath, but a core tenant of yoga is moving with your breath and breathing deeply throughout a static pose. In this way, these yoga poses that you are doing to build strength in your muscles, also help strengthen your breath and your focus.

5 Yoga Poses to build muscle and strength

Chair pose yoga to build strength

1. Chair Pose

The genius of chair pose is that it looks easy, but you can customize it to be as challenging as you’d like. Chair pose, called Utkatasana is Sanskrit, is a static pose. Stay in a crouch and build muscle endurance in your quadriceps (the top front muscle in your leg). But also your inner thighs (adductor muscles) as you squeeze your thighs together. Stay in this pose five seconds longer or two breaths longer than you want to to help build both physical and mental strength.

Modify: You can modify this pose by paralleling your arms to the ground. This helps relieve low back sensitivity. You can also unite your palms and place them at your heart center.

Precaution: Avoid chair pose if you have acute pain in your knees, or don’t sit as deep to accommodate for knee sensitivity.

Be Mindful: As you sit into the imaginary chair, drag your shins back in space and then commit to sitting lower. Squeeze your inner thighs together (adductors). Hug your belly button to your spine and keep your chest open and lifted.

Dolphin pose yoga to build strength

2. Dolphin Pose

Dolphin pose helps build strength in your shoulders, your forearms, and your core. This pose also helps open up and strengthen your back. It is a great posture if you are looking to build the strength to move into arm balances. It looks deceptively simple but will target muscles in a way you don’t normally use them.

Modify: Explore the option of doing this with your knees on the ground. Keep the same intensity of pressing into your forearms and engage your core.

Precaution: Avoid this posture if you have a shoulder injury, glaucoma, or high blood pressure. As always, listen to your body for cues and to your doctor.

Be Mindful: Start by grabbing opposite elbows find a supportive placement of your elbows on the earth. You can parallel your forearms or clasp your hands together. Press your forearms into your mat and keep your shoulders active rather than sinking into them. Think of hugging your midsection up and use your strong core muscles to pull your hips up as you keep pressing down on your forearms.

Plank pose yoga to build strength

3. Plank or Forearm Plank

All types of exercise sing the praises of using this yoga pose for building exceptional amounts of core strength. This exercise is nearly a complete workout. You use your shoulders and arms, your abdominals and your back, your gultes and leg muscles. In Sanskrit, the name for plank pose is Phalakasana, which literally translates to plank posture. So as you set up this pose channel the strength and rigidity of a plank.

Modify: If you have wrist sensitivity, you can make fists with your wrists, planting your knuckles into your mat. Or you can do a forearm plank redistributing the weight. Or you can place one or both knees down. For more intensity, lift one leg up, and hover your toe 3-6″ off the ground.

Precaution: Avoid this posture if you have a shoulder injury, glaucoma, or high blood pressure. As always, listen to your body for cues and to your doctor.

Be Mindful: Stack your shoulders directly over your wrists for plank and directly over your elbows for forearm plank. Lift your heels over your toes. Imagine pointing your tailbone toward your heels and that you are one straight line from your heels to your head (avoid dipping your hips toward the ground or up to the sky).

Baby Cobra pose yoga to build strength

4. Baby Cobra Pose

Cobra Pose is called Bhujangasana in Sanskrit, which translates to “serpent pose”. This pose helps to strengthen your back muscles, your hamstrings, and your glutes. You likely need to strengthen the back of your body twice as much as the front of your body. Baby cobra is a great exercise to do just that.

Modify: Don’t lift your chest very high, maybe an inch, and concentrate on the strength of your back. Keep the boney part of your hips on the floor. Point your elbows back like cricket wings rather than out to the sides and place little to no weight on your wrists and your hands. Read about practicing yoga with wrist sensitivities.

Precaution: Avoid this posture if you have injury or sensitivity to your chest and stomach or you are far enough along in a pregnancy where it is uncomfortable or advisable not to lie prone.

Be Mindful: Lying prone, with the front of your body on the floor, press into the tops of your feet and toes so much that you feel your hamstrings, the top back of your leg, engage. Keep your gaze down and your neck soft and long and your shoulders relaxed. Imagine as you lift your torso that you are doing so using your back rather than your arms. You can hover your hands off your mat to intensify this. As you hold the pose, hug your belly button toward your spine to engage your abdomen.

Airplane pose yoga to build strength

5. Airplane Pose

Airplane Pose is nearly a full-body workout. This pose is a one-legged floating squat where you make a T with your body. It works your core, your back, and nearly all the muscles of your legs. Balancing poses like airplane, strengthen small stabilizing muscles in your ankle.

When setting up for this posture, extend yourself grace with balance and start with props to increase strength and confidence.

Modify: Hold onto a wall, chair, or blocks for support and play around with balance as you build your strength.

Precaution: Avoid this pose if you have knee, feet, or ankle pain.

Be Mindful: As you shift onto your front leg keep a slight bend in that leg and keep your quadriceps (top front leg muscles) active. Drop the hip of your lifted leg to keep your hips neutral. In your lifted leg, use your strong hamstring muscles (top back muscles) to lift your heel up and then pull it back. Now turn on your back muscles to parallel your chest to the ground. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to broaden your chest. Keep your core active, pulling your belly button toward your spine.

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