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Best Yoga For Strength Training

How Can We Add Strength To A Yoga Practice

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Lets imagine that were going to yoga class tomorrow and we arent in charge of the sequence, timing or flow. How could we add strength to that?

I bet if we simply added precision and control to all of our poses and transitions, we would generate more contractile force and feel stronger after class. This would mean going slower with each repetition of a movement, and executing movement from the intended parts of the body. Precision and control are as much a mindset as they are principles of movement.

But now lets say that your strength goals extend beyond a group class environment, and you really want to figure out how to use yoga to its utmost capacity to strengthen your tissues. What would that look like?

Honestly, it would probably look like what my practice looks like right now: a hodgepodge of movements from a variety of modalities strung together in something that feels and is structured as a yoga class. The truth is, yoga can be great for a lot of things, but it sort of needs to borrow the good ideas from other modalities if we really want to get down to the bottom of using our body weight to strength train. Some modalities may include pilates, functional range conditioning, kinstretch, weight lifting and physical therapy.


Six Week Comprehensive Training Program

When I was writing my book Namaslay, I knew I wanted to get in better shape for the photoshoot for over 100+ yoga poses I needed to demonstrate. My primary goal was to build strength, and my secondary goal was to tone up. A few months later, I found myself in the best shape of my life. Initially, I hired a personal trainer to help me fine tune my Olympic lifts like the snatch, clean, etc. Then, I hit up my friend, Coach James Keeler, to see if he could help with programming because I found that when I went to workout on my own, I just cherry picked movements with no rhyme or reason behind my workouts. When you are just looking to maintain or you don’t really have any fitness goals to meet, that’s all fine and good, but when you’re looking to improve and make some serious changes, I learned that having a quality program to follow is vital.

James knows his stuff. He is an L-2 certified CrossFit coach who trains and coaches in Miami. His team just made Regionals to make a run in the 2017 CrossFit Games. He is someone who leads by example and his programming is ultimately what got me to where I’d wanted to be. I trust his work, have followed it myself, and know that it works for me.

I reached out to James to see if he wanted to work together to create a program. He’d do the bulk of it and I would add in yoga practices to complement the program. He agreed, and the end result is probably the most comprehensive program I’ve seen. Almost every single day includes:

Negatives Of Only Practicing Weight Training

Weight training is an incredibly effective form of exercise for building muscle, but there are many aspects of fitness that are not addressed through weight training. Furthermore, the average person doesnt have the necessary levels of strength, mobility, and body awareness in order to complete them safely and effectively. This is why I recommend using yoga to complement weight training, as it helps to address these weaknesses.

Even if you start at a comfortable weight for your training routine, you could still be limited by your mobility. A prime example is squatting weights. It takes good ankle mobility, hip mobility, and a strong core to safely execute this motion.


What does this mean for you? If you solely focus on weight training, you will for sure develop muscles and a physique that you were aiming for, but by disregarding mobility and a strong foundational level of fitness, youll be putting yourself at a higher risk of injury. You also wont be able to reap the full benefits of the exercise, since you might not be able to complete it through the whole range of motion.

As you continue training it becomes more likely that youll injure yourself through repeat stress injuries, and from there youll lose the progression you worked so hard to gain. Without properly developing the foundational strength that strength-based yoga offers, weight training can cause more pain than gains for your fitness journey.

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The Best Yoga For Beginners: Iyengar

Newbies can try any introductory-level class, but if you are looking for a practice that is detailed and full of direction, go with iyengar. I don’t think that anyone would argue that Iyengar is the original gangster of yoga, says Sara Ivanhoe, a certified Yoga Works instructor and star of the Weight Watchers Yoga Starter Kit. His attention to detail and step-by-step instruction has been the basis of most current styles.” This slow-paced class incorporates props such as straps, blocks, bolsters, and blankets in order to aid in more precise postures and poses and will challenge your body in a safe, educational manner, Ivanhoe says. It’s also great for more experienced yogis who are injured or pregnant.

Why Yogis Need To Build Strength

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People who solely practice yoga, and this is a generalization, but it is based on my own observations, usually don’t have much muscle on them. And that’s fine if they’re focused on restorative or hatha style yoga practice. But it becomes a problem when they go through rigorously sequenced yoga classes and they rely on their flexibility to get them through the class. The difference between flexibility and mobility is strength.


Flexible people often will fling themselves into any old pose because their joints allow them to. They’ll pop right into a deep split or jump right into downward dog, or fly right into a full dancer’s pose and their poor joints will take the brunt of the impact. Doing this might not hurt them in the moment, but over time, if they’re not careful, the joints may wear down, and cause pain and other major issues.

The best way to improve hyper-flexible joints is to build strength around the surrounding joints and use the muscles, rather than the joints, to get into and out of these poses. As a teacher, I always tell a student who is hyper-extended through the joints to create a “micro-bend” to prevent injury. For example, if a student is in downward dog and they’re dumping their weight into their elbow joints, you can clearly see it. I tell them to bend the elbows ever so slightly, and boom! Now their arms are engaged and it’s an active pose, rather than a passive pose, and they’re using and developing their muscles through the arms.

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How To Combine Yoga With Strength Training

I want to highlight two methods of integrating these postures into your training:

  • Method #1 Add in one full day of yoga practice during a day when you would normally do a light workout or a day you would normally devote to active recovery. At the same time, add in fifteen minutes of yoga practice after training sessions. Pick just three or four poses each day and work on them. Focus on just these basic ten postures for now. You can add in all the other fancy poses later if needed.
  • Method #2 For twelve weeks, scale back on the intensity of your training. Devote only two days per week to your strength training, preferably a short-duration total-body workout of a lighter than usual intensity utilizing exercises such as kettlebell swings, deadlifts, kettlebell front squats, TRX low rows, kettlebell overhead presses, Olympic lifts and variations, and Turkish get ups, or whatever lifts compliment your overall goals.

Aim to practice yoga five days per week, four days of just yoga, and one day of yoga combined with your strength training. Try a few group classes, and also practice on your own. For the first four weeks, you will probably feel as if you are getting weaker or not making any strength gains. But keep at it. Commit to twelve weeks and then transition back to Method #1, integrating yoga while adding intensity to your current program.


Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock all other photos by Brandon Hofer.

Latest

Power Yoga Break With Adriene

One of my favourite yoga channels, Adriene delivers yetanother sequence that not only helps to sculpt your full body but alsointegrates mindful movements and intentions into your practice.

I love that this video is well-paced and not rushed at all.Suitable for anyone who wants a meditative practice that also works yourphysical body hard.

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High Plank 10 To 15 Seconds

A plank, Gobins says, works way more than just your core. “You’re strengthening your arms, pecs, core muscles, butt, and fronts of the legs. So it’s important that you focus on activating your entire body rather than just resting into your shoulders or arms.”


  • Place your hands on the floor directly under shoulders and straighten your arms, pushing through your palms.
  • Extend your legs behind you, and push through your heels.
  • Squeeze your core, butt, and quads tightly the whole time. This will help your hips stay lifted you don’t want them to sag and cause your back to arch.
  • Look down toward the floor to keep your neck in line with your spine.
  • Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds.

Yoga And Strength Training: A Complete Workout For Mind Body And Soul

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Ultimately, when yoga and strength training are combined, it creates a routine that hits every aspect of your mind, body, and soul.

Not only do you benefit from muscle building, but you also get muscle endurance. Not only do you benefit from balance and flexibility, but you also increase your speed and power.

McClure Fitness prides itself on variety in group classes. Weve got over 60 classes per week that cover the full spectrum of workout styles.

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Is Yoga Enough To Be Your Only Form Of Physical Exercise

When I first started my yoga practice and for many years after, I was convinced that I had found the Holy Grail of movement. Coming from a not-so-active background, I felt my whole body toning up and getting stronger. I fell in love and as love has it, idealized the hell out of it. As I became a yoga teacher myself and continually deepened my studies and understanding of the human body, the pink vapor slowly began to dissolve and I started to realize that despite its many benefits there actually are a few itches a yoga practice cant scratch.


Yoga Is Not Stretching

Or rather, it is not stretching as you may think of stretching. There are tons of articles out there telling you not to stretch or why static stretching will decrease performance, and they usually have a picture of a guy sitting on the ground sort of leaning forward over one leg with a rounded spine, half-heartedly reaching for his toes while gazing off into the distance.

Well, yes, doing that sort of stretching will certainly not promote any positive gains of any sort for your body. Most yoga postures, by contrast, are a series of focused isometric contractions coupled with specific breathing patterns that yield gains in flexibility, mobility, and strength.

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Yoga As Strength Training Offers Balance

Many believe that yoga, however, is a more balanced approach to strength training. For one, it conditions your body to perform things you do every day: walking, sitting, bending, lifting. Your body moves in the way it was designed to move.

Yoga also tones both large and small muscles all over your body in balance with one another, while weight training isolates one muscle group at a time like the back and forth of a bicep curl.


More technically, yoga relies on eccentric contraction, where the muscle stretches as it contracts, giving it a sleek, elongated look. Weight training relies on the opposite principle of concentric contraction, where the muscle gets smaller as it contracts. Muscle fibers heal close together, with a compact, bulging appearance.

Because the practice of yoga encourages your mind to focus on just one thing at a time, its a wonderful tool for building focus and concentration. These are essential qualities to have when you are strength training to maintain proper form, reject distractions, and stay motivated.

Yoga poses also build stamina through extended holds and challenging postures. Stamina is an essential part of any exercise routine, whether youre running, lifting, or taking a workout class.

If youre new to lifting weights or slowly ramping up your capacity, you know what it feels like to have excruciating soreness and stiffness after your workout.

Yoga Improves Heart Lymphatic And Mental Health

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Yoga lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate, which promotes healthy heart function. Additionally, many of the twisting poses are well-known to flush the lymphatic system, wringing out toxins and stimulating glands. Finally, the meditative aspect of yoga promotes relaxation, which decreases stress and promotes emotional and mental well-being.

Yoga is a multi-purpose practice that, although gaining popularity, is often overlooked within the athletic community. Those who commit to a regular yoga practice, however, will quickly find themselves leaner, more flexible, stronger and much more balanced. These are not the only benefits to yoga, and it has long been known that there are a variety of very good reasons to add yoga to your workout routine. Sign up for a yoga class today to explore what this ancient practice can bring to your wellness routine!

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Power Yoga With Bryan Kest

This video class by Bryan Kest is unlike the other four in that its live filming of a studio-based class by Bryan Kest.

Because of the setting, this video is not for beginnersas there are only alignment cues but no proper demonstrations by Bryan Kest. Youmay take clues from some of the students in the video but the assumption isthat you should know what the form for each pose looks and would be able tofollow the whole class solely by verbal cues.

In case I have missed any good ones, do drop me a message and the link to the workout so that I can review it and add to the list.

Further Reading:

The Best Yoga Poses For Building Strength

If you are more of a stay-at-home yogi, you can include these postures in your practice regularly to build strength over time. We have dived the poses into three sections lower body, core, and upper body. Pick a specific pose combination you want to work on if you are just starting out. Hold each pose for 3 to 5 breaths. If you feel up to it attempt to hold all the poses for 5 breaths. Lets begin:

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/5chaturanga Dandasana Or Four

Step 1: From plank position, shift your body weight to come to push-up position.

Step 2: Bend your elbows back to lower your chest toward the floor.

Step 3. Lower your body until your shoulders are in line with your elbows or above the elbows.

Step 4: Do not let the shoulders dip toward the floor or come anywhere near to touching the floor. Hold this pose as long as you can.

Increase Strength By Integrating Yoga: 10 Essential Postures For Strength Athletes

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The following ten postures will assist any strength athlete in addressing their physical limitations and increasing their performance.

Before diving into the ways in which yoga will increase your performance, let me first lay out a few guiding principles in how to approach yoga postures in the context of strength training:

Before diving into the ways in which yoga will increase your performance, let me first lay out a few guiding principles in how to approach yoga postures in the context of strength training:

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Is Yoga A Cardio Or Strength Training

Yoga is a unique blend of both cardiovascular and strength training. Yoga is a full-body workout that helps improve cardiovascular function, gain strength and flexibility.

Every style of yoga is different but most styles of yoga blend cardio and strength training in some way.

If you are looking for a cardio-based workout that will help improve cardiovascular condition and also build strength then Ashtanga Yoga is the perfect fit! This type of vinyasa yoga uses movement and breath to flow from one pose into another without pausing between poses.

Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic form of yoga that will both tone and strengthen your body while giving you an intense cardio workout.

Combining Yoga And Strength Training

Yoga vs weight lifting, its a moot comparison really.

Its like comparing a Swedish massage to a bungee jump. What do you want from the experience? What change do you want to see?

To their very core, yoga and weight lifting are seemingly conflicting practices. One seeks to transcend the physical body, whereas the other seeks to build it. One stretches muscles and exerts them at peak extension, the other damages muscles and exerts them at peak contraction.

Its precisely because of the conflicting nature of the practices, that they complement each other so well.

I can certainly see the attraction of a successful fusion of yoga and strength training. A male yoga body thats as aesthetic as it is healthy. Strong as it is supple. Sounds good to me.

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Have you ever seen like, really, actually paid attention to what yogis can do? From holding their own body weight in crazy contortions to performing push-ups seemingly every few minutes throughout class, yogas strength is often totally underrated. In fact, its often not until people take their first yoga class until they realize how much strength it actually requires!

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