11 Yoga Poses for Strength & Muscle Building
When we think of strength-building exercises, the first thing that pops up in our mind is lifting heavy-weight instruments in the gym to tone and build your muscles. But, few people are aware of the fact that strength can be built without lifting heavy weights, thanks to yoga asanas. The emerging trend of yogas has also drawn attention to the fact that there are various postures to enhance muscle strength. This writeup on yoga for strength throws some light on the yoga postures that are known to help improve muscle power and is a part of strength training exercises.
Similarities between Yoga and Strength Training
Yoga and strength training may belong to different exercise origins, but there are many similarities that can be traced back to the postures and the purpose they serve. While yoga is considered to be a more holistic approach towards the wellness of the body, weight training is a specific part that focuses on building muscle strength and power.
But there are various resemblances in both yoga and strength building. Yoga asanas like the plank, crow pose, horse pose, etc. are known to improve muscle strength by developing resistance in them.
It functions in the same way in which lifting a weight for muscle training does. Yoga is known to boost muscle endurance, and a combination of both yoga and strength building helps to maintain a fit body.
A 12-week hatha yoga study was done in Chinese adults to see how it affects their cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility. This study had a favorable effect on all the parameters (1).
Yoga Poses for Muscle Strength
1. Plank Pose
Plank pose is also known as Phalakasana. In this posture, the body resembles a wooden plank that is thin and long. The Plank pose puts emphasis on the core muscles and the shoulders. It is the first exercise suggested building body strength. Plank pose acts as a base to strengthen the arm and shoulder muscles so that one can move on to a more dynamic and difficult arm balancing yoga postures.
It benefits the arm, shoulder, lower back, biceps, triceps, and core muscles.
How to do Phalakasana
- While planking, lie stretched out on your stomach.
- Then sprawl your legs out, come on the tips of your toes, and push your body up to maintain a straight position.
- You can take the support of your elbow to maintain the posture for a while.
People with a wrist injury, leg injury, high blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, and anxiety-related issues should refrain from doing plank poses.
2. Dolphin Pose
Dolphin pose is beneficial for people looking forward to building upper body strength. It tightens the core muscles and improves the spinal alignment of the body. It is also known as Catur Svanasana and is considered to be an easy pose to build arm strength.
How to do Dolphin Pose
- While performing the Dolphin Pose yoga asana put down your elbows on the floor. There should be a difference of around 60cm between the elbows.
- To confirm the distance, clasp your biceps and, you can measure the width apart. Then focus on your core muscles while you curl your toes and keep them planted on the floor.
- Slowly lift your hips so that your tail-bone faces the sky.
- Draw your shoulder blades over the crease of your elbow, and relax your neck muscles while stretching the hamstrings.
People with a weak back and hip muscles or with a shoulder or neck pain or injury should refrain from this pose
3. Cobra Pose
Cobra pose is also known as Bhujangasana that resembles the body position of a serpent with a raised hood. It helps to build the strength of the thoracic muscles and the back muscles.
It is considered as a very powerful backward bending yoga pose that benefits biceps, triceps, and core muscles as well.
How to do Cobra Pose
- To start with the cobra pose, one needs to lie down on the stomach with palms tucked under the shoulders. The legs should be in a stretched position behind the back.
- The straight position of the legs should be maintained throughout the yoga asana with the foot toes pressing firmly on the ground.
- Once the legs and the lower body are anchored to the ground, gently lift up the head and shoulder from the mat without stretching your arms.
- It will put a strain on the back muscles and help them to gain strength. You can maintain the position as long as you can and then come back to the resting position before repeating
4. Boat Pose
Naukasana or Boat pose is a great strength booster for abdominal muscles. The symbol of a strong abdominal region is when a nice and sharp V-shaped posture is maintained between your torso and thigh.
How to do Boat Pose
- While performing Naukasana, you are required to be in a sitting position with bent knees and flat sole touching the ground.
- It helps to sense the sit bones and helps to attain balance for further movements. Then tilt your back a little to lift the feet up in the air.
- Keeping your knees bent, adjust your shin muscles parallel to the ground. Your hands can either be used to hold your thigh or to level them with your shoulder.
- After holding the position for a while return to the sitting posture and repeat the movements
Your boat pose can also include a dynamic movement to enhance its function as a crunch. Boat pose can be combined with a low boat stance to give maximum effect on core muscles.
5. Warrior Pose
Virbhadrasana or warrior pose is all about strengthening your leg, core, back, and arm muscles. This yoga is based on how perfectly you can maintain the alignment of your body and the duration of holding the stance. The foot alignment will focus on building the core strength and retain balance.
It also benefits the thigh muscles, and the outstretching helps to build deltoids and biceps.
How to do Warrior Pose
- To start with the warrior pose yoga, you need to stand on the mat with your right foot at the front and the left foot at the back.
- Tilt the left foot to make a 90-degree curve and then bend the right knees that it is positioned over the right ankle.
- Your thigh should be parallel to the floor, and the shoulders should be stacked over the hips. While in this position, stretch your arms with the right one in the front and left at the back.
- Then try to maintain this alignment while keeping your head straight and on a count of ten deep breaths. Repeat the entire pose with the left foot at the front.
6. Tree Pose
Tree pose, also called Vrksasana is a position in which the body resembles a tall, strong, and straight tree. The posture of tree asana helps to boost energy in the body while maintaining balance. The tree yoga pose concentrates on the hamstrings, knees, hips, and the quadriceps for strength building.
How to do Tree Pose
- The first step in the tree yoga asana is to stand in a straight posture. Then the entire body weight is gently shifted to the left foot.
- While shifting the weight, make sure that the inner foot of the left leg is firmly planted on the floor. Once done, lift your right foot and bend the right knee in the direction of your chest.
- Then stretch them to your side position and place the sole of the right foot on the calf or thigh of the left foot.
- You can choose the holding spot according to your comfort, and hold on to this position for a while.
- Before repeating the same process with the contrary leg, bring your body to rest.
Patients suffering from arthritis and vertigo should avoid the tree pose
7. Horse Pose
The Vatayasana is the name given to the Horse Pose in Sanskrit, and it includes strength building and stretching posture. It helps to stimulate the flow of energy throughout the body.
Horse Pose provides special benefits to abdominal muscles like hips, hamstrings, knees, and quadriceps.
How to do Horse Pose
- To start with the asana, bring your body in a position as if you are sitting on a chair.
- To achieve this posture, spread your legs almost a foot wide and then turn your heels and toes in the forward direction. Once the tors are out, bring your knees to bend and lean back in a sitting position.
- Then join your hands as if praying and try to maintain this position as long as you can.
- Keep the breathing normal throughout the yoga posture, and make sure that the knees are aligned with the toes perfectly.
- Horse Pose Yoga is suitable for beginners and thus has no contraindications as such.
8. Chair Pose
Chair pose known as Utkatasana in Sanskrit is a posture that corresponds to a person sitting on an imaginary chair. It helps to amplify the strength of the quadriceps as well as the hip muscles.
It works on the alignment of the hips, knees, and pelvic regions to build their strength. The muscles benefitted from this pose are arms, shoulders, knees, lower back, hips, pelvic, knees, and quadriceps.
How to do Chair Pose
- In the chair pose, step forward with your toes and knees aligned in a perfectly straight line. Then, put forward the arms and lift them above your head.
- Bend your knees forward and make use of your gluteus maximus muscles to hold on to the position.
- It is an excellent yoga asana for athletes.
People suffering from chronic knee pain, lower back injury, and arthritis should avoid doing the chair pose.
9. High Lunge
The high lunge is famous as Astha Chandrasana in Sanskrit. It is considered to be a preparatory pose for the Warrior Pose. In this yoga asana pose, the body posture resembles the shape of a moon while it changes position in the sky.
It is a dynamic pose that boosts energy and strengthens muscles like hips, knees, hamstrings, upper back, psoas, quadriceps, upper back, lower back, arms, and shoulders.
How to do High Lunge Pose
- To start the asana, stand on the mat with your legs slightly apart. Then move the right leg to the back in such a way that the feet are set apart.
- The back foot should be in such a position that it is planted firmly on the floor with the help of the ball of your feet.
- Then bent the front leg so that it stacks over the ankle and makes a 90-degree angle with the ground.
- Face the side of the bent food and stretch the other leg to push your body forward.
- While breathing normally, raise your arms along your shoulder. Hold on to the position for a few breaths, and then repeat after coming to the normal position.
The high lunge is contraindicated in patients with blood pressure issues, and knee injury.
10. Squat Pose
The Squat is one of the most common yoga postures. It is a beginner level yoga posture that falls into the category of sitting exercises to build strength.
Squat pose mainly focuses on hips, knees, feet, ankles, and pelvic muscles. It involves a lot of stretching and balancing to transit from standing posture to the sitting position. This pose is helpful in clearing bowel movements which benefits the patients suffering from piles and hemorrhoids (2).
How to do Squat Pose or Malasana
- Squatting is done by placing your feet at a distance of one shoulder apart. The toes should be pointing in the outward direction.
- Then while you exhale, bend your knees forward and sit down on a crouch position. Put the balance in your heels, and join the hands like in prayer to maintain the forward balance.
- Inhale while you stand up and repeat the process.
People with knee and hamstring injury should not indulge in doing squats
11. Crow Pose
Crow pose focuses on empowering the muscle strength of the arms, shoulder, and the abs. It is also known as kakasana. The Crow pose yoga asana provides the feeling of flying while utilizing your body strength to work on your arms.
How to do Crow Pose
- Start the asana with squatting and put both the palms flatly on the floor. There should be a gap of 60cm between the palms.
- Now, move the focus on the toes and lift your body while putting the pressure only on your toes.
- Then, bring the knees above the elbow and push them forward to form a crow-like position.
- Once in the stance, try to concentrate and maintain the position while breathing properly.