8 Yoga Poses That Double as Strength Training Exercises

Sara Panagiotopoulou
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What do you think is the most common physical association connected with the practice of yoga? That yoga equals flexibility.

But did you know that yoga also equals strength? In fact, flexibility and strength go hand in hand.

For instance, having a stronger core means that you can access deeper forward folds. More upper body strength makes poses like Chaturanga or Handstand way more accessible.

Yoga strength training is a thing! There are so many yoga poses that can also double as strength training exercises.

So how do you make yoga poses work for strength training? Simply hold each pose for longer than you would in a typical yoga class.

 
 

Yoga Strength Training: Here Are 8 Yoga Poses That Double As Strength Training Exercises

Use these eight yoga poses as your strength training exercises and enjoy all the benefits that yoga strength training can bring.

The key to using these poses for strength training is in holding them for 10 solid breaths. Try it and see for yourself how much this increases the challenge!
 

1. Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

This pose just sounds fierce, doesn’t it? Like, practice this and then take over the world! No wonder it’s a great asana to fully strengthen your legs, glutes, and arms.

Warrior-2

How to practice:

  • With both feet pointing toward the long side of your mat, stand with your feet as wide apart as is comfortable but still wide enough to feel a really good stretch in your inner thighs
  • Point your left toes to face the top of your mat
  • Bend your left knee so that it aligns directly over your ankle or slightly behind it
  • Extend your arms out into a T-shape
  • Find that “strong” feeling running down your spine and engage your muscles from your shoulders to your pelvis
  • Shift your gaze so that it extends over your left hand
  • Hold this pose for at least ten deep breaths
  • Repeat on the other side for an equal amount of time

 

 
 

2. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

This is another awesome pose yoga strength training pose for the entire length of your legs. Depending on how long this pose is held, this asana can work up a serious burn in your thighs, which just proves that it has to be working, right?!

Chair-pose

How to practice:

  • Start by standing at the top of your mat, with your feet beside each other
  • Fully extend both your arms above your head with your palms facing each other
  • Slowly, begin to bend your knees and “sit” as deeply as you can, as if you’re sitting into a chair behind you
  • Engage your deep abdominals
  • If you can, sit even deeper into your invisible chair
  • Hold for at least ten deep breaths

 

3. Crescent Moon (Anjaneyasana)

This backbend is a great one for strength training the front of the thighs, as well as the abdominals since they have to be fully engaged as you reach up and back. Since it is a backbend, we recommend that you wait to go into this pose until after you’ve done some back warm-ups.

low-lunge

How to practice:

  • From a kneeling position, step your left leg forward and extend your right leg all the way back
  • Keep your hips square and place an emphasis on the stretch in the front of your right thigh
  • Raise both arms above your head, reaching up high from your chest and draw your shoulders back
  • Slowly, lift your gaze toward your hands and continue to allow your shoulders to draw you into a backbend
  • Try to not yank yourself back from your lower back, but use your abdominals to keep you tight
  • Roll back from your upper back as much as you can
  • Hold for at least ten deep breaths
  • Repeat on the other side for an equal amount of time

 

4. Side Plank (Vasisthasana)

This “simple” looking pose is actually quite complex as it works and strengthens muscles all through your body, engaging them through a balancing act, and includes abdominals, legs, shoulders and the entire length of your balancing arm. Talk about yoga strength training!

Side-Plank-Pose

How to practice:

  • From Down Dog, slowly, tilt your feet so that your left foot is stacked above your right foot and the outer edge of your right foot is flat against the ground
  • Shift your weight onto your right hand
  • Slowly lift your left hand from the ground and tilt your body to face toward the right as you do this
  • Strengthen through your right (supporting) hand
  • Spread your fingers wide so that they are all pressing firmly against the floor
  • You can either place your left hand on your waist, or if you have the balance, straighten it up to your left side
  • Strengthen your thighs, lifting your middle so that your body forms as straight a line as possible
  • Hold for at least ten, deep breaths

 

5. Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)

This is a great pose for those of us who sit at a desk for hours on end, because it really works the muscles in our hips as well as our abdominals. The balance it requires also engages your back muscles, so think of this as your go-to, middle-of-the-body yoga strength training asana.

Boat-Pose

How to practice:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you
  • Lean back (careful to not round out your back) and bend your knees as you lift your legs off the floor, balancing on your tailbone
  • If you can, straighten your legs
  • Engage your abdominals as you lift your hands to your sides, parallel to your legs
  • Make sure your back is lengthened and lift yourself into a V-shape
  • Draw your chest toward your legs and your legs toward your chest
  • Hold for at least ten deep breaths

 

6. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

Locust Pose is a great yoga strength training asana to practice before attempting deeper backbends such as Wheel as it really works all the back muscles – from your shoulders and neck, down to your waist – as well as the back of your legs and arms.

Locust-Pose

How to practice:

  • Begin by lying on the front of your belly, keeping your arms flat beside your torso and your legs stretched out behind you
  • Engage your glutes, pulling your tailbone toward the ground, in preparation for the lift
  • Lift your head, upper torso, and shoulders up and back, all the while raising your arms back as if pulling them toward your toes
  • Lift your legs, pulling them up and back, to deepen the backward arching of your body
  • Keep your neck elongated
  • Hold for at least ten deep breaths

 

 
 

7. Three-Legged Dog (Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Arms and legs, people! That’s what this simple-looking pose targets and strengthens, from shoulders down to wrists and from glutes down to ankles.

One-leg-downward-facing-dog

Three-Legged Dog is, obviously, a variation of the classic Down Dog. But by lifting one leg, it makes the standing (or balancing) leg work extra hard. You’ll definitely feel a burn in the upper, inner thigh of your standing leg from this yoga strength training pose!

How to practice:

  • Start in a classic Down Dog with your arms and legs supporting your body in a steady, upside down V-shape
  • Push back and up into your shoulder blades, keeping them taught and steady to support your upper body
  • Likewise, keep your abdominals engaged by pulling your navel in and keep your legs strong with both feet firmly planted on the ground
  • Slowly, find your balance and lift your left leg up
  • Be careful to keep your hips square, do not lift your left buttock or allow your left foot to twist inward
  • Engage your right (standing) leg and keep your shoulders strong
  • Hold for at least ten deep breaths
  • Switch sides, this time lifting your right leg, and hold for the same amount of time

 

8. Crow Pose (Bakasana)

Achieving this pose can’t help but make you feel a wave of strength literally pulse through your body. As it’s an arm balance, the primary muscles that it works are, of course, the arms. But as in all yoga strength training asanas, the entire body gets in on the action too!

Crow-Pose

How to practice:

  • From standing, fold forward and place your hands on your mat in front of your feet about shoulder-distance apart
  • Lift onto the balls of your feet (tip toes) and shift your balance so that your knees rest at the back of your triceps
  • Slightly bend your elbows to create a little “cradle” for your knees
  • Slowly, bend your knees one at a time. As you do, cradle them onto the back of your upper arms
  • Shift your entire body forward
  • Use your fingers to keep your balance
  • Hold for ten deep breaths . . . or for as long as you can to avoid a face-plant!

 
 

The Takeaway on Yoga Strength Training

If you are interested in deepening your yoga practice, then try focusing on these strength training poses. Because increasing your strength leads to a sure increase in your flexibility.

And that means more advanced poses like Firefly or Handstand will become as simple as Mountain Pose . . . well, almost!

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Sara Panagiotopoulou

Sara Panagiotopoulou found yoga 18 years ago while studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in N.Y.C. She is a writer and has written for Huff Post and Yatzer, among many others. She also runs sport-well.com, the first sports and wellness aggregator on the web. Through Sara's (many!) career changes, the one constant has been her daily yoga practice. She is currently studying for her RYT 200 and looks forward to hosting retreats and sharing her love of yoga throughout her home base of sunny Greece.

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