It’s a common misconception that yoga is just for stretching and relaxing, but if you’re trying to increase strength in your core, your upper body, or your balance, many poses are incredible strength builders.
The core of yoga is, well, your core. You know what we’re talking about – those strong muscles in your abdomen, the ones everyone wants to tighten up and tone to look good come bathing-suit season. When it comes to yoga, your core is the not-so-secret secret to many poses. Building your strength will help get you the stability (or maybe even the handstand) you are looking for!
Here’s a short yoga sequence to help you build up not only your core strength but your full-body strength as well.
What You’ll Need:
- 15-20 free minutes.
- A yoga mat.
- A water bottle (add some AMPED™ Hydrate to stay refreshed!).
- An open mind!
Let’s Get Started!
Plank pose is great way to warm up your entire body while building arm, core, and spinal muscle.
- Start in downward-facing dog, and press your torso back toward your thighs with your hips lifting high.
- Slowly begin to shift your weight forward so that your shoulders are stacked over your wrists and you are on the balls of your feet as if your heels were pressing up against a wall.
- Try to keep your arms straight and your hips in line with your shoulders as the crown of your head reaches forward, making sure your gaze stays down.
Take at least five breaths in this pose, then begin to relax down to your stomach. Repeat one to two more times.
Modification: If this is too much pressure on your wrists, lower onto your forearms to refocus energy into your core. Still too much? Lower onto your knees.
Chair pose is great for strengthening your legs and low back.
- Begin standing with your feet hip-width distance apart.
- Start to bend into your knees as if you are sitting back into a chair behind you, keeping your knees just over your ankles.
- Bring your arms up toward your head, spinning your biceps in toward your ears. Spread your fingers out wide with pinkies spun in toward one another. Make sure you can see your toes, and if not, sit your seat back a little further.
Hold the pose for at least five breaths. You can repeat this pose one or two more times if you like.
To come out of this pose, straighten your legs and fold forward.
Modification: To increase the strength of your thighs, place a block between your thighs, squeezing the block inward.
Boat pose helps strengthen and warm up your core muscles.
- From chair pose, begin to sink your seat until you meet the ground
- Keep both legs lifted either bent or straight out in front of you.
- Reach your arms straight ahead toward your legs.
For an added challenge, opt to lift and lower toward your mat from high to low boat or bring your hands to heart center and twist from right to left. Do you feel the burn?!
Modification: Place your hands behind you for stability, and bend your knees as much as you need to.
Build your leg and shoulder muscles with this powerful pose.
- Begin standing at the top of your yoga mat with your hands on your hips.
- Step your right foot back about three to four feet, and square your hips to the long edge of your mat.
- Keep your left toes facing forward to the front of your mat, and angle your back to a 45-degree angle. The heel of your front foot should line up with the arch of your back foot.
- Bend your left knee to about 90 degrees, making sure your knee is directly over your ankle. Keep your back leg straight. You should begin to feel a stretch in your hips and a burn in your quads as your muscles begin to activate.
- Raise your arms to shoulder height and bring your gaze over your front fingers.
Hold for about five breaths, then return to standing and take the other side of the pose.
Modification: If you have difficulty supporting yourself in this pose, take a chair to the outside of your front leg, and gently slide the front edge of the chair underneath your thigh. You can stack blankets on the chair to be able to rest your thigh to the appropriate height.
Warrior Three is a balancing pose that can help strengthen legs, glutes, and core.
- Begin standing toward the back of your yoga mat with your hands on your hips.
- Step your right foot forward to the middle of your mat.
- Shift your weight to your right leg, lifting your left leg off the mat, keeping it straight and extended behind you with your left toes pointing down toward your mat.
- Your leg should be lifted about hip height (this will help with strengthening your glute muscles!)
Hold and balance as best you can for about five breaths. When finished, release your leg to the mat, and begin the other side.
Modification: If you are having trouble balancing, use a wall for support. Face the wall, bring your hands shoulder width to the wall, and keep your arms straight or almost straight. Continue from step two.
You should consult your physician or other healthcare professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for you. Do not start this fitness program if your physician or healthcare provider advises against it. If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain, or shortness of breath at any time while exercising, you should stop immediately, and seek appropriate medical care, if needed.
About the Authors:
Morgan Singer is a certified 200-hour yoga instructor who completed her teacher training in 2013. Morgan primarily teaches Power Yoga. She focuses on moving students through their practice with fluid breath, emphasizing the benefits of reconnecting with your mind and body and taking the practice with you off your mat.
Jenna Zizzo-Klemis is a 500-hour certified yoga instructor who has been teaching yoga since 2012. She focuses her teaching mostly on the physical aspect of yoga yet appreciates the peace and serenity her practice provides.