A lot of people think that yoga is only good for more flexibility and to reduce stress, but yoga can also create strength. By including poses like Chaturanga or Boat pose, you can build and tone muscles throughout the body, and your mind will get a workout too.
We’ve put together 8 of our favorite strength building yoga poses and included an extra Strength Challenge for each pose to make it even more effective.
Poses for upper body strength
Phalakasana – Plank Pose
Plank pose strengthens the upper body and the core. It lengthens and builds the lower back muscles.
From Low Lunge, ground both hands down and step the left foot back to meet the right and come into a high push-up position. Spread your fingers wide and press into the inside parts of the palms (between thumbs and index finger). Tuck the tailbone under, press into the heels and reach the crown of the head forward that your legs, hips, torso, and neck form a straight line.
Strength Challenge: exhale and come down to your forearms to forearm plank, with your inhale you come back up to traditional plank – repeat 3 times
Chaturanga – Four limbed staff pose
Chaturanga is a challenging pose that strengthens the upper body and the core.
From Plank Pose, exhale while shifting forward and lowering into Chaturanga. In Chaturanga, your shoulders should not sink below your elbows and your elbows should form a right angle. You can place blocks behind your forearms to make sure you shift forward enough. Make sure that your elbows are close to your torso and that your core is engaged all the time.
Strength Challenge: Include a Yogi Push-up; from chaturanga press back to plank and lower back down to chaturanga
Poses for Lower body strength
Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana – High Lunge
High Lunge strengthens the whole lower body and stretches the groins and legs. It opens the chest, lungs, and hips and lengthens the spine.
From Downward Facing Dog step the right leg to the inside of your right hand. Come to a low lunge, roll your shoulders back, press your chest forward and reach your arms over your head. Make sure to keep the right angle in the front leg and press into the heel of your back leg. Let your hips sink towards your mat and relay the shoulders down your back.
Strength Challenge: Shift your weight into the front (left) leg and gaze a few inches in front of the mat. With your next exhale kick your back (right) leg to the front so that you are balancing on your left leg and your right leg is extended straight in front of your body. Inhale come back to High Lunge – repeat 3 times
Virabhadrasana II – Warrior II
Warrior II strengthens the legs and opens the hips and chest. It also stretches the shoulders and improves circulation in the entire body.
From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot to the inside of your right hand and spin your back heel down. Your back leg should be parallel to the back edge of your mat. Firmly press into the outside edge of your back foot. Let your hips sink towards your mat that your form a right angle in the front leg. Turn your hips and shoulders towards the left side and bring your arms to shoulder height. Drop your shoulders down and back and gaze over your right middle finger.
Strength Challenge: Inhale extend your front knee and bring your palms over your head to touch, exhale come back to Warrior II – repeat 3 times
Poses for Back Strength
Shalabhasana – Full Locust Pose
Locust Pose strengthens the back, the legs, and the core while opening the chest. It stimulates the kidneys and can improve the digestive function.
For Full Locust Pose, lie on your belly with your chin on the floor. Bring your legs and feet together to touch and your arms alongside the body, palms facing down. With your next inhale lift legs, head, chin and arms up the mat. Reach your toes and fingers to the back of the room. Your neck should stay in line with the spine, your shoulders reach down and back.
Strength Challenge: Grab your ankles from the inside and come into wheel pose
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward Facing Dog
Upward facing dog strengthens the whole body and opens the chest. It can stimulate the kidneys and the nervous system.
From Chaturanga or Knees-Chest-Chin Pose, inhale, and press into your palms and slide the chest forward. Make sure to relax your shoulders down and back. You tights should not touch the mat.
Strength Challenge: Lay down on your belly, your hands are in line with your shoulders but off the mat (a few inches away from the shoulders). Come to your fingertips, your elbows are off the mat directly over your wrists. Inhale reach your chest forward, exhale release your torso down – repeat 3 times
Poses for Core Strength
Jaanu Naasikaa Adho Mukha Svanasana – Knee to Nose Pose
Knee to Nose Pose strengthens your core and upper body. It improves balance and circulations and can stimulate metabolism.
From Three-Legged Dog with your right leg extended, shift your shoulders over the wrist, round your back while bringing your right knee toward the nose. Return to Three-Legged Dog.
Strength Challenge: Instead of bringing your knee to your nose, try to bring it to the right elbow. Press back to Three Legged Dog, then bring the knee to the left elbow and press back to Three-Legged Dog.
Navasana – Boat Pose
Boat Pose strengthens the abs, hip flexors, and lower back muscles. It improves balance and boosts confidence.
From a seated position, bring your feet flat down onto the mat. Press your hands into the mat a little behind your hips. Lean back but lift your chest up (no round back). Balance your weight on your sitting bones and lift your thighs up that they are parallel to the mat. Reach your arms forward parallel to the mat (they can also help you to hold up your legs). Slowly begin to straighten the legs. Make sure your chest is open and your shoulders are down and back.
Strength Challenge: Bring your hands to a prayer at your heart. With your exhale slowly lower your upper body and legs down that they hover over the mat. Inhale come back to boat pose – repeat 3 times.
Make sure you warm up before doing these strength building asanas. A great way to warm-up are Sun Salutations.
If you want to start a daily yoga routine, try our FREE Blissful@Work challenge with daily yoga, meditation and mindfulness exercises.