Why is Building Strength Important? And Where Does Yoga Come In?
When we build strength, it improves bone density thereby reducing our risk of osteoporosis.
We naturally lose lean muscle mass as part of the ageing process and strength training can help to preserve it. We know that having stronger muscles help to stabilise the joints. This can help to prevent injuries and is especially important for those with hypermobile joints.
Strength training also helps to improve your resting metabolic rate which is the total number of calories burned when your body is completely at rest.
It has also been shown to have a positive effect on our mental health, including reductions in anxiety, depression, and pain intensity, improved sleep and confidence, self-esteem, and resilience.
So! Does yoga count as strength training?
The short answer is … it depends. There are so many different ways to practise that it’s not possible just to prescribe only ‘yoga’ to get stronger. Certain types of yoga like Yin and Restorative will not help you build muscle and nor should they, but with poses such as Warrior, Planks, and inversions such as Downward Facing Dog, we are in effect weight training as we support our own body weight.
When we practise yoga poses we involve the whole body, we recruit other muscle groups to act as stabilisers, as well as the muscles where the main action takes places. In this way, yoga can be a great form of functional strength training. Meaning building strength in the whole body so that it can perform daily activities in the real world, not just lifting a certain amount of weight.
How can we get stronger with yoga?
There are different ways we can build strength through yoga and it’s good to use a mix of techniques for balance.
Dynamic styles of yoga such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa build strength through repeated Sun Salutations and Vinyasas. These are particularly good for building strength in the upper body and legs. Repeated Sun Salutations don’t suit everybody though so it’s important to know how to modify them and to mix them up with different strength-focused flows.
Holding yoga poses for longer
Increasing the length of time, we hold poses is one of the most simple ways of building up strength quickly without equipment and allows us to see how we are progressing. These are examples of isometric exercises, also known as static strength training.
Try staying in poses for 10 deep breaths. Always come out of the pose carefully if you feel you losing good form and alignment or if you are sacrificing the quality of your breath.
Holding poses like Plank, Dolphin, Downward Facing Dog Warrior Poses Chair Pose and Boat Pose will provide a good challenge for the body and mind!
See you on the mats, Caroline x