While some people see strength training as a necessary part of their workout, others look at strength training machines and dumbbells and see medieval torture devices. Luckily, pumping iron is not the only way to gain strength. Yoga for strength poses and classes can help improve overall body tone and strength, while also increasing flexibility and providing stress relief from high-impact workouts. There are many different types of yoga for strength, including power yoga and yoga with weights classes.
Yoga can improve strength through moves that are weight-bearing. Instead of relying on weight plates or free weights to provide the resistance that builds muscles, yoga relies on the resistance of the body's weight. In addition to specific poses that help improve strength, many yoga practices also require a constant, internal pull on the core abdominal muscles, which helps keep every pose working the muscles of the body. While any type of yoga class will likely include some poses for strength, many yoga studios will list strength-focused classes as "yoga for strength" or "power yoga".
Power yoga is a hybrid between two traditional styles of yoga, called ashtanga and vinyasa. In this style, emphasis is put on the breath, which helps provide a steady stream of oxygen as students move swiftly from one pose to the next. Power yoga classes are typically very heavy on weight-bearing poses meant to increase strength. Since yoga for strength focuses on improving total-body fitness, classes are usually carefully arranged to ensure that all muscle groups are worked easily.
Yoga with weights is a fun way to combine traditional strength training with yoga. Students follow a normal yoga routine, while holding onto a set of light or medium weight dumbbells. Emphasis is placed on controlled, careful movement, since swinging the weights can lead to injury and rely on inertia rather than strength. In some routines, students may pause during a pose and do several repetitions of a more-traditional free weight move, such as combining tricep extensions with the yoga chair pose.
Some of the most basic yoga poses provide an excellent opportunity to use yoga for strength improvement. In plank pose, students come to the top of a push-up position, with arms held directly under shoulders, belly button pulled in toward the spine, and feet slightly apart. Simply holding plank position provides an incredible resistance exercise that builds strength throughout the arms, core, and back. For an even greater arm-building move, students can move into side plank by lifting one arm off the ground and twisting the body so that one leg is stacked on top of the other and arms make a vertical line from the ground up toward the sky.