- Why muscle strength is important for your health and wellbeing
- How does yoga work to improve muscle strength?
- Yoga poses to try
Muscle Strength – Not Just About Weight Lifting
You might think that having strong muscles is for the athletes, and that you will be fine with a toned, healthy body even if your muscles aren’t the strongest ones around – but you may be mistaken.
Indeed, muscle strength may be playing a much more vital role in your body than you may realize. Strong muscles are needed to strengthen the bones, maintain a good and healthy weight, reduce joint pain, and control blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Having strong muscles is not just about being able to lift heavy weights at the gym – they are required in every walk of life, and help you carry out your daily activities without injury or strain. Good muscle strength has also been associated with the ability to fight mild depression. It can also be a great confidence and mood booster, and encourage you to take diverse forms of physical activities, ranging from hiking to rafting.
Muscles work on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis, which means that if you do not exercise them regularly and consistently, they are bound to get weaker. Unfortunately, our sedentary lifestyles today make this all too possible. This is especially concerning, considering how important this strength is in keeping older adults healthy and preventing risks such as fall injuries.
Hence, it is now clear to see that muscular strength is very important for your overall health and well being, and your specific goals such as losing weight or taking up a new outdoor activity.
Doing It With Yoga
If you do not like weight lifting, or are wondering whether your existing yoga session is enough to help you build muscles, the answer may excite you – yoga can be a wonderful way of building muscular strength. How?
Well, firstly yoga is just another way of strength training. Instead of using weights, you use the weight of your own body to challenge your muscle groups, such as your core or legs. Yoga focuses on flows and movement, which means that it puts the same muscle groups through a number of different strength exercises. Consider your back muscles – they may be actively engaged in a standing asana, stretched in a forward bend, or challenged in an inversion. Thus, the muscles receive different types of stimulation in every session.
Being a holistic practice, yoga also integrates stretching and flexibility in its routine, meaning that you not only improve your muscle strength, but also your range of motion and ability to use these enhanced muscles.
Lastly, yoga can provide a low-impact alternative to traditional weightlifting, helping keep your joints safe and providing a great alternative to those at a low level of fitness or those recovering from injuries.
Poses to Try
If improving muscle strength is on your agenda, here are some yoga poses to try that can help you out –
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog) – One of the easiest of yoga poses, this asana is also very well known for the multitude of benefits it provides. A great way to stretch out the entire body, this asana engages the core and hips, strengthens the arms and legs, and energizes the entire body. It is also known to provide relaxation and improve digestion.
- Dolphin Plank Pose – A powerful variant of the traditional dolphin pose (ardha pincha mayurasana), this pose takes it all up a notch and actively strengthens the core and the leg muscles, and stretches the shoulders and hamstrings. Despite the challenge it poses, this can be a very relaxing asana to perform, and it is also known to help prevent osteoporosis.
- Navasana (Boat Pose) – Another great and challenging asana to improve your core strength and build up on those abs, this pose also strengthens the spine and the hip flexors. Added benefits include improved digestion and stress relief, along with the stimulation of the thyroid gland and intestines, and improved sense of balance.
- Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) – Strength and strengthen your legs and work your obliques with this standing asana, which also stretches the shoulders and opens up the chest. Your entire leg from the hips to the calves get a workout, and you will also find the added benefits of improved digestion and reduced back pain and stress.
- Virabhadrasana I, II, III (Warrior Sequence) – All the poses of the warrior sequence are great muscle builders, targeting the legs, opening up the chest and shoulders, and actively engaging the core. Warrior one is a great opener and stretcher for the body, warrior two helps you in getting into a lunge, and warrior three will challenge your balance even as it tones your entire leg from the hips to the ankles.
- Chakrasana/ Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Wheel Pose) – A challenging inversion that packs big stretches and a great energy boost, this asana stretches virtually all parts of the body, stimulates the thyroid gland, and helps in reducing back pain and symptoms of depression. To perform this asana itself may require significant muscle strength, so build up to it gradually.
- Utkatasana (Chair Pose) – Strengthening the calves, ankles and spine, this asana targets some important and some often forgotten areas of the body, while also stimulating the abdominal organs and the heart. It can also help in opening up the shoulders, and is known to reduce flat feet.
So, now that you know the importance of muscle strength and the poses to develop it, be sure to integrate these asanas into your daily workout routine. And remember, that like all markers of fitness, muscle strength takes time to develop and muscles require constant and consistent functioning to keep them in top shape. So be sure to work out regularly and properly to see the best results.