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  • Yoga for Strength (and Flexibility),
    Using Leverage, Body Weight and Tension to Strengthen (and Stretch)

    wheel pose push ups head on floor, yoga for strength

    In yoga for strength an important consideration for smooth (and relatively effortless) advancement is the idea of progressions, gradually making an exercise more difficult.

    In weight lifting the equivalent would be gradually adding more and more weight.

    Yoga for Stability (and Strength)

    A prerequisite for both strength and flexibility is stability.

    Stability generally requires using muscles against each other with the result that the opposing muscles are strengthened. And so practicing stabilizing parts of the body is actually a strengthening exercise in and of itself.

    But in general stability is the practice of making a part of the body resistant to change. Then it can be used as a foundation for another part of the body to create change.

    For more on stability (and strength) you can read exercises to improve stabilty.

    Yoga Arm Strengthening Poses

    Yoga Push Up Variations

    One way to progress in the push-up action (using the arms to push the body away from the floor) is to first practice a relatively easy exercise like kneeling one armed push-ups.

    Despite being a one-armed push, up this exercise is fairly easy since most of the weight of the body rests on the shins.

    yoga for strength, kneeling one armed push up
    yoga for strength, kneeling one armed push up, Neil Keleher

    Low Lunge Yoga Push Up

    Another progression or preparation pose that is both a yoga strength exercise and a yoga stretch is bending the elbows in low lunge.

    low lunge yoga push up, elbows straight
    low lunge yoga push up, elbows bent

    Initially you can use the arms to lift and lower the chest while the back knee stays on the floor. The front leg takes a lot of the weight of the body off of the arms.

    To add more weight lift the back knee. You can either lift the back knee before bending the elbows or after. Or you can keep the back knee lifted throughout this yoga strengthening exercise. In any case lifting the back knee can be used to increase the amount of work that the arms have to do.

    But all of this is for naught if you haven't got the flexibility in the hips. And so part of this exercise can be learning to relax the arms and allowing the ribcage to sink down. This stretches the hip extensors, particularly if you can lower the ribcage below the height of the front knee. You can then strengthen the arms when pushing the ribcage back up.

    Yoga Push Ups

    As for the actual yoga push up, one way to progress in this yoga strength pose is to first practice lifting just the ribs.

    Yoga Push Ups, yoga poses, yoga arm strengthening, arm exercises, body awareness exercises, energizing yoga poses

    Initially lift the chest off of the floor. Work at gradually pushing the chest higher.

    Then you can work at lifting the hips independently, and then the knees. The yoga push ups article explains it in more detail.

    Half Split Half Crocodile Combination

    One other possible yoga for strength exercise that also works on flexibility is the half-split one-armed-crocodile (Chaturanga) exercise.

    While in half split with the chest and hands on the floor, lift the chest using both arms. Prior to lifting one arm, add tension to the straight leg. Then add tension to your abs. Then make the bent leg arm strong. Relax your straight leg arm. Then lift it and reach it to the side. To rest, put the hand down on the floor, and then lower the chest to the floor.

    half split and half crocodile, yoga for strength, yoga for flexiblity, combining strength and flexiblity

    You can also do the same when working towards full side splits.

    An option (or progression) is to start with both elbows on the floor. Make the bent knee arm strong and lift the other arm. Then place the arm back on the floor to rest. Then repeat.

    This not only strengthens the arms (and helps to balance the strength in both) it also increases the stretch of the inner thigh. And it strengthens the inner thighs at the same time.

    Side Plank

    Another pose for strengthening the arm statically is side plank yoga pose. If your balance isn't so good then first practice balancing in side plank. You can first practice shoulder stabilization while resting on your elbow. In side plank you can try different variations to help strengthen your outer thigh, your inner thigh, your quads and even your hamstrings.

    Repetitions for Strengthening

    One way to improve strength while doing yoga poses is to practice moving in and out of yoga poses, particular those where the arms or legs bear the weight of your body.

    One of the harder exercises for the arms is lifting up into wheel pose.

    wheel pose, yoga for strength

    You can practice holding this pose to develop strength or practice lifting and lowering repeatedly.

    Details on learning how to lift the head are covered in the pdf Making Wheel Pose Easier.

    Yoga for Leg Strength

    For strengthening the legs, one of the more difficult exercises is the one legged squat or "pistol" squat. To work up to this, first work at doing a regular squat on both legs.

    Chair Pose (and the Body Weight Squat)

    From standing, see if you can lower to half way (bottom left), then stand up again. From a full deep squat (below right) you can also lift into the half squat.

    half squat position, yoga for strengthfull squat position, yoga for strength

    In both the deep squat and the half squat you can then work at shifting weight on to one leg. Work towards this gradually. Then once you can get all of your weight onto one leg see if you can lift the other leg.

    half squat with weight on one leg, yoga for strength
    half squat with one leg lifted, yoga for strength

    Moving Towards the Pistol Squat

    In a deep squat, if you can get all of your weight onto one leg, then reach the other leg forwards.

    pistol squat, yoga for strength

    You can first practice standing up from this position, then lower using both legs. Once you are comfortable standing up with a once legged squat, then work at lowering down on one leg.

    pistol squat halfway up, yoga for strength
    pistol squat standing, yoga for strength

    A pose that can be used to work on the back of the legs and or the arms is reverse plank.

    To strengthen the hamstrings try these hamstring strengthening yoga poses.

    Back Strengthening Yoga

    The back can be divided into an upper and lower half. Generally the upper back is the back of the ribcage while the lower back is the part that connects the pelvis to the ribcage (the lumbar spine.)

    Upper back exercises include exercises for becoming more aware of the thoracic spine and ribcage and also training the spinal erectors to bend the ribcage backwards.

    Low Back exercises (for dealing with low back pain and helping to prevent it) include a mix of low back strengthening and hip strengthening exercises.

    When strengthening the back it can help to work on the legs and hips at the same time. Two of my favorite poses for this are utthita trikonasana (or triangle pose) and revolved triangle.

    Yoga for Strengthening the Abs

    One of the simplest exercises for the abs is to slowly sit up and balance on the butt from a laying down position. With arms and legs reaching up, slowly reach arms and legs forwards. Then when you feel your center over your buttocks, slowly sit up.

    To make it easier grab onto your thighs.

    Then lay back down slowly and in control and repeat.

    strengthening the abs, rolling up, yoga for strength
    strengthening the abs, rolling up, yoga for strength
    strengthening the abs, rolling up, yoga for strength

    A progression is to roll up to a squat. (First do it fast to get into the squat, then see if you can slowly roll up into a squat.)

    Then you could also try rolling up into a one legged squat as above.

    For more ab strengthening yoga poses see yoga poses for abs and core stability exercises.

    Return to Home Page from Yoga for Strength

    Improve Strength and Flexibility

    Yoga for Strength

    Basic Stability

    Arm Strength

    Back and Core Strength

    Leg Strengthening

    Yoga and Weights/Kettlebells

    What's New?

    Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors

    Learn to consciously control your quads and hip flexors with Conscious Muscle Control: Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors. This downloadable video course teaches you how to feel and activate your quadriceps (the vastus muscles) as well as the rectus femoris, tensor fascae latae and sartorius muscles.

    Continue reading "Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors"

    Yoga for Flexibility

    Yoga for flexibility with stretches for the hips, quads, hamstrings, glutes, psoas, shoulders and arms. These yoga stretches are designed to improve flexiblity.

    Continue reading "Yoga for Flexibility"

    Calf Stretches

    For any calf stretch you have to bend your ankle forwards to stretch the soleus and/or gastrocnemius. How you bend the ankle forwards can make the stretch more or less effective.

    Continue reading "Calf Stretches"

    Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes

    Glute and Hamstring activation can be used to compliment the quad and hip flexors for a balanced practice. Conscious Muscle Control: Hamstrings and Glutes is a video course designed to teach you how to activate your glutes and hamstrings at will. You'll also develop the ability to feel them activate and relax.

    Continue reading "Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes"

    Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes

    Glute and Hamstring activation can be used to compliment the quad and hip flexors for a balanced practice. Conscious Muscle Control: Hamstrings and Glutes is a video course designed to teach you how to activate your glutes and hamstrings at will. You'll also develop the ability to feel them activate and relax.

    Continue reading "Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes"

    Learning to Activate your Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors

    Learn how to activate your quads and hip flexors so that you can use them at will. Conscious Muscle Control: Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors not only teaches you how to activate and relax your quads and hip flexors at will, it also teaches you how to feel when they are active and when they are relaxed. This clearly defined awareness can help you get more in touch with your body.

    Continue reading "Learning to Activate your Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors"

    Arm Supported Yoga Poses

    Arm supported yoga poses can be used to strengthen the arms and shoulders. Includes plank, chaturanga dandasana, downward dog, dolphin pose, side plank, wheel, reverse plank, table top pose.

    Continue reading "Arm Supported Yoga Poses"

    Stability in Yoga Poses

    Make your yoga poses less wobbly with less effort. Grounding and centering are two techniques for creating stability in yoga poses.

    Continue reading "Stability in Yoga Poses"

    Exercises in Muscle Control

    Exercises in muscle control 1 teachers you how to activate and relax your knees, hips, front and back of the leg and also inner and outer thighs. These activations can be used in standing poses as leg strenghtening exercises and to improve flexiblity.

    Continue reading "Exercises in Muscle Control"

    Transverse Abdominus Anatomy for Yoga Teachers

    The transverse abdominus muscle can affect the SI joint, lumbar and lower thoracic spine stability, used in various diaphragmatic breathing techniques and act as a tension adjuster for the rectus abdominus.

    Continue reading "Transverse Abdominus Anatomy for Yoga Teachers"

    Effectively Activating Transverse Abdominus

    Effectively Activating Transverse Abdominus can mean better stability for the SI Joint as well as for the lumbar and lower thoracic spine.

    Continue reading "Effectively Activating Transverse Abdominus"

    Joint Pain Yoga

    Rather than fighting through joint pain here is an overview of the approach that I've used to help alleviate hip pain, knee pain or shoulder joint pain while doing yoga poses.

    Continue reading "Joint Pain Yoga"

    Feeling Your Center of Gravity

    Make balancing easier. Use pressure sensitivity to feel your center of gravity.

    Continue reading "Feeling Your Center of Gravity"

    Camel Yoga Pose

    Camel Yoga Pose or ustrasana is a kneeling pose that can be used to stretch the hip flexors. One key action that may help in getting your pelvis forwards more is pushing your hands forwards, either against your feet or against the floor.

    Continue reading "Camel Yoga Pose"

    How to do Squats

    A yoga approach to how to do squats including how to stay balanced, and avoiding knee or hip pain even while going all the way down.

    Continue reading "How to do Squats"

    Transverse Abdominis and Sacroiliac Joint Stability

    The transverse abdominis can have an affect on sacroiliac joint stability as well as stability of the lumbar spine and the T12/L1 junction.

    Continue reading "Transverse Abdominis and Sacroiliac Joint Stability"

    Fluid Tensegrity Joint Anatomy

    Fluid tensegrity joint anatomy looks at the tendency of the body to maintain space within the joints. The question is, how is this space maintained?

    Continue reading "Fluid Tensegrity Joint Anatomy"

    Why Improve Body Awareness

    Why improve body awareness? So that you can use your body more effectively and fix problems yourself when they arise.

    Continue reading "Why Improve Body Awareness"


    How is tensegrity maintained at the joints even as the body adopts non-tensegrity postures or movements?

    Continue reading "Tensegrity"

    Being Present

    Why being present is the oppositve of thinking and how to utilize both modes effecively.

    Continue reading "Being Present"