• T
  • H
  • M
  • 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

    A simple way to do yoga for strength is to use the idea of moment arms. As an example, in a forward bend you could decrease the moment arm acting at the hip joints by using the arms to help support the weight of your upper body. If you then lift the hands (without reaching them) you remove the support of your arms and increase the work that your hip muscles have to do in order to maintain the position of your torso. Reach your arms forwards and you then shift the center of gravity (or center of mass) further forwards, away from your hips, and so you then increase the moment arm and thus the work your hips have to do, helping to exercise them and thus make them stronger.


    You don't have to understand moment arms to use them to strengthen your body. If you let your arms hang down, and then reach them forwards, you can feel the difference. Simply supporting your body weight is another way of strengthening your body. As a simple example, you could strengthen your legs by bending your knees and reaching your hips back into a squat. Or you could strengthen your shoulders and mid section and hip flexors doing plank. To strengthen the arms also, bend your elbows and do chaturanga dandasana. To strength the side of your body, turn it to the side from plank pose for some variation of side plank. Even in a standing forward bend you could strengthen your arms simply by shifting your weight so that your arms support some of your body weight. Another option is to grab onto your feet and use your arms and legs against each other to strengthen your arms, legs and midsection. .

    If you are in a pose like cat pose, you can easily lift an arm by first shifting your ribcage to one side. You can then easily lift the other arm. However, if you keep your ribcage in one place and then try to lift one arm, you'll find that your supporting arm suddenly feels stronger, as does the opposite leg and does your midsection.

    All of these muscle activations occur to keep your torso in place. And so having an awareness of your body is very helpful when working on yoga for strength. If lifting some part of your foundation, are you intending to keep your body still or allow it to move. It depends on your intent.

    Lifting a leg in cat pose, you could shift your hips to one side so that your other leg bears your body weight. You can then lift the target leg with ease. Keep your torso in place and then try to lift one leg and again you'll find that the supporting leg and it's opposite side arm plus your midsection activate automatically.

    One way you could think of this is that your supporting arm, leg and midsection all become stable.

    When doing yoga for strength (and when doing yoga for flexibility) it's important to give the muscles you are strengthening (or stretching) a stable foundation from which to work. Lifting a leg to the front while standing to strengthen your hip flexors, you could lift your chest and then use your abs to help stabilize your pelvis so that your hip flexors have a firm foundation from which to lift the leg and keep it lifted. Or you could stabilize the opposite hip. In this case you are still stabilizing the pelvis, but now the stability comes from the leg instead of the spine.

    More Strengthening Ideas

    Another way to do yoga for strength is to use friction as in Frictional arm and Leg Strength.