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5 Strength Training Exercises You Can Do to Improve Your Yoga Practice

Strength training is an excellent way to create ease and balance in your yoga practice. The strength built in the weight room shows up in the asana practice in subtle ways. Over time, you may feel more ease in poses that challenged you before. (Oh hey, Chaturanga!)

Likewise, you can bring yoga into the weight room by utilizing pranayama and engaging the Uddiyana Bandha. For example, you can use pranayama to move more fluidly through your weight routine. Uddiyana Bandha, or “pulling” in the lower belly, provides stability and power to the performance of the strength training moves.

Your muscles will still get a workout if you don’t pay attention to your breath or your core, but incorporating pranayama and Uddiyana Bandha can intensify your strength training.

Why Yogis Need Strength Training

Yogis with natural flexibility may rely on their flexibility to access asanas. But flexibility without strength (and vice versa) creates imbalances within the body, and increases the potential of you getting injured. Strength training helps counter this by creating muscular awareness, so you can utilize both flexibility and strength to support your asanas.
As a yogi incorporates strength training into their fitness regimen, they begin to balance out the strength and flexibility in their body. This leads to full-body integration, and greatly decreases their risk of injury.
Specifically, a routine with free weights will increase both strength and balance . . . which means your Airplane Pose will have a little less turbulence. A study found that participants who utilized free weight stength training saw their strength and balance increase more than two and five times, respectively, compared to those who used weight machines.

Practice These 5 Strength Training Exercises to Improve Your Yoga Practice:

The following strength training routine is designed to create ease in your asana practice. You can begin to incorporate the routine three times per week, as it fits your schedule, and it can be done at home or at the gym with light dumbells.

1. Goddess Squat – Overhead Press

This powerful move is great for strengthening the lower body, core, and shoulders. Start in Goddess Squat with dumbbells at, but not resting on, your shoulders. Keep elbows lifted. Inhale in Goddess Squat. Exhale to press evenly through the feet as you stand and press weights overhead. Inhale while standing, exhale to return to Goddess Squat.

2. Plank Row

Want a stronger Chaturanga? This move is for you! Start in Plank Pose with hands on dumbbells (if this hurts your wrists, just place the dumbbells next to your hands). Inhale in Plank Pose, exhale to row one dumbbell towards your armpit, keeping the arm close to the body. Inhale in the row, exhale to lower.

3. Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift builds strength in the back and hamstrings. Starting in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with weights in front of thighs, squeeze shoulder blades together and inhale, engaging Uddiyana Bandha. Exhale as you slowly lower the weights just below the knees, keeping a slight bend in the knees. Inhale to engage hamstrings and glutes, exhaling to return to Tadasana.


4. Utkatasana With Tricep Extension

Simply holding Utkatasana (Chair Pose) for a few breaths is challenging enough, but adding tricep extensions will take this asana to the next level – you’ll strengthen the triceps and fire up the core.
Start in Chair Pose, with elbows bent and dumbells at shoulders, and take an inhale. As you exhale, straighten your arms, extending them alongside the body. Keep the palms facing the body. Inhale. Exhaling, bend the elbows returning to start. Maintain chair pose for the entirety of the set.

5. Reverse Lunge With Shoulder Press

This set strengthens the legs, core, and shoulder joints. From Tadasana, there are two starting options for the dumbbells: Either hold them alongside the body, or raise one overhead, keeping the other next to the body.
If starting with the weights alongside your body, you will raise one dumbbell, by curling it and pressing it overhead as you step back to Reverse Lunge. Either way, make sure to step back with the same leg as the arm that is raised. For your pranayama here, you’ll inhale in Tadasana, exhale to reverse lunge, inhale in lunge, and exhale as you return to stand.

Add Strength Training to Your Yoga Routine and See the Results For Yourself!

This routine is a great place to start if you’re not sure where to begin to gain strength in your yoga practice. Depending on the intensity of your yoga practice, you may want to add strength training on non yoga days. If you are planning for more of a restorative practice, you could perform this routine on the same day. Just make sure it’s prior to your practice so you can allow your body to completely relax.
Remember to start slowly so that you stick with the routine and reap the rewards that the relationship between strength training and yoga creates!

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Katie Minahan

Katie Minahan is a 30 something who recently quit her job to pursue a passion for travel and wellness. In this exploration she decided to dig deeper into her yoga practice, embarking on a 200 level teacher training with hopes of teaching yoga on the road.

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