Strength training, usually in the form of lifting weights or Cross Fit, has been gaining popularity. Women especially are appreciating a more toned, muscled and strong body.
Increasing bodily strength is important to prevent osteoporosis and the natural loss of muscles as we age. Strong muscles help keep joints healthy and prevent injuries.
While the benefits of strength training are clear, some people question whether practicing yoga counts toward increasing strength and muscles. This may be especially the case for athletic males, who view yoga as a “girlie” activity. But can yoga really build strength and muscles?
It depends on the type of yoga you practice. Certain types of yoga are deliberately gentle. Restorative Yoga falls into that category. This doesn’t make them any less effective; it merely means more people, especially older ones, can enjoy yoga’s benefits. As we’ve discussed, yoga is for everyone.
However, there are yoga exercises that are demanding and challenging and would be difficult for even a strong male. Poses such as Planks and Warrior require support of the entire body and will certainly develop muscles and strength. These poses strengthen the entire body, not just specific muscles that would get a workout during weightlifting. The poses can be done with small hand weights for maximum results. Thus, yoga can be better at building strength than some other forms of exercises.
Ashtanga and Vinyasas Yoga can increase strength through greater repetition of poses, especially in the upper body region and legs. In addition, holding poses for a longer period of time, such as up to two minutes per pose, is a terrific muscle enhancer. Just keep in mind it takes time to build that type of stamina.
But building muscles is an individual goal. How much muscle is enough? For maximum muscle-building, weights can certainly help bring about quicker results. Many people use both yoga and weightlifting for some dramatic bulking up.
Unlike weight training, yoga isn’t specifically geared toward the physique. It is much more than exercise.
With weightlifting, you can build muscles indefinitely by simply adding additional weights. If you wish, you can build isolated muscles such as your thighs into the size of a tree trunk. With yoga, you build strength in a more balanced way as all muscles, big and small, are built up. The emphasis is on strength rather than bulk. Your body becomes more resilient and allows you to use that strength in all physical activities, such as lifting, twisting, and bending. Instead of a more muscular person, you become a stronger individual.
You can incorporate other exercises into your yoga program. But yoga itself, when practiced regularly, will continue to improve your body and add strength and flexibility.
Yoga stretches are widely known for improving flexibility. Flexibility and balance become especially important as we age and become vulnerable to injuries. Many people believe that you need to be flexible before starting yoga practice, but the opposite is true. You can begin yoga in any physical condition and keep improving your flexibility.
There are three specific areas of the body that are frequently tight: the hips, shoulders, and the hamstrings. We spend a lot of our time inactive and sitting, and these muscles can become quite inflexible through non-use.
Daily yoga stretches will increase your flexibility tremendously as you provide these muscle groups with a real workout. As always, don’t stretch your muscles to the point of pain. Stretch to the limit of your own comfort, and you will soon see the results.
Now, let’s discuss another muscle that can be inflexible, namely the brain. Yes, the brain is indeed a muscle. If you have rigid attitudes, such as that things should be done only one way, you are limiting your mental power. Perhaps your mind is frequently made up about certain issues, and you see no reason to explore them further. The purpose of yoga is to unleash your mental powers. It involves change in all areas of your life. Yoga is a huge four-letter word.
The combination of yoga and meditation open up the mind to new ideas and ways of doing things. It encourages curiosity. Many people hold on to old, traditional ideas because of fear. Yoga is meant to alleviate that fear and open up new, life-enhancing possibilities.
When it comes to yoga, you will soon enjoy a more flexible body, as well as a mind that becomes open, flexible, and curious.