Yoga is great for improving mobility and flexibility but can it actually build body strength? If you reading this and do not practise yoga at all then I can understand your misgivings. However, from my experience as a student and teacher of yoga, it has been suprisingly good for building strength.
I am not saying that you should throw your kettlebell or weights in the bin – not by a long shot. I love to do weights as well (and a good training regime should involve a variety of activities in my opinion). What I am saying is don’t ignore yoga as a way of building effective strength.
This blog post will look at 4 ways in which yoga can build body strength. If you are a reader who hates doing weights at the gym, then this might be your answer to help you build a strong and functionally fit body.
Let’s get into the 4 ways I feel that yoga can build body strength.
Yoga Can Body Strength Because it Can Help Build Muscle
At the end of the day, you cannot deny that yoga is a body weight movement discipline. As Rodney Yee (a well known celebrity yoga instructor for Gaim), says “You’re putting your body in positions and orientations that you ultimately have to support with your muscles. So, you are lifting weights.” So, yoga can increase muscle tone, definition and even muscle size.
Before we get too excited though a little word of caution. Like any bodyweight training you need to make a little more effort for it to work. The advantage of lifting weights is that it is easier to improve – you simply up your weight.
Your body weight in comparison is not going to change much. Therefore, you need a bit more imagination and creativity to get good results. This is not impossible; it just takes a little more thought and planning. All in all, you can get great results and the good thing about body weight training is that, in my view it is a much more holistic way of training your body.
Finally most body weight movements target more than one muscle (easily) and build mobility and flexibility at the same time. Weight training, in comparison is limited in this respect and usually isolates one muscle group.
Yoga Improves Functional Strength and Agility.
Yoga is great for building functional strength. Functional strength is what enables you to do the all the activities that you enjoy in life with ease (as well as practical things like getting up off the couch or floor or picking heavy stuff safely off the floor).
Yoga also moves your body in all the different planes of movement. Planes of movement, I hear you ask? In the fitness world, this simply means moving your body in different directions (forwards, backwards, side to side and rotational). This is so important in building functional strength and agility.
Our daily lives and indeed many exercise modalities (think running and walking) only get the body moving in one direction (i.e. in forward and backwards). A well rounded yoga practice will move your body in all directions. This is essential if you want to build a body which will not succumb to injuries or aches and pains.
Yoga Can Build Body Strength Because it Relies on the Eccentric Contraction of Muscles
A little bit more exercise lingo – sorry but you will be glad I mentioned it. An eccentric contraction is where the muscle is in its lengthened state whilst it is contracting at the same time.
To give you an example take a simple bicep curl. We tend to focus on the concentric contraction, where the muscle gets smaller as it contracts (the lifting stage of the move -performing the curl). The eccentric contraction happens when we lower the weight (so the arms are straightening) in readiness for the next repetition. Let’s face it, little attention is paid to this part of the movement.
Contracting a muscle eccentrically helps to give the a muscle a sleek and elongated look. On top of that it improves the health of the muscle by increasing the flexibility in the muscle at its related joint.
Yoga relies on the eccentric contraction. When we practice a pose some muscles will be in concentric contraction, and some will be in eccentric contraction. This is why yoga is so good for building mobility and flexibility.
This is how yogis can hold themselves up in handstands and arm balances because not only have we developed the strength, but we also have the space and flexibility to stack our joints and bones in certain positions because are muscles are long enough and strong enough to enable us to do so.
The complete opposite happens when you focus on just building bulky muscle strength. Next time you are in the gym have a look at your fellow weightlifters. Notice how much movement they actually have in their bodies. I can pretty much guarantee that most will have very limited movement and their postures will be very closed in because their muscles are more constricted and less flexible.
Yoga Builds Muscle Endurance
If you are a yoga fan you will understand what I mean by how challenging it can be to hold a pose for 5-10 breaths. Take Warrior II for example (shown in the pic above). This pose works the whole of the leg. Holding it for a long period of time helps to build muscle endurance. Muscle endurance is just a term which means that the muscle can work for a long period of time without fatigue. Pretty useful huh? Here are some other cool reasons for developing good muscular endurance.
- It will increase your ability to do everyday activities (lifting, pulling doors open, opening jars)
- Reduces the risk of injury.
- Helps you to keep a healthy body weight.
So, as you can see, yoga can build body strength. It can not only help you build muscle but also endurance, mobility and flexibility. This is so important as we get older as it helps us to keep injuries at bay. It is well known that as we get older it can longer to recover and heal from an injury.
I also want to add here that as we age our ability to build and maintain muscle decreases. When this happens, our bones are more at risk as well (this is particularly prevalent to us ladies). It is therefore important that we maintain our muscle mass as much as possible. Yoga is great way of doing this – protecting our bones as well as our functional fitness and mobility for life.
Wanna see how yoga works to help develop muscles strength? Why not try my yoga flow below: