Strength-Train With Yoga
By Polly Turner
Yoga is more than a stretching regimen. It can help you build stronger muscles, as well as help you relax and focus.
Many people think yoga is essentially a stretching regimen. If you happen to be seeking stronger muscles, yoga can provide that, as well. Yoga also helps people relax and focus, and if done gently can promote improved joint motion.
Examples of strengthening yoga postures include the following:
The downward facing dog posture, which strengthens arms and legs
The half-moon pose, which strengthens legs and ankles
The plank pose, which strengthens arms, wrists and back
The locust pose, which strengthens the back of the torso, legs and arms
How yoga strengthens
How does yoga strengthen muscles? Just assuming and holding a yoga posture can have that effect. Additionally, when starting a stretch, practitioners may be instructed to use a powerful focus of attention to contract the muscle that opposes the ones being stretched.
Contracting the muscle signals its opposing muscles to let go, to stretch without resistance. Every muscle has opposing muscles. When you contract the biceps while stretching, the triceps have to let go. When you contract the triceps, the biceps release.
Most yoga traditions give ample rest breaks between poses. But power yoga—in many cases, simply another name for Ashtanga yoga—particularly emphasizes both strength and flexibility through a challenging nonstop series of postures that include flowing connective movements between each posture.
Power yoga can be a real workout. Many people who attend power yoga classes are weight lifters, runners, bicyclists, football players, and other athletes who come for injury prevention or at times as part of a comprehensive injury rehabilitation program. When does someone start power yoga? If you are new to yoga, begin with less intense forms so you can develop flexibility and skills in a less intense class.
Strength training with yoga helps you get fit for life. It helps you deal with stress, allows you to pick up your child, to control your dog, to carry groceries, to work in your garden. It also can help to prevent or ease back pain and muscle or joint injury, and give you self-reliance and self-esteem.
Yet, one of the most important benefits of any yoga routine isn't physical—it's the quieting of the mind.
The bottom line is learning to pay attention. You fine-tune your attention, beginning with the body and then moving to the mind. As you get deeper into your practice over the years, you start to see the mental and spiritual benefits.
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