There is a common misconception that practicing yoga is only useful for stretching and gaining flexibility. This could not be further from the truth. While yoga absolutely helps with flexibility, it can also be an incredibly challenging workout! Yoga helps strengthen your muscles through long holds and low impact/low momentum movements that tone everything from your head, neck and shoulders down to the smallest muscles in your ankles and feet!
These 5 asanas (poses) are wonderful for strengthening everything in your body including your abs, arms, legs, back, and butt – no equipment needed!
- Chaturanga (Arms and core)
Start in a full plank position with your arms & legs shoulder length apart. Inhale and shift your body forward about 2 inches so your shoulders are a little in front of your wrists, and you are completely forward on your toes. Exhale, and lower your body half way down to your mat. Bend your arms so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, and your forearms are perpendicular to the mat. Once here, inhale to an upward facing dog. Flip your toes so the tops of your feet are pressed into the mat, straighten your arms and lift your chest (note: your pelvis and the tops of your thighs never touch the mat. Exhale to a downward facing dog by flipping your toes back underneath you and lifting your hips high!
- Knee to Tricep (Core, glutes, hips, and legs)
Start in a downward facing do with your hips high in an inverted “V” shape. Inhale to 3-legged dog and lift your right leg high. Dial all 5 toes to face the mat, square your hips down. Exhale, bend your right leg and bring your right knee to touch your right tricep just above your elbow. Squeeze your bellybutton to your spine and hold for 10 seconds (Option to pulse). Inhale and lift your right leg back up to a 3-legged dog, and then bring your knee to touch your left tricep. Repeat the same movements on the other leg.
- Alternating Plank Bird Dog (Core, arms and legs)
Start in a static plank position with your arms & legs shoulder length apart. Push your hands into the mat and dome out your upper back. Inhale and lift your right arm in front of you about shoulder height and your left leg out until it is parallel to the floor – hold for 10 seconds squeezing *everything*. Return to full plank and repeat on the other side.
- Dolphin Pose to forearm stand (Shoulders and core)
Meet in a downward dog with your hips lifted and your hands on the mat. Slowly lower onto your forearms while keeping your lower body in a down dog posture. This is a huge shoulder and core strengthener – you can stay here for 30 seconds to open & strengthen your shoulders. If you feel stable here, you can practice kicking up into a forearm stand. I would recommend using a block (shown below) or a wall for stability if you’re just beginning your inversion practice!
- Wheel Pose (Shoulders, arms, glutes, and back)
Come down to your back with your feet flat on the mat about hips width distance apart. Keep your hands by your side and walk your feet in so that your fingers can just touch your heels. Keep your feet static and bring your hands to either side of your ears, fingers facing your body. With control, push your hands and feet into the mat and lift your body. Squeeze your glutes at the top to protect your back and gaze behind you rather than to the floor.
These are several of my favorite postures that I use to help strengthen my entire body! If you can’t get into a full posture right away, keep practicing! It’s a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect! What are your favorite postures?
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