Skip the weight room and try this strength-building yoga sequence instead.
“There’s a myth out there that the practice of yoga is only good for stretching,” says Nick Potenzieri, an instructor at the cult hot yoga studio Y7. “There is also this myth that lifting weights is the only way to build strength. The truth is, it’s not what you do but how you do it. I have seen many gym enthusiasts who worked out day in and day out, but didn’t get any stronger. Conversely, I’ve seen many yoga practitioners not only grow but become more powerful than they ever thought they could, using the simplest yoga sequence.”
Potenzieri goes on to explain that a yoga asana (the pose you do in a yoga sequence) requires a balance of flexibility AND strength. “In yoga you are required to stay in the postures, giving you the chance to perform a static hold in the muscle group you’re looking to develop. Also we’re taught to breathe into these postures, which allows us to build concentration, prevent injury and build up the mental will to get strong.”
Naturally not all sequences are created equal so we asked Potenzieri to show us a yoga sequence that challenges our strength and stamina and is ultimately as effective – or more so – than a trip to the weight room.
Hold each of the below poses for at least 30 seconds. As you build up your strength (while releasing stress!) you can challenge yourself to stay in each pose longer.
Alignment: Start from downward facing dog pose and bring your body forward until your hands are directly under your shoulder joints. It will be more narrow than you think. Keep your feet about hip width apart. For a more challenging plank, keep the ankle bones touching. Stay on the ball of your foot (not on your toes) for stability.
Actions: Find your legs first. Contract your thighs to keep the legs as a firm base. Then start the upper body work by bringing your shoulders into a slight shrug or contraction, kissing the shoulder blades together – this will fire up your chest and arms to work and build some serious muscularity. Finally, pull your core tight so you can lengthen your spine from the tailbone to the top of your head.
Targets: Chest, triceps, trapezius, legs, and core.
Alignement: While standing, bring your feet together with the toes and heels touching. Extend your arms upwards to the point where your bicep muscles frame your ears and head. Bend your knees and zig zag your legs untill your hips press back and down in a deep squat
Actions: Press hard through the heels, putting all of your weight there. Stretch your toes thoroughly from the big toe to the pinky to free them up and activate the arches of the feet. Work those thighs and hips. Use your glutes to help firm up the hip joints. Contract the arms upward to lengthen the top of your rib cage away from the hips.
Targets: Quadriceps, glutes, shoulders, obliques, and serratus.
Alignment: Place one leg forward and one leg back. Bring the arch of the back foot in line with the front heel. Lunge the front leg forward enough so that the thigh is parallel to the floor and the knee is directly over the center of the foot. Stretch your arms parallel to the floor over you legs, in opposite directions. Extend your spine and rib cage up towards the sky, evenly.
Actions: Use the back leg to find your power and balance, pressing through the outer edge of the heel. Contract your triceps muscles so strongly that you could sit a person on each arm and still hold them up. Tie it all together by drawing back and contracting your entire abdominal wall.
Targets: Quadriceps, glutes, ankle and foot stability, and arms.
Alignment: Starting from plank, lower your forearms to the floor. Make extra sure your elbows are under the shoulders. Interlace your fingers into a tight unbreakable grip. Lift both pinky fingers off the floor to allow your forearms to press evenly into the floor. Walk your feet towards your elbows to lift your hips up as high as possible or over your head.
Actions: Push so hard down into the floor with your forearms that it pulls your shoulders up and away from your ears, lengthening your neck. Again contract the thighs and pull your core in extra tight, pushing your pelvis upwards.
Targets: Shoulders, chest, and lower abdominals.
Alignment: Starting from downward dog, bend your knees in preparation then jump up, straightening your legs, contracting your arms, core and thighs. Your shoulders can go slightly past the wrists as you press hard into the floor from the shoulders to the hands.
*You can also perform this pose by walking you legs up a wall until the thighs are parallel to the floor.
Actions: The goal here is to hold this position in mid-air, which requires tremendous arm force and balance, not to mention the deep abdominal contraction required to hold you up. This pose will take repetition to help build endurance and the more you do it, the better it will get.
Targets: Core, shoulders, chest, and triceps.
Want more yoga workouts? Read on: