Male or female, young or old, practising yoga can benefit everyone. And when it comes to strengthening and toning, it can offer a full-body work-out for your muscles and diaphragm. Could it give you an edge in competitive sport? Quite possibly. Many professional athletes have added yoga to their training regimen. We say, don’t knock it till you try it!
Strength yoga poses to increase performance can be physically intense, so please follow these points to prevent injury.
- Remember to keep breathing during each pose.
- Stop if the pose causes pain beyond basic muscle fatigue.
- Use a yoga block or strap, or even a nearby wall, if you would like extra stability – it’s better that you have the balance to do the pose correctly.
- Use a non-slip yoga mat, if possible, to help your body remain stable during the poses and to provide cushioning.
- Give yourself about 36 hours after performing these poses before competing so that your muscles and your nervous system have time to recover.
- Start by holding the poses for the length of time specified, working your way up to a longer period as your muscles strengthen!
- It’s advisable to see your GP before practising yoga, especially if you have high blood pressure or a previous sports injury.
Here are eight strength yoga poses to try in no particular order. You can repeat each one as many times as you feel comfortable to do so.
Chair pose (Utkatasana)
HOW: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Inhale and raise your arms straight above your head. Exhale and bend your knees until your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible. Firm your shoulders and tuck in your tailbone. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
GOOD FOR: Strengthening ankles, thighs, calves and spine.
Stretching shoulders and chest. Stimulating abdominal organs, diaphragm and heart.
Extended Side Angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
HOW: Exhale and stand with your feet about one metre apart. Reach arms straight out to each side, palms down. Turn your left foot 90 degrees, and your right foot slightly (about 60 degrees). Align heels, then lunge to the left until the knee is directly over the ankle, moving your left arm down in front of your ankle (you can hold your ankle if you desire), and extending your right arm over your head. Roll the left hip slightly forward, keeping your torso over your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat on other side.
GOOD FOR: Strengthening and stretching legs and ankles. Stretching groin, spine, torso and shoulders. Stimulating abdominal organs. Increasing stamina.
Resolved Triangle pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana)
HOW: Exhale and stand with feet about one metre apart. Reach arms straight out to the sides, palms down. Turn your right foot 90 degrees, and your left foot slightly (about 60 degrees). Align heels and turn your right thigh so the knee lines up with the ankle. Exhale and turn your torso (plus hips) to the right, pushing your left heel down. On the next exhale, reach your left hand down to the outside of the right foot (0r as far as you can). Reach your right hand towards the ceiling and look at your thumb. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat on other side.
GOOD FOR: Strengthening and stretching the legs. Stretching hips and spine. Stimulating abdominal organs. Improving breathing and balance.
Plank pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
HOW: Lying face down on your mat, inhale and draw up your torso and legs until your arms are straight and your shoulders are directly over your wrists. Ensure your entire body is as ‘straight as a plank’ from head to heel and that your eyes are looking downward. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
GOOD FOR: Strengthening core, arms, wrists, spine and thighs. Toning abs.
Locust pose (Salabhasana)
HOW: Lie on your stomach, then turn your big toes towards each other to rotate your thighs inward and firm your buttocks. Exhale, lifting your head, upper torso and arms from the floor. Push out strongly through your legs, while reaching out your arms and stretching through your fingertips. Keep your head lifted and the back of your neck long. Keep breathing! Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, exhale and release.
GOOD FOR: Strengthening the spine, buttocks and backs of arms and legs. Stretching shoulders, chest, abdomen and thighs. Stimulating abdominal organs. Relieving stress.
Boat pose (Paripurna Navasana)
HOW: Sit on the floor with your legs out in front and hands just behind your hips, fingers forward. Lean slightly backwards, stretching through your sternum and keeping your back straight. Exhale and bend your knees until your thighs are about 45 degrees off the floor, then lift your feet, straightening your legs, if possible. Point your toes towards the ceiling and stretch out your arms alongside your calves, palms inwards. Keep the perfect V-shape and keep breathing! Hold for 10-20 seconds, extending to one minute as you improve.
GOOD FOR: Strengthening the abdomen, hip flexors and spine. Relieving stress. Improving digestion.
Half Moon pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
HOW: With your right hand on your right hip, bend your left leg, place your left hand on the floor and slide out your right leg. Exhale and straighten your left leg (keeping the knee slightly bent). Simultaneously, lift the right leg parallel (or just above) to the floor, pushing out through the heel. Now, rotate your torso to the right and, if you’re confident, reach out your left arm towards the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat on other side.
GOOD FOR: Strengthening the abdomen, ankles, thighs, buttocks and spine. Stretching the groin, hamstrings and calves, shoulders, chest and spine. Improving coordination and balance. Relieving stress.
Eagle pose (Garudasana)
HOW: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. Reach your arms out forward and parallel to the floor, then move your left arm under your right and bend your elbows straight up until the backs of your hands are touching each other. Twist your hands around until the palms are facing, if possible. Lift your left foot and, balancing on your right, cross your left thigh over your right, hooking your left foot around your right calf, if possible. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat on other side.
GOOD FOR: Strengthening and stretching the ankles and calves. Stretching thighs, hips, shoulders and upper back. Improving concentration and balance.
Do you practise yoga moves to increase your muscle tone and strength? If so, let us know what sport you do, and any other poses you perform, in the comments section below.