Yoga Flow For Strength: Turn Up Your Power
We often look to yoga for flexibility but not for the strength it can offer us as well. The practice of yoga benefits us in many ways - helping us build balance, flexibility and strength - but often the perception remains in the ‘bendy’ offering alone.
Strength-focused yoga workouts can help you gain and maintain the stability you need in your joints and body to get through the day with less pain and can help reduce the risk of misalignment that can be painful and hard to fix. We know that the glamorous yoga shots we see on Instagram seem to be all about being extra flexible, yet what we don’t often see is how the poses help people dealing with joint instability such as former dancers and gymnasts.
Today’s yoga flow for strength will help you engage the muscles you need to create deeper core strength and joint stability.
Think of it as yoga strength training because it will help you build the internal muscles you need to do other activities safely with both strength and flexibility. If you’ve been to a power yoga class you’ll see that yogis are really quite strong and the combination of yin and yang poses helps bring balance in the body between these two necessary states.
Before You Start
First, take a moment to set your intention to be fully present as you practice.
Instead of just doing the movements, really pay attention to your body as you do them. Take a moment to sit in a cross-legged position and just breathe to let go of your thoughts about other things, the planning, and any judgments.
Let it all go to give yourself the opportunity to get into your body and out of your mind. This little part is going to make a huge difference in the mental benefit you’ll get from your practice. Being able to stop the monkey mind and become present is one of the best parts of yoga!
Now, before you start thinking about moving your body, decide to move slowly from pose to pose in order to maintain a calmness and a strength that you are practicing that is more subtle than sheer muscles. It is about being calm as you go from one thing to the next, that strength of mind is something you cultivate on your mat.
Focus on your ujjayi breathing by slightly constricting the back of your throat so your breath makes a sound. This breath is only done through the nose. This allows you to slow your breathing and breathe deeper, helping your body get more muscle-building oxygen and prana, your life force energy. Maintain this slow deep breathing throughout your practice and you’ll feel like a new person by the end, even building muscles faster!
Yoga Flow For Strength
Get your mind focused - it’s time to begin!
Sit on your heels and bring your knees wider than your hips. Walk your hands forward, placing your forehead on the mat with your arms reaching straight forward. Feel the stretch in your spine and the release in your hips. Feel your body connected to the ground.
Take five slow deep breaths and then walk your hands back bringing yourself up to hands and knees.
Downward Facing Dog
With your fingers spread, tuck your toes, and lift your hips bringing your legs as close to straight as you can. Your body will make a triangle with the floor as you press your chest towards your legs. Sink your heels towards the ground as you take five slow and deep breaths.
Push your arms into the shoulder joints to stabilize these joints. Pull your front ribs together and engage the thighs to lift the knee caps. Feel the stability you can create in your body in this pose.
From downward-facing dog, keeping your fingers engaged to displace weight from your wrists, engage your right leg and lift it, keeping it straight until it is in one line with your back and arms. Take five slow deep breaths here feeling the muscles in your arms, shoulders, stomach, and legs engaged holding you like a statue.
Slowly lower your leg and repeat the same thing on the other side. Be sure to keep your hips square even if it means your leg doesn’t reach as high.
High Crescent Lunge
Bring your left leg through, between your hands and lift your chest upright raising your arms above your head. Your back heel points up as you balance on your back toes. Make sure your front knee doesn’t pass your front ankle. Knit your front ribs in and pull your lower belly in. Keep the hips square by pulling the right hip forward and left hip back.
Pull the inner thighs together like scissors as you take five slow and deep breaths. Keep the palms facing each other and arms in line with the ears. After five breaths, bring your hands down to frame the front foot and step the left leg back and right leg up to repeat the lunge on the right side. Focus on engaging the muscles and creating stability in the knees, hips, shoulders, and core.
Bring both hands down to frame your front foot and step the right leg back bringing your feet together and creating a flat plank with your body. Line up the back heels of the hands with the front of the shoulders. Engage the arms, shoulder girdle, stomach, glutes, and legs.
Feel your ankles and feet engaged as you take five slow, deep rounds of breath, keeping your neck in line with your spine and fingers engaged.
Want to learn even more yoga poses? Visit our Daily Yoga Pose page!
Roll to the right side so you’re balanced on the right hand and side of your right foot. Lift the left arm up so it’s in line with the right arm and your torso faces left. Keep the legs together and engaged as you take five slow deep breaths. To protect the shoulder, make sure the palm of the hand is directly under the shoulder. Pull your ribs and lower belly in and keep your shoulder girdle strong.
Check that your glutes are engaged. Slowly spin back to high plank and repeat the same thing on the other side.
Bend your knees and walk your feet forward, coming to a seated position with your legs out in front of you together. Sit tall and bend your knees grabbing the backs of them as you lean back keeping the chest up.
Once the feet lift off the ground, straighten the legs and bring your arms to the sides as you take five deep rounds of breath. Keep the spine long and don’t let it curve by lifting through the chest. Then grab the backs of the knees, slowly bringing the feet back to the ground.
Rock n’ Roll
Hug your knees into your chest and rock along the length of your spine five times to massage the back and stimulate the nerves taking one full breath each time you roll back and forward. This helps align the spine and energize you. End on your feet with them hip distance apart for the next pose.
Standing Forward Fold
Keep your head down but lift your hips, bringing your legs as close to straight as possible. Let the weight of your head help lengthen the spine and do not lift your head or engage your neck muscles. Engage the thighs to lift the kneecaps and spread your toes. Pull your lower belly in and wrap your hands around your calves or ankles folding yourself in half for five slow breaths.
Very slowly, so that you don’t get light headed, bend your knees and lift your chest with your arms straight in line with your ears. Come into a position as if you were going to sit in a low chair and keep your chest up. Pull the front ribs in, knees towards each other, lower belly in, and point the tailbone down.
Take five slow deep breaths as you keep the toes engaged and continue to correct the posture.
Come to standing and keep your feet hip-distance apart. Point your tailbone down and keep your arms at your sides with palms facing forward. Knit your front ribs in and pull your lower belly in. Micro-bend the knees instead of locking them out.
Activate the toes and bring your shoulder blades down your back as you pull your fingers toward the floor. Take five deep rounds of breath, keeping all the engagements as you grow taller through the top of your head and then relax.
Step your feet about three feet apart with toes facing slightly out. Bend your knees bringing your hips in line with your knees. Place your palms together in front of your heart and bring your shoulder blades down your back. Pull the lower belly in and point the tailbone down as you take five rounds of breath and then come back to standing with your feet together.
Slowly transition to lay on your back and bend your knees with the bottoms of your feet on the ground. Place your arms along your sides with palms facing down. Lift your hips and pull your knees towards each other. Interlace hands underneath you by scooting your shoulder blades together.
Take five rounds of breath as you touch your chest to your chin and avoid turning the head at all to protect the cervical spine. Then unlace your hands and slowly lower your spine back to the ground.
Still laying on the ground with your knees bent and feet on the floor, place your palms flat next to your ears so your fingertips point towards your shoulders. Keep your feet hip-distance apart and then press into your hands and knees lifting your body and raising yourself up. The goal is to get your arms and legs as straight as possible without letting your elbows and knees flay out.
Take five slow deep breaths or maybe start with three as you build up the strength and flexibility to hold it longer. Slowly lower your body back to the ground and gently hug your knees to your chest to help bring the spine back to neutral.
Laying on your back, hug your right knee into your right armpit and squeeze it. Then bring your right knee across your body so you roll onto your left hip. Rest your right knee on the ground and look to the right twisting your torso. Let your arms make a T-shape out from your body and take five deep breaths before rolling back onto your back and squeezing your knee in one more time. Straighten your right leg and repeat the same thing with the left leg.
Let your body be supported by the ground and release all tension in your muscles. Allow your ankles to fall out and lay with your palms face up and your arms slightly away from your body. Relax your face and allow your breath to just happen naturally as you relax for seven minutes and let your nervous system reach a state of deep restoration.
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Reflect: Strength is Not Just About Muscles
You may be thinking that strength training is something you do with weights in the gym, but we invite you to expand the concept of strength to include energetic strength that brings this quality to not just your body but also to your mind and spirit.
The daily practice of moving between poses mindfully without rushing and being present to the minutia of each pose, helps us train our mind to be strong by focusing on the present and not darting all over our memory to different places and times. It also helps our spirit become strong because of the emphasis on the breath.
The energy in our body is strengthened by breathing deeply and this helps to clear negative energy, builds our internal energetic strength in our nerves, and charges up our aura and chakras so we have more creativity, computing power, and positive energy to handle stress.
Strength is about balance, consistency, and yes - power. You can use the ancient practice of yoga to have the strength to face anything in life. Use this practice to build strength and then when you need it, you’ll have it in all three levels of mind, body, and spirit. Because let’s face it, sometimes we need to help rake a yard with our body or move our friend’s couch with our muscles, but oftentimes we need the internal strength to be able to handle uncertainty, change, or stress as well.
When you get a good dose of mindfulness and breathing in addition to the physical movement, you will be creating a foundation for your life that will carry through the tough times with spiritual, mental, and physical grit.
Related Article: Yoga Flow To Tap Into Personal Power: Core & Breath