Yoga for Strength and Balance : Enhancing Physical Fitness
Many adults, especially as they get older struggle with balance. Others may find themselves needing some extra help with strengthening after an illness or to improve overall fitness. Can yoga help with this?
Happily, yoga is an excellent way to gently strengthen muscles and to improve your coordination. The asanas and deep breathing can be a great help in toning back, arm, and abdominal muscles, while balance is a key part of many yoga poses.
Which asanas are ideal for tackling these fitness and wellness goals? Dive in with us, and we’ll uncover the benefits of yoga for strength and balance.
How Does Yoga Build Muscle Strength?
Yoga is one of the most effective forms of isometric exercise in existence. This is a form of exercise that focuses on holding poses for gentle muscle gains as opposed to using repetitive motions.
Yoga challenges the abdomen, legs, arms, and chest into new positions, relying on key muscle groups to hold these poses and strengthening the muscles involved. The strength that you’ll gain will be subtle, but will play a very real role in helping your core, limbs, and torso gradually gain power and endurance.
How Does Yoga Impact Balance?
This strength can be key to improving balance, as well. So the more asanas your body masters, the stronger you’ll be and the better at balancing you’ll become, as well. This is especially beneficial for those at risk of falling, as the exercises are lenient and don’t require any heavy lifting.
Poor balance can often be linked back to weakened muscles, so both helpful effects really compliment one another. The gentle toning effects of yoga can help improve coordination, allow you to walk with greater safety, and keep your spine in good health, further improving mobility.
Every asana requires some balance, too. The more of these poses you master, the greater your flexibility, muscle control, and mastery over your own body. All of these factors are key to improving stability.
So which asanas should you try for strength and balance? Here are our top picks.
Anjaneyasana or Crescent Lunge Pose
The Anjaneyasana Asana is a key part of the Sun Salutation Cycle, and can improve both leg strength and balance. It’s especially good for spinal health and better stability.
Start with both feet on the mat, bend both legs at the knee, and drop your left knee to the mat, keeping your right knee bent. Raise your arms above your head and you breathe in and gently flex your spine backyards, keeping your left leg from the knee down in contact with the mat.
Hold this pose and exhale as you lower the arms and relax the back. Bring your body back into a standing position, and reverse the legs used to complete the pose. This pose is one of our favorites for balance, spinal flexibility, and improved basic mobility. Your legs, hips, and lower back can also enjoy healthier ranges of motion with this simple asana.
Phalakasana or Plank Pose
This is our favorite asana for core and arm strength. Looking a bit like a push-up frozen in time, this asana is simple to remember but highly effective at improving strength. Your balance gets a boost, too.
Place both hands and feet on the mat, and walk your feet backwards carefully. Straighten your back as you push up with your arms, keeping them straight, and positioned directly under your shoulders. Your arms should lift your upper body up at a diagonal from your feet.
Keep the spine, neck, and hips aligned. Breathe in and out for four full breath cycles, and release the pose by bending the knees to ease you into Child’s Pose.
Vrikshasana or Tree Pose
Vrikshasana is possibly the asana that most people visualize when they think of yoga. It’s a bit tricky, but can greatly improve balance as well as leg strength and posture.
Standing on your mat with your back fully erect. Lift your right leg by flexing the knee and balance the sole of your right foot on your left thigh. Bring your hands in front of your chest, joined at the palms, in a “Namaste'' position and raise them together above the head.
Breathe in and out deeply for three to four breath cycles, then lower the arms and straighten your leg to ease out of the asana.
If you’re unable to balance on one leg at all, it’s ok to skip this asana. But if capable, this is a wonderful pose for posture, spinal alignment, and for gaining more mastery over the lower body.
Utkatasana or Chair Pose
Utkatasana is excellent for building abdominal and leg strength, as well as improving balance. It’s a very simple asana that works the glutes, hamstrings, and core.
Inhale from a standing position. Stand with your knees about hip width apart and slightly bent. Now Exhale as you move your hips backwards slightly while your chest moves forward. Inhale as you raise your arms up. Keep your hands apart; the goal is to appear as though you’re trying to make yourself look bigger.
Your body should come into a half-sitting position. Straighten the knees and lower the arms to come back into a resting standing position.
This asana is great for helping one to balance better, without going on one leg. Your leg muscles experience some testion, too, and your abdominal muscles get a light workout.
This is a great asana for both strength and balance, and can help improve lower body strength especially.
Yoga gently works the muscles and spine, helping to improve strength and balance. Far less intense than a traditional workout, yoga is ideal for older folks needing some extra stability and for strengthening weak muscles. It also has wonderfully preventative qualities, helping keep you stronger and more nimble before problems arise. Of course that doesn't mean traditional work out clothes are wrong for the job, take for instance our classic mesh shorts.
The Crescent Lunge Pose, Plank Pose, Tree Pose, and Chair Pose are all excellent for gradual strengthening and improved balance. The core, arms, and legs especially get a workout, and your body is challenged to flex differently and stay aligned.
If you’re worried about your coordination or core strength, try these easy-to-learn asanas. They’re gentle on the body, and can help regain or maintain your independence, health, and mobility for years to come.
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