Summer is here and that means ice cream, gorgeous sunsets, and…bathing suit weather. Some of us are ready to show off our bikini-ready bodies, while others downright dread bathing suit season and just opt for the one-piece with the cover-up instead. What I notice is that the older I get, the harder it is to shape my midsection. Due to metabolism slowing down as we age, it takes extra attention on my part to eat healthily, and work out my body as a whole.
Many of us desire a strong, toned body. Contracting our muscles over and over again can cause the DOM’s (delayed onset muscle soreness) and pain if we don’t train mindfully. Beginners, as well as people who have never practiced, often think of yoga as a way to stretch and relax. This is partially true, of course, depending on the type of class and practice you are taking; however, a number of poses in Vinyasa classes require you to lift your own body weight. Think: Crow, arm balances and Plank poses. Yoga is the ultimate release and realignment tool because it not only builds strength but also sculpts a toned, sleek physique.
To build leg muscle:
Focus on poses that require standing for a longer amount of time. The Warrior poses (Virabhadrasanas in sanskrit) all strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps, while also working on the rotation of the thighs, which is a serious challenge. Goddess pose (squats) build strength in the glutes & knee joint. Chair pose works your core, hip flexors, ankles, and calves (try chair up against a wall – -prepare for a super burn in the quad!). Tree pose stretches your thighs, while also strengthening your ankles.
To build core strength:
There are plenty of yoga poses that work your abdominal muscles. Plank pose and core planks are some of the best exercises for your core, especially as you work to hold it longer and longer. One of the most important tips to building strength in your core center is keeping the core engaged through the entire practice. Think of your 2 hip points like headlights shining forward. Now, it’s as if you were trying to draw those 2 hips points together to allow the headlights to cross at the navel. The abdominals draw toward one another and remain engaged throughout practice. We will continue to remind you to find a strong center as we often get lost with the other technicalities of the pose. Boat pose (Navasana in sanskrit) and low boat pose (Ardha Navasana) are also classic core yoga poses. Try mixing it up with some boat variations like twisting side to side or rocking your legs lower and higher, straightening your legs for a teaser. Power chair, leg raises, bicycle crunches and Locust are also great core poses. There’s seriously SO many core exercises to utilize in a yoga practice that it would be impossible to list them all.
To build arm strength:
When you’re ready to train your arms, try these poses. Side Plank (Vashistasana in sanskrit) requires you to support your body weight with only one arm, which works your shoulders and wrists. Crow pose is the one many people consider scary or impossible. With practice (and guidance) you’ll be able to master this fun asana. In fact, it is usually the first arm balance that we learn as beginners. The first time you reach Crow successfully, it’s like-whoa. — I can’t believe I didn’t face plant!
Each of these poses may feel like it’s targeting a specific part of your body. However, they actually require the use of multiple muscles at the same time. For example, side plank may make your arms quiver, but your obliques will hurt the next day too. Compound movements filtered into our Yoga Fever classes make building strength a more efficient reality because we encourage alignment and muscular engagement. It’s truly key to building strength and flexibility quickly. If you’re just moving your body from pose to pose without being cued how to engage and where, you are missing the Navasana (boat)!
As you can see, yoga is a great practice for building a lean, toned body. And all of these benefits are yours for the taking. But, don’t forget that like any exercise regimen, it takes work and commitment. Practicing yoga once or twice a week is just not going to cut it. Sadly, you’ll lose the physical advantage you gained and will take a step back if you miss too many days.