Going from strength to strength in yoga
Our teachers often get asked how to build strength in yoga with an emphasis on the physical practice but a well rounded yoga practice extends way beyond the mat. To be strong in yoga means to be strong in life. These useful tips from the My Method teaching team will help you go from strength to strength in your yoga practice and in life.
Pay attention to your breath.
This is the underpinning of the whole practice and what differentiates yoga from any other physical practice. Learning to synchronise the breath with movement helps us transition into asanas with more ease. Focusing on the breath whilst in the asana allows us to hold the postures for longer, thus building strength, stamina and co-ordination. We also become more aware of the mind body connection as the mind becomes quieter and more aware of subtle sensations.
Cultivate inner strength with meditation practice
Scientifically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and the negative habits associated with such, meditation helps us reshape the brains neural pathways to a more positive state of mind, helping us to form better habits (such as yoga). Meditation also increases concentration which helps our focus and stamina during practice.
Practice with strong awareness of alignment
Strong alignment is key to keeping the joints safe and preventing injury.
Correct alignment within the posture will recruit all of the muscles efficiently in a co-ordinated manner helping build body strength without putting too much pressure on a particular muscle or joint. Keeping the joints aligned will help reduce premature wear and tear of the joints over time. Treat yourself to some bricks, straps and blocks. They are your best friends.
Strengthen the whole body with plank pose
Plank Pose works the abdominal muscles strongly also strengthening the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest, legs, and back. The functionality of this pose combined with the isometric hold helps strengthen and build lean muscle to increase overall muscle definition on the body. Hold for 30 seconds (beginner) up to 60 – 90 seconds for those with strong wrists and stamina.
Practice Utkatasana (chair pose) with yoga bricks
Bearing some similarity to a squat (every personal trainers go to exercise), chair pose builds strength in the whole of the body. Hug one brick between the thighs to activate the adductors and align the hips, and one between the palms of the hands to strengthen the whole of the arms. Chair pose strengthens the spine, heart, diaphragm and abdominal organs whilst building strength in the lower and upper body so is an excellent addition to any routine when practiced well. Hold for as long as you can bear it :-)
Support your practice with Pilates
Some people say that yoga and Pilates should be kept separate but we believe they compliment each other beautifully. Pilates focuses on targeted movements with the aim of developing core strength in the body which helps us to align better in poses. Pilates helps build a stable core to move from which is essentially where all poses should originate. A strong core is key to building strength safely and progressing in any practice.
All this strength building, twinned with the demands of daily life, can be exhausting on the body. It’s vital that we give ourselves time to rest. Restorative yoga is one of the best ways to completely rest the entire system. Using props and long holds, restorative yoga creates the conditions for us to cultivate conscious relaxation and to release unnecessary habitual tension in the body and mind.
Popular with endurance athletes to help them recover, the grounding and quietness of restorative yoga helps trigger the relaxation response, a neurological response that tells us we are safe, pulls us out of "flight or fight" mode, and initiates the body's ability to self-heal on a physical and emotional level. It is a practice for these times.