One day after a workout with my boyfriend, we ate dinner at a local restaurant. During the dinner, I went to the restroom to wash my hands. As I washed my hands, a woman standing next to me began to stare at me. For a really long time. But I decided to ignore it and tried to leave as quickly as possible. Right before I left the bathroom, the woman asked me, “Are you a gymnast?” and complimented my physique. I get asked this question quite often, and am also frequently asked about what I do for my workouts.
I’m not a powerlifter and I haven’t done CrossFit in months. I didn’t start off rock climbing, and I never was a gymnast or had any kind of gymnastic background! So what did I do to get these muscles? Yoga.
No, I do not do yoga consistently. Yes, I did develop my muscle tone by other exercise methods like lifting. But yoga was my foundation and my gateway into the world of muscle strengthening. In fact, bodyweight exercises helped me build a strong foundation for weight lifting and CrossFit!
I wanted to make this post to share 6 of the top Yoga poses that helped me become stronger and helped me develop a foundation for other training methodologies (CrossFit, rock climbing, weight lifting, etc.). Prior to doing any of these exercises, it is important to be wary of any current injuries you might have, and you must be mindful of executing proper, safe form.
Pose 1: High Plank
High plank is a crucial pose for total body strengthening as you must engage not only your shoulders and abs, but also your butt, thighs, and lower legs to keep your spine in alignment. This is a great pose that will serve as your power base in many other exercises, especially because you are working on keeping that back strong and stable.
Pose 2: Side Plank
Side plank takes high plank to another level by heightening your shoulder engagement and core stability so that you can balance on your side. It’s a great wrist and shoulder strengthener (especially because we are on the computer so often), and also boosts your neuromuscular system (basically gets your nervous system working harder to keep form), which promotes healthy cognition!
Pose 3: Chair Pose
I have a love/hate (mostly love) relationship with this pose! It helped me develop not only core endurance, but also increased my overall balance, flexibility in my hips, and developed the alignment in my upper and lower body. It taught me how to maintain proper squat form, as your chest should be up to allow your glutes and quads to be more engaged (and stronger), rather than placing pressure in your lower back.
Pose 4: Warrior III Pose
Warrior III pose is my favorite of all the “warrior poses”. It is a total body exercise that strengthens your shoulders, back, as well as your legs (especially the hamstrings) and ankles! It is also very tough to stay in position and helps to improve balance and posture significantly. If you are a beginner, try balancing in this pose with a chair in front of you first before balancing without any assistance!
Pose 5: Boat Pose
Boat pose is one of my favorite poses, but also one of the toughest ones I have tried! I still find it difficult to fully extend my legs, though bending my legs at chest height while in the pose still helps to engage my core and strengthen my hip flexors! It is a challenging pose, but it helped develop my core strength and back strength significantly!
Pose 6: Extended Side Angle Pose
This pose mimics a lunge position while also engaging your upper body! It’s great for balance and can also increase the flexibility in your hips and ankles (important for prolonged periods of standing and walking). I also find it a little less strenuous than a normal lunge.
Try holding each pose on both sides for about 10 seconds or less to start until you are comfortable; eventually you can aim to hold each pose for 20 seconds. You can also visit yogajournal.com for more information on modifications and ways to deepen each pose for more of a challenge!