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We hear this question a lot: Is yoga enough to get stronger in inversions and arm balances, or should I start lifting weights too? We went to Amy Opielowski, CorePower Yoga national BootCamp leader and personal training, for an answer. She told us that you can be successful in these poses without weight training, but it can be an amazing tool to help you break through plateaus. To get stronger muscles you need to apply greater-than-normal stress to them either by making them hold more weight than they’re used to or by holding weight longer. So if you’re used to holding Plank in your practice for a minute, and you do that again and again, you may stop seeing progress. Adding a weightlifting routine will overload certain muscles more, so you can build balanced strength for lifting into Crow or Handstand stronger and longer.
So, if you’d rather not grab that set of dumbbells at all, try holding arm balancing poses and inversions longer, and mixing up your usual routine to include new weight-bearing poses to challenge your arm muscles in different ways and build more strength. Here are variations on the classic Plank Pose and Chaturanga to get you started!
From Plank Pose, bring the right knee to the outer upper right arm, hugging the knee toward your midline. Lift the front body toward the back body, as you press back through your left heel. Hug the arms toward one another, keeping them straight and strong, as you reach through your crown. Take 5 deep breaths. Maintain integrity in your torso as you slowly return to Plank. Repeat on the other side.
Tip: Don’t use momentum to bring the knee to the arm. Instead, move slowly to ensure optimal muscle use.
Repeat Knee-to-Arm Plank. Then bend your elbows and lower as in Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). Maintain the lift and the length of your body for 5 slow breaths. Push back up to Knee-to-Arm Plank, and slowly return to Three-Legged Down Dog.
Tip: Lower incrementally toward full Chaturanga arms each time you do the sequence, to build strength gradually.