4 Strength Yoga Poses For Beginners
If you’ve been wanting to experience a home yoga practice for strength, here is a flowing yoga practice that you can do to help build strength in your core. The poses featured in this sequence include:
Side Plank Pose
“Dolphin Plank Pose”
Each posture will be described and the benefit of each movement. Let’s begin.
Start your practice by standing at the top of your mat. Be sure to have your feet about hip distance apart with your toes pointing forward to create alignment in the lower half of your body. For good posture, slightly roll your shoulders back and gaze forward. Hold here in Mountain Pose to focus on your breath. Take slow inhales and slow exhales to tune into your body. Standing in stillness at the beginning of your practice creates a mindset of awareness and connection.
Pay attention to each breath. As you inhale deeply, feel the breath rise to fill up your lungs. Also feel the lengthening in your spine. As you exhale, draw your navel inward toward your spine to engage your abdominal muscles. This is called the Abdominal Lock. This will be a focal part of your yoga for strength practice.
Half Salute to the Sun
When you’re ready to move, inhale and extend your arms overhead. Exhale to fold forward. As you fold, hinge at your hips and keep a slight bend in your knees to protect your back. When you touch your toes, this is Standing Forward Fold. Inhale to slide your hands up to your shins and extend your spine so that your torso is parallel to the ground. This is Half Forward Fold. Exhale to lower back down to Standing Forward Fold. Feel free to hold this posture for a few breaths. It creates a nice release in your entire back, neck, and shoulders.
To come out of the pose, lean back gently onto your heels, bend your knees, inhale deeply, and rise up to a standing position. Lift your arms overhead. Exhale to lower your arms back down by your side. This short series is called the Half Salute to the Sun.
Sun Salutation (Series A)
To continue, inhale and raise your arms overhead, exhale to lower to Standing Forward Fold. Inhale to slide your hands to your shins and extend your spine: Half Forward Fold. As you exhale, bend your knees enough to place your palms on the floor. Step both feet back until you are in a high push-up position. This is Plank Pose. Inhale to feel the breath move through your entire body, exhale to lower yourself to Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). Do this by bending your elbows as if you’re completing a push-up.
On your next inhale, press your hands firmly into your mat to straighten your arms, and lift your upper body. Your legs will remain long behind you as you lift just the upper portion of your body. You’ll be in a backbend position called Upward Facing Dog. As you exhale, tuck your toes, bend your knees, press your hands into your mat, and lift your hips into the air. You’ll arrive in an inverted V-shape position. This is Downward Facing Dog. Hold this posture for at least five breaths.
Inhale to lift and extend your right leg up into the air. Exhale to bring your right foot to the floor next to your right hand. You will be in a lunging position. Turn your left heel to the floor then inhale to lift your upper body. Extend both arms into the sky and face forward. This is Warrior One. Exhale to lower both hands down to the floor, returning to the lunging position. Step your right foot back to me the other: Plank Pose. Take a breath in, and as you exhale, complete the push-up, moving into Four Limbed Staff Pose. Inhale to lift your torso into Upward Facing Dog. Exhale, lift your hips, and return to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat this segment on the other side.
Inhale and extend your left leg upward. Exhale and send your left foot to the floor next to your left hand. Turn your right heel to the floor behind you. You want to create a firm foundation for your body. Inhale to lift your whole upper body while extending both arms into the air as you move into Warrior One. Exhale and lower your hands to the yoga mat, slide your left foot back into Plank Pose. Breathe in deeply and as you exhale lower your body by bending your elbows into Chaturanga Dandasana. Inhale to Upward Facing Dog. Exhale into Downward Facing Dog. Hold this pose for at least five full breaths.
Side Plank Pose
Slowly shift your body by lowering your hips to return to Plank Pose. To work your obliques, you will move into Side Plank Pose. Keep your right hand firmly planted into your yoga mat as you raise your left arm into the air turning your body sideways. Flex your feet to keep your legs straight and strong. Make sure your left hip stays lifted to maintain alignment in your body. Hold the posture for 5-10 breaths. When complete, return to Plank Pose, then perform the pose on the other side. While keeping your left hand on your mat, turn sideways, and extend your right arm up towards the ceiling. If you need to, you may stagger your feet; one in front of the other to maintain stability. Keep your right hip raised. By holding static in this posture, you gain more strength in your side bodies. After 5-10 breaths, return to Plank Pose and complete the Vinyasa (flow): Chaturanga Dandasana, Upward Facing Dog, and Downward Facing Dog.
If you need to rest during your practice, you may come down to your knees, sit back onto your haunches, and lower your upper body toward the floor. This is a restful posture called Child’s Pose. Hold for 10 breaths before moving to the next yoga position.
“Dolphin Plank Pose”
Rise up to your hands and knees. Place your forearms onto the mat parallel to one another. Step your feet back holding steady on your toes with your knees off the ground. This is another version of Plank Pose, but you are performing it on your forearms. It has a nickname: “Dolphin Plank.” There is a pose in yoga called Dolphin Pose where your forearms are on the mat while your hips are in the air like Downward Facing Dog. With this variation you put more emphasis on your abdominal system. Hold for 10-20 breaths. You will certainly feel your abdominal muscles engage to hold you in this position. Feel free to pause after the breaths and repeat this plank posture two more times.
The last posture you’ll practice for strength is Bridge Pose. It is a backbend that strengthens your back muscles. Roll over onto your back. Lie down with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat. Take a full breath in to fill up your lungs. As you exhale, press your feet firmly into your yoga mat in order to lift your hips into the air. As your are able, bring your arms slightly underneath you by squeezing your shoulder blades together. This will engage your upper back muscles to help you support your body in this position. This is Bridge Pose; your body forms the shape of an arching bridge. For greater support, you may bend your arms at 90 degrees. Press the back of your arms (your triceps) into the mat so that you stay lifted. Meanwhile, you are taking deep inhales to fill up your lungs, and as you exhale, squeeze your glute muscles and engage your abdominal muscles. Hold Bridge Pose for 5-10 breaths. You are welcome to release your body from this pose allowing your muscles to disengage then repeat the posture two more times.
When you are complete with your strength yoga practice, it is time to move into Savasana which means “Corpse Pose.” This is your resting yoga position to finish your work. In this reclining posture, you lie on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you on the floor. Your arms will rest down by the sides of your body. You want to be able to fully relax. It is the opportunity to review the hard work you have done in this practice to build strength. It is a reminder, too, that it is important to rest your mind and body after your accomplishment. Lie in stillness and focus on your breath. Let the ease of your breath sweep over your body, calming you, and relaxing you. Your are welcome to stay in this meditative position as long as you’d like.
This could complete your yoga practice, or you may eventually rise to a comfortable seated position with your legs crossed and hands at your heart. Keep your eyes closed and continue to focus on your slow deep breathing. There is a word that is often said at the end of each yoga practice; that word is “Namaste.” It is a salutation that literally means “to bow.” But ii holds deeper meaning. One translation of the word is this: “I bow and honor the Light in you, as you honor the Light in me.” Bow and honor yourself as you finish your yoga practice. Namaste.