We're of the mind that pretty much anyone can benefit from yoga. More than a workout, this lifestyle practice can teach you so much about yourself while helping you implement a sense of calm and serenity in your everyday life — all while creating a healthy body. And while you can get stronger through this style of exercise, should yoga be your go-to strength training workout?
"The term 'strength training' gets misused a lot," said DIAKADI personal trainer Nicolette Amarillas. "I think many times we use this term — like with yoga — not to describe movements that create actual strength increases, but more so movements that are great for overall health of the body, muscle work, joint mobility, and physical and mental health." The holistic coach and creator of Expansive Voice told POPSUGAR that activities that are considered strength training are scientifically calculated to create a "strength increase."
"Yoga is a great complement to a strength program, and you could see increases in strength."
"True strength training is a very scientific and specific form of training, that entails specific rest periods, time under tension, weight, exercise tempo, and exercise prescription. So, true strength training needs these variables in order to see strength increase." This mostly comes down to resistance and weight training. That said, you might see an increase in strength from additional types of exercise like yoga, but Nicolette says it's not traditional strength training. "Workouts like yoga, bodyweight exercises, and HIIT are great complements to a strength program, and are often times things that people could see increases in strength, but I would not call these 'strength training' programs."
Equinox trainer and health coach Caroline Jordan agrees — you can get stronger with yoga, but only to a certain extent (read: those Chaturanga push-ups will help you, but there's a limit). "You will build some muscle with yoga poses that have you supporting your bodyweight against gravity," she told POPSUGAR, "But eventually you'll reach a plateau and will need to add weights or some other form of resistance."
If you're newer to exercise, yoga can actually be a great low-impact way to gain strength through bodyweight movements. Before you hit the weight racks, learn a solid triceps push-up (Chaturanga) and create a strong mind-body connection. "Chaturunga specifically is essentially an eccentric push-up," said personal trainer and coach Liz Letchford, MS, ATC. "Eccentric movements, from a physiological standpoint, can help to increase strength in the muscles being used. How this differs from traditional strength training, however, is that strength training requires an intentional combination of repetition, rest, and tempo in order to effectively increase the strength of your muscles, tendons and nervous system."
"You will get stronger as your nervous system becomes more familiar with the movements."
Why is this different from yoga? "In yoga, you aren't doing multiple sets of six to eight reps with precisely timed rest [like you do in traditional strength training], so no, it isn't technically strength training," Liz said — BUT (and yes, there's a but) — "You will get stronger as your nervous system becomes more familiar with the movements and you begin to learn how to engage the proper muscles to stabilize you in each pose." Wow.
You'll also strengthen your brain in the process. "Yoga is strengthening for the body and mind," said author, speaker, and wellness influencer Candice Kumai. "For me, I use yoga as an ancient way to train, calm, and strengthen my mind, and the deepest parts of my spirit," she told POPSUGAR. "The breath and openness gives me life; If it can additionally help to test, challenge, and strengthen my physical body simultaneously, why not? I practice about five times a week, mainly to stay sane in NYC!"