Three Keys to Building Your Strength Through Yoga

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Strength building can be a frustrating process. But if you are looking to get stronger smoothly and safely, yoga is the ideal system for laying down muscle. There are three key factors to remember when building strength through yoga.

1.) Get Lean not Mean

Although it seems to be a contradiction that muscles can be both strong and slender, the basis of yoga is all about opposition. Yoga is different from weight lifting or other forms of strength training in that the actions connected to yoga alternate between lengthening and contracting muscle fibers. If you merely shorten muscle fibers through unopposed contraction, you will generate bulkier muscles. This brings to mind the typical muscle man who cannot lower his arms.  These shortened fibers, although strong, are inflexible and unwilling to support the joints.

2.) Adapt

If you proceed in a yogic manner, building muscle strength through asana is safe.  As you learn to support your body weight, you can adapt a challenging posture to make it more accessible. Use a chair or a bench to develop your plank or downward facing dog.  Start on your knees when you begin side plank or use the wall to support more of your weight for any standing/balance pose.

Also, apply the “48 hour rule” as you progress through yoga. Take a more rigorous posture and gently work with it three times a week or every 48 hours. It takes approximately 24 hours to break down old muscles and another 24 to remodel new ones.  With commitment, you will see a significant change in progress that leads to a strong, healthy and confident body.

3.) Play Dead

Every yoga session usually ends with corpse pose or Savasana.  Although most of us love this pose for its relaxation factor, the posture is strategically placed at the end of practice for a reason. As the ultimate cool-down, Savasana gives the muscles the opportunity to completely relax so that blood can circulate more freely.  When circulation increases, lactic acid can be released from the body alleviating future muscle soreness.

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Friday Focus: Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra or “yogic sleep” is an ancient yoga practice that can be described as a combination of meditation and mind-body therapy. It is actually defined as the state between sleeping and waking. A true session can take more than one hour. The intention is to bring about a reduction in stress and better sleep.

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It is also psychologically cleansing and can evoke a deep sense of joy and contentment. In the words of Richard Miller, “it awakens a seventh sense that allows us to feel no separation, only wholeness, tranquility, and well-being.”

The audio practice that I have included for this Friday Focus is a modified yoga nidra or deep savasana – similar to what we experienced in class this week. It allows you to look at your body, part by part, as you descend into a state of total relaxation.  The particular recording that I have created takes approximately 20 minutes. To produce the track, I have relied on my faint expertise with the Apple App Garage Band.  Hopefully, it comes across as I intended, a soothing method by which to release into the present moment.

Namaste friends.

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