Most of us have heard one way or another that resistance training is a must-have in any successful fitness plan. Not only does it promote long-term bone health, it also improve your practice. Flexibility is only one part of yoga and overall strength is another important variable. Think about it, when you’re trying certain poses you’re using total body strength to hold and get into that pose.
A strong core is essential and a good place to start but having a strong upper and lower body is equally important. The best part is you don’t need to dedicate to hours of weight training in order to reap the benefits. Only 2-3 20 minute HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions per week will do the trick and will go a long way with getting a toned, lean body!
Here is a five exercise circuit style routine you can do in the comfort of your own home, that don’t involve any equipment except your body. Do each movement for the recommended number of sets and reps, resting 30 seconds to 1 minute in between exercises.
1. Air Squats – These lower body blasters are perfect for firming and lifting your behind and will also strengthen your quads and hamstrings. Start with your legs hip-width apart. Sit your hips back as if you were sitting down into a chair and make sure your weight is distributed evenly on your feet, not on your toes. Sink down and hold for 2 seconds, then return to the starting position, squeezing your butt as you come up. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
2. Push Ups – A classic, yet effective exercise that is perfect for targeting the chest, back and shoulders. Push-ups are a great way to strengthen your upper body and will build your strength for Sirsasana or shoulder stands! The one important thing you want to pay close attention to when doing a push-up is keeping your elbows close to your side, making sure they don’t come away from the body. Start by lying down on your stomach with your arms to your sides. Planting your palms on the ground, push firmly while keeping your body as straight as possible. Make sure your core is engaged and tight, hold for 2 seconds and lower back down to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
3. Lunges – Another great lower body movement, lunges will strengthen your legs and target the hamstrings and glutes as well. Similar to a warrior pose, you will step out with one leg, planting that foot into the ground. Hold that position for 2 seconds and push off that front foot as you bring your feet together. Switch to the other leg and follow the same steps on that side. Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions, alternating sides.
4. Superman – Don’t let the name fool you! You won’t be leaving the ground from doing this exercise. Supermans strengthen your entire posterior chain, including your lower back. If you’re someone who suffers from chronic low back pain, this exercise is essential and can help decrease pain and discomfort. Start slow and gradually ease into this movement to avoid injury. Start by lying straight face down on the floor or on a mat. Arms should be fully extended in front of you. Simultaneously, raise your arms and legs while lifting your chest off the floor, holding this contraction for 2 seconds. Make sure you are squeezing your glutes to ensure you get the most from this. Slowly lower your legs, arms and chest back down to the starting position. Repeat this 5 times.
5. Planks – When you hear planks, I can bet many of you immediately connect it with core work. Yes, you are right about that but I’m going to tell you that it strengthens more than just the core. When you do a plank, you are using your core to stabilize your body in the position but you are also using your back and shoulders as well. Start in a push up position with your arms to your sides. You have two options here: you can either use your hands to hold your body up in a straight, hollow position or you can go on your elbows. Either way is fine, it just depends on what is more comfortable for you. Make sure you are pulling your belly button in and squeezing your glutes. This will help keep your body perfectly straight and make sure you don’t arch your back. Hold this position for as long as you can! Challenge yourself with each repetition by trying to hold it longer.
These exercises will not only up your yoga game, they will help tighten and tone your entire body. Body weight exercises are a necessary supplement to any yoga practice and as proven with this routine, can be done in 20 minutes!