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A regular yoga practice builds muscle strength for a powerful physique.
In addition to a calmer mind and more flexible muscles and joints, a regular yoga practice serves as an indispensable tool to strengthen your body. A form of weight-bearing exercise, yoga uses a series of asanas, or poses, to challenge and build muscles through both static and active sequences. The result is increased muscle tone, improved balance and stronger bones. Warm up your body with whole-body asanas before you focus on specific muscles with targeted poses.
Surya Namaskar A, or Sun Salutation A, is an excellent strength-building set of poses that works the entire body. Move through the following series at least five times: stand tall in Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, inhale as you move your arms up and bend forward to Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Bend. Inhale as you move your chest forward and jump back to Plank Pose before performing Chaturanga Dandasana, or Four Limb Staff Pose. Inhale to move your chest forward in Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, or Upward-Facing Dog, and exhale, rolling over your toes into Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward-Facing Dog. Hold the pose for five breaths. Exhale and jump your feet forward, inhale as you raise your arms above your head, and exhale as you lower your arms down to your sides.
To further target your biceps, triceps, shoulders and upper-back muscles, start with Plank Pose. You'll recognize Plank Pose as part of a traditional pushup -- the portion with your arms straight. Align your shoulders over your wrists, press up between your shoulder blades, and keep an even line from the top of your head to your heels. Take it a step further, bending your elbows and lowering your body into Chaturanga Dandasana, or Four Limb Staff Pose, to buff up your arms and shoulders. Incorporate arm balances for the ultimate challenge. Even if you cannot hold Bakasana, or Crow Pose, for very long, performing the movement and bearing the weight still strengthens muscles.
For strong quadriceps and glutes, start with Utkatasana, or Powerful Pose. With your feet hip-width apart, bring your weight into your heels as you sit back into an imaginary chair. Hold this seated squat position, and stretch your arms up alongside your ears. Hold this pose for five to 10 breaths. Work on individual leg strength and your stabilizing muscles with Vrksasana, or Tree Pose. Press the sole of your right foot into your inner left thigh while balancing on your left foot and leg. Stand tall and press your hands together in a prayer position. Hold the pose for five to 10 breaths and then repeat the pose on the opposite leg. Strong legs require healthy hamstrings, making Uttanasa, or Standing Forward Bend, a must-have pose to round out your lower-body exercise.
Beyond the coveted six-pack abs, a healthy, strong core is necessary to support and stabilize your entire body. Keep your abdominal and lower-back muscles strong by spending additional time in Plank Pose. Start by holding Plank Pose for 15 to 30 seconds, gradually increasing the duration over time as you get stronger. Move into Dolphin Plank Pose by lowering from the palms of your hands onto your forearms, keeping the rest of your body in traditional Plank Pose. Tie the poses together by moving from traditional Plank Pose to Dolphin Plank Pose, back and forth, keeping your abdominals engaged and your belly button pulled inward. Perform five to 10 repetitions of this two-pose sequence.