Usually the stereotypical and initial images that come to mind when one think of yoga poses is a yogi twisted like a pretzel or bending forward effortlessly touching their toes. As a result, many beginners falsely believe that in order to practice yoga they need to be flexible. And although flexibility helps, the truth is that one actually requires – or rather builds up – a lot of strength during yoga. It’s actually a combination of both flexibility and strength that allows one to go deeper and fully into postures.
The importance of strength in yoga comes from using our core strength muscles located in the center of our body. In yogic terms, these are referred to as bandhas – muscle contraction or energy locks. When we can tap into these locks, our practice becomes more stable and centered, and our connection to the Earth is rooted. In every position, one can use the core area- particularly in balancing, twisting, inversions and of course, abdominal strengthening poses.
Generally, men practicing yoga are looking for and are working on flexibility as they have physical power while women have flexibility yet need the muscle strength. A disciplined and regular practice of yoga asana will enable us to work on all these aspects. Unlike working out at the gym, yoga lets us work and strengthen muscles by holding poses for an extended amount of time and breathing into them. At the same time, instead of using weights and machines to build muscles tone, we are using our body mass and weight, which is at times more challenging than dumbbells and gym weights.