Yoga is an awesome way to stretch and elongate the body as well as provides other benefits such as improved movement and balance. With that, many yogis benefit greatly from strength-training so that they are strong and stable in the foundational muscles of the body. This also decreases the risk of injury from yoga and allows the yoga poses to become less effortful as well. The most common complaints of my yogis are shoulder pain, knee pain and neck or back issues.
Because yoga can often be repetitive in nature and there are specific poses performed during the sequence, it is important to perform strength training in order to have a stable foundation to move upon during yoga. The particular regions to strengthen are the scapular stabilizers (located between the shoulder blades in the middle back), the gluteal muscles and the core muscles.
Strengthening between the shoulder blades helps to keep the shoulders safe during yoga, as well as ensures a stable foundation to move the arms from. There are often yoga poses that involve weight-bearing through the shoulders and arms such as chaturanga, downward-facing dog, and plank pose. For all of these poses the stronger your scapular stabilizers are the more likely you are able to perform them properly as well as a decrease risk of injury.
The gluteal muscles (a.k.a. buttocks muscles) are the stable foundation for the legs as well as the low back and trunk. The knees in particular are much more supported and stable when the gluteal muscles are strong. The gluteal muscles support the poses where the knees are to be in line with the hips and ankles such as warrior pose and chair pose. By activating these strong muscles in these poses, it will take pressure and strain off of the knee joint and help to keep proper alignment as well.
The abdominal and core muscles are very important in protecting our spine during yoga class. The abdominal muscles in the front and the back and side muscles of the core keep our spine stable and supported in all postures. A great goal would be to have the core engaged during the entire yoga class, however certainly easier said than done! An awareness of keeping the “belly button pulled inward to our spine” to engage the deep abdominals during poses is key. This creates what we can think of as an “internal corset” around our spine, thus decreasing risk of injury.
An Orthology PT or Chiropractor can assess you and help to define areas for improvement. They’ll also provide you with helpful exercises to strengthen these particular muscles discussed above. What’s more, we can also work with you on your alignment and proper positioning of your body during yoga poses so that you are performing the pose correctly. Strengthening outside of yoga class is important so that you can continue to enjoy yoga and all the benefits of what that brings for you!