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March 27, 2020 9 min read

It is not enough to have good-looking muscles; you need to be able to use them in daily life. Can your big muscles hold your body weight balanced on the one hand? Does your single-leg RDL give you headaches because you can't maintain stability? Do you want to make Van Damme splits, but your tight hips refuse to cooperate? The solution for these and many other issues lies in yoga.

But Why Yoga?

The popularity of the practice keeps growing even after 5,000 years. The reasons for that are many. It is well known that yoga benefits the mind and soul and helps with relaxing and flexibility. But the facts go far beyond that. Yoga does a lot more than most people realize. Combining yoga with weight training brings together the best of both worlds.

Practicing yoga will increase your endurance and build functional strength. It improves your balance, works every joint, muscle, and fiber, and enhances all the body functions. Cardiovascular activity and weight training shorten and tighten the muscles. In yoga poses and moves, muscles and surrounding tissues lengthen and relax. It makes them more elastic. 

Every athlete cares for preventing injuries and muscle recovery and repair. Yoga poses increase the blood flow, attract more oxygen to the muscles, helping them to both heal and grow. It will increase your muscle endurance and pain threshold. Strengthening and stretching out overworked muscles can reduce the pain. Yoga will also help you to flush lactic acid from the system and downsize soreness. Doing it on a regular basis will reduce your risk of muscle strains and soreness before they happen.

Practicing yoga increases your range of motion. You may use it to your advantage in weight training. A better range of motion will promote the power and explosiveness of your movements. We don't even need to mention the importance of breathing and how essential yoga is for such improvement. After all, lifting your whole body weight counts as heavy lifting, won't you agree?

Strength Training on a Yoga Mat

Active forms of yoga (for example, Vinyasa or power yoga) qualify as moderate-intensity activities, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Their report shows yoga as both an aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, depending on the type and the postures practiced.

The type of yoga you will choose to practice is essential. Which one to choose? Here are the three practices that develop muscular strength and endurance. 

  • Hatha Yoga
  • Ashtanga Yoga
  • Power Yoga 

For a mild intensity, restorative training that can help you start recovering after an injury, try these:

  • Yin Yoga 
  • Kripalu Yoga 

Yoga and pilates both encourage the development of physical balance and proper posture. But are they the same? According to the HHS guidelines, pilates does not qualify as strength training. Such activity has to train most of the muscles, including big groups. Pilates is an excellent core workout, yet it rarely focuses on all the big muscle groups.

Think of a plank position. The weight of your body lies over your arms and your core. In time, both your endurance and your strength will grow. It's yoga, but it's not much different from standard push-ups.

There is no doubt that you will increase muscle tone, definition, and size with yoga. Since you lift only your body weight, it will take longer to achieve goals than with lifting weights. Your muscles and bones need overloading to keep developing. The weight you lift must keep increasing. Still, that doesn't mean you're wasting your time with a yoga workout. Quite the opposite! You will get plenty of other benefits at the same time. What you will build at the same time is the resistance and flexibility of both your muscles and bones.

Regardless of your ultimate goals, adding some yoga in your training plan can be beneficial in many ways. Yoga compliments lifting and any kind of weight training. Arm balances and inversion poses are very useful for building muscle strength. They flex groups of smaller muscles that you may not work enough with a weight machine. You’ll be surprised to discover some muscles you’re not even aware of.

Standing poses are good for strengthening the leg muscles. Think about the Warrior Pose or the Triangle Pose. In balance poses, one leg has to hold up your entire body. Balancing your whole weight on one leg not only will increase its strength but will also prepare you for more demanding lifting exercises in a similar position.

There are many ways to add some yoga in strength training. Here are several suggestions that can make it as useful as your traditional bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges:

  • Holding the poses longer. When you feel the muscles burn, you will know they’re working.
  • Doing reps with yoga poses. Yoga can help you discover any weaker or underdeveloped muscles. Focus on those, learn which poses are the best, and repeat them.
  • Adding weights gives more of a challenge. Start with adding wrist or ankle weights and progress creatively. 

A girl doing the frog stretch.

The Frog Stretch or Mandukasana

The frog stretch is a beginner to an intermediate level yoga pose. With the frog pose, you are creating an external rotation of your hips from your pelvis. This pose gets intense, fast. 

The targets are your hip flexors, inner thighs, groin muscles, core. You will open the hips and groin muscles, increase circulation, and improve your posture. The frog pose is a great move to add to your training, especially if you run, cycle, or play any sport based on repetitive motions. The frog pose will encourage movement and mobility in the tightened hip and groin area.

How To Do the Frog Stretch

Start with a warm-up. You need a yoga mat or blanket underneath you. It will soften the pressure of your joints against the floor and neutralize discomfort. 

The starting position is a tabletop or bharmanasana. This is a beginner pose that brings balance in the body while all of the muscles are under equal tension. You will feel the pressure in your arms, shoulders, wrists, hips, thighs, knees, and the spine. It’s called ‘tabletop’ because your arms and legs form the "legs" of the table, with your back positioned as its flat part. The hands are in 90-degree angles under your shoulders and knees bent below the hips. Hold the position and breathe.

Find a point between your hands and focus your eyes on it. Start by slowly drawing your navel back toward your spine. That should activate the core muscles without clenching them.

Inhale and start gently moving your right knee out. Exhale as you reach towards the side. You should feel a mighty stretching sensation in your inner thighs and groin area. Continue as long as you can bear the groin stretch, but listen to your body and avoid pain. Be aware of your flexibility level, and do not force your body.

Keep opening your hips and slowly separate your knees as far as you can. From a side view, your hip joint and your knee joint should be in parallel lines. Your ankles will be directly behind your knees. Turn your feet out towards the side and flex your ankles. Your toes should face out to the left and right, and your inner feet, inner ankles, and inner knees should be touching the floor. 

Your knees, hips, and ankle joints should lay in 90-degree angles. Keep on as long as you feel a significant stretch but no pain, and with natural breath. Try to relax your shoulders.

Keep the palms flat on the floor or pressed together. Slowly lower down to your forearms.

Exhale, and press your hips backward. You should feel quite a stretch in the hamstrings and inner thighs. Proceed as far as you can. Stay and breathe deep. You can either count of five to ten breaths or 30 to 60 seconds. Your breath is a reliable guide. When you push yourself too far, your breathing becomes shorter and more forced. When you can make long, slow, deep breaths, then you know you're doing it right.

Finally, slowly slide your knees back together, release the pose, and return to the starting position. 

Variation of the Frog Stretch

  • The reversed frog stretch is a great hip stretch for external rotators. As the name indicates, the starting position is on your back, the "happy baby pose." Keep stretching your knees with your feet out like in a regular frog stretch, as long as you feel comfortable with it. For another variation, you might want to explore the butterfly stretch, too.
  • After you master the frog stretch, with normal breathing and no pain and discomfort, you can challenge yourself even more. Keep widening the distance between your knees while lowering your torso and hips closer to the floor. If you want an even more intense stretch, try sliding your feet further. For another option, press your hips back towards your heels for a super deep inner thigh stretch. You may push your limits further, as long as you don’t feel any issues. Go slowly, and don't forget to breathe.

Benefits of the Frog Stretch

Regularly practicing the frog stretch will cause your hip joints to open up, which will reduce strain on the knees. It targets the muscles in your adductors, hips, and core. While stretching your adductors, which are part of your groin muscles, you also get the benefit of strengthening your core. That will lower any hip pain, knee pain, or back pain.

Practicing this pose is especially useful for people who spend many hours in the office or a car. It will release chronic muscle tightness, which is a typical result of such a lifestyle. The frog stretch can ease your back pain. After practicing this pose regularly, you'll be able to sit in various positions, which is also helpful in your daily life. You can learn about any weak points of your hips early enough to prevent or delay the issues that come with age.

The frog stretch is also therapeutic for constipation since it promotes digestion. Through twisting poses, inversions, and forward folds, it benefits your digestive system. The pose is like a massage for your digestive organs, and it increases blood flow and delivery of oxygen. The result is a healthier bowel movement.

The frog stretch is also an excellent pose for practicing proper breathing through pranayama. The benefits of increased vital capacity will reflect in many areas of your life.

A girl doing the frog stretch.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Some people feel the instinctive urge to hold their breath. Don’t give in to it! One of the essential parts of any yoga practice is proper breathing. If you sense any difficulties, correct your pose and minimize the stretch to a level that allows you to breathe normally. 

Don't drop your lower back. You should keep your core strong and lower back flat. If necessary, put something under your stomach to secure your balance until you master the pose. Don't lie down on the obstacle; use it as a warning barrier. If your stomach touches the boundary, you will know you need to correct the pose. 

The frog pose is generally considered safe. However, if you suffer any knee, groin, or hip injuries, consult your physical therapist first. Don't try the pose without professional assistance and supervision. In case you suffer from an inguinal hernia, you may want to avoid this pose entirely.

If your knees are just a bit sensitive, place some blankets or cushions under them. In case you have issues with your ankles or lower back, pay attention to any discomfort while you do the frog pose. Although it is reasonable to feel a stretch in the inner thighs, hips, and groin area, that doesn't include pain. If you feel any pain during this pose, stop and ask your trainer for modifications. 

You may find that the frog pose is too uncomfortable for your hips. In such cases, decrease the distance between your knees. Don't lower your torso and hips too close to the ground. The other option is bringing your feet closer together for a lower stretch. You don’t have to force it. As long as you feel the tension and breathe properly, the pose is working for you.

Put a Yoga Day in Your Training Plan

There are many reasons to include yoga practices for life quality improvement. Multiple studies have confirmed its mental and physical benefits. Yoga decreases stress, relieves anxiety, fights depression and migraines, promotes better sleep. Research has shown that yoga can improve heart health, reduce health risk factors, and inflammations. Chronic pains, like some injuries or arthritis, can also be controlled to a certain level with a good yoga plan. 

There is a lot of research that shows us how yoga can optimize performance. Adding it to a fitness routine will improve flexibility and balance through the use of specific poses. The challenge to engage certain muscles while releasing others is part of the muscle intelligence yoga helps to build. Yoga poses build stamina through extended holds and challenging poses. Whether you're running, lifting, cycling, stamina is an essential part of any activity.

By mixing in yoga into your routine even once a week, you will get a lot and lose nothing. So what are you waiting for?