Reader Request: Is Yoga the Same as Strength Training?

Q: Can yoga replace strength training? I switched from doing two full-body strength training workouts to doing two hour long power yoga classes each week. Can my yoga practice count as strength training or do I need to do both?”

A: Great question! Your concern about losing muscle and slowing your metabolism is a good one. Muscle loss begins in your 30s and continues at a rate of about 3 percent per decade without adequate exercise and good nutrition. The latest government guidelines recommend two days of full-body strength training for optimal health and weight maintenance.

If you know me… you know i LOVE yoga. I try and take at least one class a week and LOVE visiting San Francisco studios and learning from the city’s amazing Yogi’s. Yoga is an AMAZING strength and flexibility workout that provides countless mind and body benefits.  But if the question is, “Can yoga REPLACE strength training?” in my opinion, the answer is no. I believe yoga is an excellent workout to combine with a standard weight training and cardio program. Yoga is naturally weight bearing in many of the postures, as you lift limbs and hold poses in the process of the practice. The ability to move your body weight through all of the poses IS a great strength challenge and will help your muscles build a foundation of strength.  So why doesnt yoga count as strength training? Two reasons: 1. Progressive Muscle Overload: yoga does not work the muscles to the point of fatigue. Your body will eventually adapt to the body weight challenge of planks, chataraungas, and lunges of a consistent yoga practice. Besides holding the chatarunga for longer, the only way to progressively make the exercise more challenging is to add weight. And who wants to hold weights when they practice yoga? 2. BONES: The bones are not stressed so there is no increased bone density impact. For more on the bone density building benefits of strength training, check out this post. It’s important to note too that yoga classes come in all different instructors and styles. A vigorous 90 minute POWER flow is MUCH different than a gentle Yin yoga practice.

I advise clients who are just trying to stay fit and healthy to get a mix of both body-weight exercises and workouts with weights and/or resistance fitness tools. Most studies have shown that the more VARIETY in your workout routine, the faster you’ll see results.Continue to challenge your body beyond what it is used to you WILL see results and benefit from your routine. To add yoga into your workout schedule, I suggest practicing yoga on a non-consecutive weight training day or on a light cardio day. I always try to practice yoga on a day I have a short run or a few days after my last weight workout.

I believe the most important thing is to find a form of exercise you love and can see yourself doing as a lifelong habit. I encourage YOU to continally try new and different forms of exercise. If you always MIX it up, you’ll be sure to challenge your body in different ways and continue to grow as a fitness enthusiast.

This is just my opinion on the matter – and for the rest of the Fearless Fitness Readers, Im more than open to hearing YOUR thoughts and having a conversation! We can always teach eachother more 🙂 Either way, I hope the above helps answer your question! Looking forward to seeing you in the yoga studio or for a strength session soon 🙂


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