Like many yogis, I had some “unicorn” poses that seemed so far out of my reach, regardless of how often I practiced them.
For a long time, adho mukha vrksasana (known to most as “handstand”) was one of those poses. No matter how many inversion workshops I attended, how often I spent hopping up and down, I just couldn’t hold the pose for more than a breath.
Finally, it occurred to me: maybe I’m just not strong enough…yet.
That’s when I discovered the magical serratus anterior muscle. There are no yoga poses in a traditional practice that will strengthen this muscle, but it is crucial for stabilizing your shoulder blades and your thoracic cage. I found some serratus-focused exercises and dedicated some gym time to them and within a few months, was holding handstand like it was no big thing.
As much as I wish yoga was the be-all end-all for health and wellness, the truth is, there is no one practice that will strengthen 100% of your body. But, you can bring aspects of yoga into your cross-training! Here are some ways you can cross-train for your yoga practice at the gym, the park—wherever you can hang out:
Just Plain Old Hanging
Pull-ups are awesome, but not accessible to many of us (yet!), and there are also benefits to just hanging out on your pull-up bar. Let gravity pull space into your joints—this should feel good! Your arm and shoulder muscles will be engaged to keep your grip, but try to relax through your core to create flexibility in your spine. Hold for 30 seconds.
Hanging Leg Lifts
You can do a thousand crunches, but nothing is really going to hit all of your core muscles efficiently like hanging leg lifts. Hang from your pull-up bar and lift your straight legs to 90 degrees. Can’t quite make it? Do one leg at a time, or try bent knees. Wiggle your legs slowly from side to side on the way up and on the way down to hit every sweet spot.
Lift your bent knees up to touch your elbows. They probably won’t touch the first (several) time(s), but you’re still building strength! Build up to 10 reps.
Hanging from your pull-up bar, circle your legs like you’re riding a bike, but mindfully—no rushing! One breath per leg, 20 reps.
These exercises will build pure core strength to support you as you advance your yoga practice. Happy hanging, yogis!
Author: Morgan Balavage
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s Own