Traditional yoga poses are great for stretching and relaxation, but these fun, strength training twists can help you build lean muscle

By Caitlin Carlson
Updated: February 06, 2015
Corbis Images

Yoga in its raw and natural form is awesome for so. Many. Reasons. And we'd never say that doing yoga poses the traditional way won't reap you huge mental and physical rewards. (It will. Just check out these 6 Hidden Health Benefits of Yoga.) That said, there are a few things you can do to turn up the heat a notch (or a few notches) to build more strength and lean muscle, rev your heart rate, or simply get a deeper stretch. "Challenging the body and mind by playing with different variations and transitions in common poses makes for a stronger and more fun practice," says Mary Dana Abbott, a yoga teacher at Equinox and Creative Director of Laughing Lotus. It's not something to do every time you get your om on, but these five strength training moves from Abbott make for a cool, surprising way to switch things up. (Like her outfit? Check out Nesh Clothing!)

Just a note of caution from Abbott: if you get the red light from your instructor, play with these at home. Always make sure your modifications are okay with your teacher. Respecting what they say and the practice they are teaching is important-and so is being a team player in class (AKA not distracting other students or the teacher).

Handstand Pushups Against Wall

"This move builds strength in shoulders, arms and core, plus helps with balance," says Abbott.

Tips:

1. Keep hands shoulder-width apart

2. Place heels on wall and keep a small bend in knees to keep back flat

Warrior Two with Arm Variations

"Work both the upper and lower body at the same time and get in some isolated tricep and bicep work," says Abbott.

Tips:

1. Work with resistance in the arms: pretend you have small weights in your hands or even use two-pound dumbbells

2. Make sure front knee is directly over the ankle

Tree Pose with Heel Lift

"Lifting your heel makes this pose more of a proprioceptive challenge [proprioception is your sense of body awareness] and further works calves and core," says Abbott.

Tips:

1. Focus your gaze softly right below eye level and keep it there as you raise the heel

Bunny Hops from Downward Dog

"This one gets your heart rate going (read: can help you burn more calories) and helps with coordination," says Abbott.

Tips:

1. Keep thighs engaged and land softly on the floor.

2. Aim hips to go over shoulders

Plank with Toe Shift

"Strengthen your core, arms and thighs while getting a great calf stretch," says Abbott.

Tips:

1. Keep gaze focused on floor in front of you

2. Don't let neck or head sink

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