Reader’s Request: Does yoga count as strength training?

i-duz-yoga-ta-relax  (Source)

For the past few years my workout regimen has consisted of some type of cardio 4 or 5 times a week and strength training about 2-3 times a week.  I recently started practicing yoga regularly and love it!  Anyways, I’m wondering how to fit yoga into my workout schedule.  I have been taking a hot power yoga class once or twice a week.  We do lots of chatarungas, arm balances, warriors, etc…so my muscles are usually fairly sore the next day.  Do I need to take a rest day/day off from strength-training after yoga?  Since my muscles are sore, I don’t want to over-do it, but does yoga "count" as strength-training?  I’m just trying to figure out a way to fit yoga in with my other workouts while still building lean muscle and doing enough cardio to burn some fat and calories.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this since you seem to have added more yoga to your life in the last several months.

Thanks for your time!

Hey Bridget!

I thought your email made an awesome Reader’s Request because I’m sure it’s a question that many other readers have had 🙂

As ya’ll know, I love me some yoga.



So the question is: Does yoga count as strength training??

YES! The great thing about yoga is that it’s an excellent strength and flexibility workout. Every workout routine should consist of a balance of cardio, strength and flexibility components to keep your body is superfit and healthy shape.

Natural Fitness yoga mat moss red rockCropped  (source)

Can yoga replace strength training?

It certainly depends on the type of class (since a challenging 90-minute power yoga class is different than a 20-minute gentle flow), but my personal answer to this is no. I think that yoga is an excellent workout to combine with a standard weight training and cardio program as it provides a variety of physical and mental health benefits. In most of the yoga moves, you’re using your own body weight to perform the movements which is a great strength challenge. You are challenging your muscles, which will certainly make them stronger.

The thing that yoga is lacking is muscle overload (which enables you to build muscle). You want to challenge your muscles beyond what its used to, to keep cruise control from kicking in and enable fitness gains to take place. Doing planks and chatarunga after chatarunga, day after day, and your body will get used to it. Besides holding the chatarunga for longer, the only way to progressively make the exercise more challenging is to add weight. Who really wants to do a chatarunga with a flat weight on their back? 😉

A very cool new thing is Iron Yoga, in which you use dumbbells while performing yoga poses. Though I’ve never tried it, I think that this *might* be able to act as a weight training substitute, but I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s highly beneficial to lift weights in conjunction to a cardio and flexibility routine.

To add yoga into your normal routine, I suggest practicing yoga on a non-consecutive weight training day. I always try to practice yoga either on the same day I work my arms and abs, or a couple of days after my last arm workout.

Here’s an example:

Monday Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Cardio Cardio
Cardio YOGA; or YOGA
Back and Chest
OFF Cardio


Hope this helps!


Gina 🙂

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  1. Amy on January 14, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Hi Gina! This is my first time on your blog, and I must say I really really enjoy it!!! I had gained about 25 lbs in college (7 years ago) and after my mom pointed this out to me, point blank, (lol) I turned into a fitness-holic. I eat right, i stay active, and i have a positive attitude now (and i lost that peskly freshman 25!) So its nice to find people like myself out there! I was JUST thinking about Yoga today and i think its a sign to stick to reading your blog since you posted this!! I love the schedule you have up there as well.
    Thank you again and keep up the good work!!

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 10:37 am

      hi amy!
      thanks for stopping by! hope to see you around here more often 🙂
      congrats on taking the steps to become healthier and on all of your accomplishments so far

  2. Jo on January 14, 2010 at 9:32 am

    This is great. I have been wondering the same thing.

  3. Jean @ BelezaJean on January 14, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Hi Gina!

    I love your blog and this post further confirms my Fitnessista admiration and appreciation:) With a heavy endurance cardio regime, I have tried in the past simply relying on yoga to serve as my strength training component, only to be dissatisfied with the results. I have now begun to work strength training into the mix and I feel so much stronger!

    If you decide to try out “iron-yoga” I would be very interested to hear your review!

    Best, Jean xo.

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 10:36 am

      thank you so much jean! <3

  4. Katie (Sweet Tater) on January 14, 2010 at 9:44 am

    my studio offers a yoga circuit class now (similar to iron yoga) that incorporates weight lifting and traditional yoga theory. i took it once last week…

    i do one hour of hot yoga 5-6 times a week and it’s always a challenge simply to lift, hold and control my own body weight. but i’ve been doing that for so long that i forgot what it’s like to add extra weight.

    and what it’s like (in a word) is HARD. ha. i definitely count yoga as strength training since it has made me much, much stronger. but i agree that it certainly doesn’t replace good old traditional weight lifting.

  5. rachael on January 14, 2010 at 9:55 am

    In my experience yoga can definitely build muscle. While I agree that your body gets used to doing chaturanga after chaturanga and variety is definitely good, in my opinion there are ways to get muscle overload from yoga. There are always modifications, ways to deepen the pose, and more intense poses (different arm balances, standing poses etc.) that can help you continue to build muscle by transfering the amount of weight on particular muscle. I am amazed how much my butt still gets kicked on the yoga mat after years of practicing!

    Love you blog! I think you said you were starting to teach yoga? I’d love to hear how that’s going?

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 10:35 am

      that is true, but you can only get to a certain point unless you bust out some cirque de soileil type moves 😉
      yes, i started teaching yoga…and it’s been a disaster. i’ve only taught one class so far but i’m thinking spin and zumba are more my teaching style

      • rachael on January 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

        sorry to hear that:( i had a really hard time teaching yoga at first too . . . i had a strong practice and completed the YA 200hr training but had such a hard time getting into the flow when i was teaching. i got the hang of it before long though and my classes got much smoother. give it a little time, i hope the next class goes better for you!

  6. Lauren (Biochemista) on January 14, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Hey Gina 🙂

    Great post! I looooove me some Bikram!

    Would you be able to post some of the yoga podcasts you do? I’ve been craving yoga lately but been super busy so it would be great to do them at la casa.



    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 10:34 am

      check out – i get all of my podcasts from there, or i’ll do a dave farmar or yoga to the people podcast, which are both available on itunes

  7. Lauren (Biochemista) on January 14, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Oh, and a while back you asked for my low-cal margarita recipe. I can’t remember whether or not I gave it to you. Here it is!



    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 10:33 am

      thank you!

  8. amber on January 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

    love this post! thanks gina! i do have a quick question… while i have done pilates for a long time, i have never done any type of yoga and am interested in getting started. can you recommend any beginner yoga DVDs? and by beginner, i mean beginner! i don’t know one pose. 🙂 thanks a bunch!

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 10:33 am

      check out the rodney yee ones… those are the ones i started with (or the crunch yoga dvds) and it was a great starter for me. also has some beginner yoga videos on their website

      • amber on January 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm

        thank you!

  9. Cindy on January 14, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Thanks for this post! I am going to use the schedule. I have been wondering the same thing. I appreciate how willing you are to share your knowledge and experience with your readers. Man, I wish I lived in “Valdizzy!” I would so be one of your clients 🙂

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 10:32 am

      hahah don’t ever wish you lived in valdizzy- i’d much rather move to wherever you are 🙂

  10. BridgetP on January 14, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Thanks for answering my question, Gina! I like the sample schedule, that makes a lot of sense to me 🙂 Have a great day!

  11. Nicci@NiftyEats on January 14, 2010 at 10:40 am

    That’s a great readers questions, I do my Yoga for strength and training too. I love Iron Yoga, it’s a great dvd,b tu do it with dumbbells lower thatn 5 or your arms will be hurting. lol

  12. Heather @ The Joyful Kitchen on January 14, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Gina – thanks so much for answering this question! it’s certainly something i’ve been wondering about for a while and never really sought out the answer to. it totally makes sense and is super helpful!

    quick question: what are your favorite yoga dvds?

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 10:57 am

      yogalosophy, crunch yoga/pilates blend and the rodney yee dvds 🙂
      i also like namaste yoga on the fittv channel

  13. Lauren on January 14, 2010 at 10:48 am

    First time commenting!
    I did Day 1 of Intro to Iron Pumping Workout this morning and I just wanted to thank you for the jelly arms I have today at work.

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 10:56 am

      whoo hoo!
      thanks for saying hi 🙂
      you’re very welcome for the jelly arms- i’m so glad you liked it!

  14. Emily on January 14, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Hi, I just found your blog from Healthy Tipping Point and plan to add you to my “read list”.
    This post is perfect timing for me. I am trying to seriously schedule my work outs to make sure I am balanced. Starting this week I am taking Zumba 2x a week (love it!), a 90 min yoga session / DVD, & 2 days of the Iron Pumping schedule (modified a little). I am very excited about getting back into a real work-out routine. Plus the tropical 2nd honeymoon I am taking in March is a great work-out motivator.

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 10:56 am

      hi emily!
      welcome to my little blog 🙂
      LOVE zumba, too– it’s probably my favorite! sounds like you have an excellent workout schedule in place
      a tropical honeymoon sounds like a GLORIOUS motivator.. i’d probably do anything for one of those 😉

  15. Jessie (Vegan-minded) on January 14, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for answering this question! I have been wanting to incorporate more yoga into my fitness regimen, but I didn’t want it to interfere with my strength training routine. I like the idea of doing yoga on arms/abs days, thanks for the tip. 🙂

  16. Lisa on January 14, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I like namaste on fittv too, they make it look so easy and relaxing. Just listening to the music is relaxing. But, easy it is not.

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 11:25 am

      yes they make it look very easy… while in reality, its very hard and painful 🙂

  17. Diana (Soap & Chocolate) on January 14, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Great post! That’s actually a question I didn’t even know I had, but I’ve been moving towards incorporating more yoga into my routine so this is all good to know. I see your point that it’s still good to use weights in order to work muscles to overload, but I also don’t want yoga to fall between the cracks since I always feel like a million bucks after doing it. 🙂

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 11:25 am

      as bikram says: you come to yoga in junk body. you leave in rolls royce 🙂

      • Florence on December 14, 2017 at 11:55 pm

        LOL that’s a cute quote. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Krista on January 14, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Ohhh…I love that picture of you! What an inspiration!!!

  19. Katie on January 14, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Thanks, Gina! I’ve always wondered about this.

    And Iron Yoga (“Buff Yoga” at my gym) is great, but SO HARD!

  20. Lauren @ Eater not a runner on January 14, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Seriously I had exactly the same question! I need to take a day off from strength training after power yoga that is for sure!

  21. Heather @ Get Healthy With Heather on January 14, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Thanks for answering this question!

    My cat loves to stretch like your picture above 🙂

  22. Katie @ LifeDiscombobulated on January 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Thank you for this post!!! I’m new to the blog and have really enjoyed all of your fitness tips so far! I’m always looking for ways to shake up my lifting and I can’t wait to try the schedule you posted yesterday. As far as yoga goes, I have always wondered about this and have always struggled to incorporate yoga and weights. I have found that my yoga class challenges my upper body far more than my lower body. Do you think it might benefit me to do yoga and lift legs on the same day, as opposed to yoga and arms? Thanks!!!

  23. Jamie on January 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    You haven’t mentioned your dance classes lately. Are you still taking them?

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      no i just went to those two classes. they weren’t challenging enough for me and i decided it wasn’t worth it with my already-insane schedule

  24. Julia on January 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    great post! thanks for addressing this question!

  25. Emily on January 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    If you ever have a new elliptical workout, I’d love for you to post it! I’m always looking for ways to make the elliptical more fun.

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      for sure!

  26. Casey@SpicyandSweet on January 14, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Ver interesting post!! Thanks….it’s a lot to think about. I love, love, love this blog. 🙂

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 1:49 pm

      thank you!!!
      i love, love, love having such wonderful and kind readers <3

  27. Amy on January 14, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Hi! Would you be able to answer the same types of questions/discuss a similar topic in regards to pilates?

    Thank you!

    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 1:49 pm

      the answer is pretty much the same, except for pilates targets your core the entire time. in that case, i would make sure not to work abs on consecutive days with pilates. pilates is also a strength and flexibility workout but cant replace strength training

  28. Lexi on January 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Love your take on yoga as strength training! I agree that adding it to a daily routine can definitely be a good thing! Yoga really tones my legs and arms – I love it!

  29. Jessica (Fit and Clean) on January 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I completely agree that yoga is so important for people who workout on a regular basis. It lengthens muscle, works on the core, and for me, makes me not as sore and cuts my recovery time! I need to add it back into my schedule, especially with all of the running that I am doing. Thanks for the reminder, Gena!


  30. Charlie on January 14, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Great post!! One of my New Year’s resolutions is try Yoga for the first time…this is good info Gina!

  31. Jenna on January 14, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Great post! I was wondering the same thing about yoga!

  32. Alyson on January 14, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Great info! I just start Yoga within the last month and absolutely love it, though I’m still trying to figure out how to best fit it into my workout schedule.

  33. Jessie on January 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Hey Gina!
    I am trying to gain weight, but am struggling with slowing down on the exercising. I know I should focus more on ST rather than cardio if I am going to do this, but I still love me some cardio!

    My question is since I am trying to gain weight…what do you think a healthy amount of exercise for cardio & doing ST should be? I want to gain about 20 lbs – hopefully before summer but have been trying to for a year now…so not sure it will happen. Thanks!


    • Fitnessista on January 14, 2010 at 5:03 pm

      hey jessie,
      i’d recommend st 3x a week and cardio maybe 3-4 times (lower intensity).
      makes sure to up your calorie intake if you’re trying to gain weight, too
      if it still doesn’t help, i’d recommend seeing a doc to rule out medical factors

      • Jessie on January 14, 2010 at 9:46 pm

        thanks =)

  34. Nicole on January 14, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    I have just started doing yoga 2x a week and had the same question. I LOVE the reader request posts! 🙂

  35. Gracie @ Girl Meets Health on January 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    LOVED this post!!! I would love to see more posts like it =)=) Especially regarding strength training. I’ve had a strength training “routine” for years, but I can’t help but think it’s just not enough….

  36. Angela (The Lady Loves to Eat) on January 14, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    This was so helpful! thanks for the info!

  37. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) on January 14, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Hi Gina, of course my eyeballs perked up when I saw this come across my reader 🙂
    Looks like you’re had lots of questions about yoga strength vs. strength training vs. days off, etc.

    As with anything, i.e. food, dietary path & choices, exercise & fitness path, etc…we are all different and that’s the beauty of yoga to take into account different bodies, goals, levels of fitness, etc. I believe that there is a “perfect” yoga for everyone; it just may take some time to find it and incorporate it into one’s life in a meaningful and complementary way.

    I read from your other comment reply that your 1 yoga class was a disaster..sorry to hear! I am almost done with my 500 hour teacher credential, nearly a decade in the making. I know for me, it took alot of time to get to where I am at today. If it works out for you, awesome. And if not, as you said, spin & zumba are right there!

    Om shanti 🙂

  38. Kelly on January 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    I love your post! I am hoping you can answer a question of mine. I eat a really healthy breakfast and lunch but my problem is dinner. I get off work around 4:30 and I usually head to the gym after work. By the time I get home from the gym it is usually 7 or later. I am starving when I get off work and usually have a snack like the ones you have recommended on the blog. But when I get home from the gym, I don’t have an appetite for a whole dinner. Most of the time I will make a shake with milk, banana and spinach. I feel like I don’t get enough servings veggies everyday unless my lunch is nothing but veggies. Do you have any suggestions on how to manage this?

  39. s on January 14, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    whoa your calves are ridic! thanks for the post.

  40. Ashley on January 16, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Love your blog–I’m a new reader but it’s already a staple. I find the yoga schedule you’ve posted very helpful, but I’m wondering how many days you would do abs in that sample week? And which days? Any input would be appreciated. Also, do you have any suggestions for arm/leg/ab workouts for the arm/leg/ab days for people who don’t have access to a gym? Thank you!

    • Fitnessista on January 16, 2010 at 11:45 pm

      hey ashley!
      welcome to the little bloggy and thanks so much for your comment!
      i’d only work out abs 2-3 times a week- usually on weight training days
      for arm/leg/ab workouts, stay tuned for the winter shape up! it will launch on monday 🙂

  41. Jacob on September 27, 2010 at 9:16 am

    That was an informative article. That also answer my question about yoga if it is a strength training. and if can be a replacement for strength training. Thank you very much.

  42. Florence on October 26, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks for this article. I had never heard of iron yoga until today. I certainly will have to look into this.

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