Strength Training for Yoga, with Jenni Rawlings and Travis Pollen


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Do you think yoga is a complete practice that gives your body everything it needs? More and more, it seems that science movement experts suggest differently…

For today’s episode I sat down with Jenni Rawlings and Travis Pollen to talk about the place of strength training for yogis.

Jenni has completed a wealth of training and learning in the fields of yoga, anatomy, and movement science. She writes regularly for Yoga International and for her own body geek-focused yoga website, where she also offers science-based yoga classes and continuing education courses for yogis. Travis is an author, personal trainer, and PhD in Health & Rehabilitation Sciences. His research focuses on core stability, movement screening, training load, and injury risk appraisal. He also holds a master’s degree in Biomechanics and Movement Science along with an American record in Paralympic swimming. Together, they joined forces to write the book Strenght Training for Yoga, so today we got together to talk about that.


  1. We can repeat the same movement again and again and hope we'll get stronger at it or we can learn about anatomy and biomechanics to then take educated decision around changing load, orientation to gravity, use props, changing leverage, progressing movement in a way to build strength systematically.
  2. Load is a force applied to the body in order to stimulate it to respond and adapt to grow stronger. By applying force or creating resistance, and repeating with enough frequency, over time we can improve and increase strength. In yoga, the only load is our body weight.
  3. The issue with strength training in yoga is that we only have our body weight for the load, so it's impossible to progress it. There can also be a lack of variability and inputs to the body (ex. shoulder pulling) and a lack of opportunity to meet failure.
  4. To improve your strength for a particular pose, look at what the joints are doing, what muscles are participating, what actions are you trying to do, and then look at strength training exercises that replicate the same type of actions with the same muscles, in a similar range of motion. Use different planes of motions to translate back to the asanas.
  5. No movement is inherently right or wrong. There are no universal ways to teach all bodies to do one pose.


  • Why did you guys decide to join forces to write this book? On this particular subject?
  • What is movement science and why should students, if not at least teachers, learn more about it?
  • What is load? What’s the issue with load in yoga?
  • Can you give an example of movement patterns that are not represented enough in yoga and how we could introduce them in our strength training?
  • What would be some advantages/benefits of improving our strength when it comes to our yoga practice?
  • How do we align the right strength training exercise with a particular yoga pose?
  • What are the basic tools people can invest in to work out at home?
  • Jenni, one of the concepts you center your teachings around is the idea that no movement is inherently right or wrong. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
  • Travis, on your side, one of the missions you have in your work is to close the gap between rehabilitation and performance. Would you have any tips for us today about injury prevention?


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Jenni Rawlings has completed a wealth of trainings & learning in the fields of yoga, anatomy, biomechanics, and human movement, including a 500hr YTT with her main yoga mentor Jules Mitchell, MS.

Jenni completed a 6-month mentorship with Chris Beardsley, director of Strength & Conditioning Research and an expert on the science of strength training, and she’s also a certified Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist (FRCms) and a Restorative Exercise Specialist. She writes regularly for Yoga International and for her own body geek-focused yoga blog. She is also a Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider (YACEP®).

Jenni is originally from California, spent a couple of years in Chicago, and recently re-located with her husband and two dogs to Durham, NC.

Jenni teaches yoga & continuing education content for yoga teachers via her website. She also offers daily yoga & movement ideas, tips, and educational content on her Instagram and Facebook feeds.

Travis Pollen is a personal trainer, author, and PhD in Health & Rehabilitation Sciences. Over his seven-year personal training career, he’s trained professional athletes, senior citizens, and everyone in between. He’s on a mission to bridge the gap between rehabilitation and performance. In addition to his doctorate, Travis has a master’s degree in Biomechanics and Movement Science as well as an American record in Paralympic swimming.

When he’s not earning advanced degrees or breaking records, he can be found listening to indie folk music and eating sushi, preferably at the same time. He currently resides in Philadelphia with his girlfriend and their furry friends.

Visit his website to learn more about him:

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105 episodes