Yoga is an age-old practice revered for its mental and spiritual benefits. However, a regular yoga practice can be the perfect workout routine. Yoga’s cardiovascular benefits are often discussed, however, the question remains, “does yoga build muscle?” The answer is simple: Yes!
Read on for a comprehensive understanding of how yoga poses to aid in the muscle-building process and how you can better use yoga to effectively get toned and ripped.
How Does Yoga Build Muscles (The Science of It)
All strength training follows the same principles of building muscle. Yoga is a form of body weight training. This means that, unlike weight lifting, yoga involves using your own body weight to help burn calories and build muscle. The key processes that help build muscle in strength training are –
Metabolic stress is the phrase termed for the physiological process that muscle fibers undergo. It causes hypertrophy i.e. the lengthening of muscles which results in muscle growth and increased muscle strength. Muscle hypertrophy is common when we practice challenging flows. Metabolic stress can therefore help in muscle building through yoga.
This occurs when the strain of the weight causes stress on muscle fibers causing them to be damaged and heal resulting in larger muscles. This is a very common process that takes place during all strength training. In traditional weight training the more weight, you pick up the more mechanical damage your muscles experience. During yoga, muscle fibers undergo this tear and in turn grow to make your muscle mass greater.
Every exercise has eccentric and concentric muscle contraction. Eccentric contraction is the portion when your muscle lengthens. Research has shown that focusing more on the eccentric portion i.e. eccentric overload helps to increase muscle growth in a leaner manner. Weight training focuses on concentric contraction which results in a more bulky muscle. Yoga poses generally revolve around the concept of eccentric movements and therefore become instant allies in the process of building muscle that is elongated rather than bulky.
Progressive Overload is the process through which one increases the number of repetitions or the duration of their workout in order to improve their strength and muscle. In weight training, this happens when we increase the repetition or lift more weight. A strong yoga practice includes increasing the intensity of the poses, practicing more repetitions, or creating variations that help in the process of progressive overload.
Yoga vs Weight Training
All the scientific methods mentioned above are a standard part of building muscle through any form of working out. So what makes yoga better than simply lifting weights? Here are a few reasons-
1. Yoga Helps the Entire Body
Yoga is definitely a more balanced approach as it helps every part of the body rather than working in isolation the way weight training does.
2. It Burns Calories Too
Yoga is a great way to burn calories while gaining muscle growth. A single yoga class burns anywhere between 140 to 460 calories. Yoga increases your overall cardiovascular endurance helping improve your health.
3. Increases Flexibility As Well
The one area lifting weights falls short is providing flexibility to the muscles. Yoga ensures that the muscles grow and still maintain or even improve their flexibility.
4. Improves Functional Fitness
This is the type of fitness that filters into your daily life. Yoga goes beyond creating an aesthetic figure. It also provides you the functional strength that you can carry into your other tasks throughout your day.
5. Improves Endurance
Muscle endurance increases tremendously as one holds a yoga pose for a longer time. This improves overall muscle strength as well.
6. Prevents Injuries
As your range of motion and functional fitness increases, your chances of injuries reduce drastically. Moreover as mentioned in the International Journal of Physiology, Nutrition and Physical Education, yoga builds muscle and also protects one from bone issues like arthritis, back pain.
7. Yoga; Anywhere Anytime
Unlike lifting heavy weights, yoga needs no fancy gym or equipment. This makes yoga perfect for anyone wanting to build muscle on the go and makes it more accessible to all.
Best Yoga Poses to Build Muscle
There are different types of yoga poses that one can practice and each comes with a different goal. For example, Yin yoga works best for a restorative practice. In order to build muscle the best yoga workout would fall under Ashtanga yoga, Hatha yoga, Vinayasa yoga, Hot yoga, and Power yoga. Take yoga classes in any of these yoga categories and muscle growth will be inevitable.
To help you along your journey here is a list of certain yoga poses that can contribute significantly to building muscle.
1. Warrior Pose
There are 5 warrior poses that help in the process of building strength in your leg muscles. These standing poses target all the major muscles of your lower body helping you build more muscle. Each warrior pose has been displayed in detail below.
To perform a warrior step your right foot forward as in a forward lunge (ensure a 90-degree angle at the knee) and raise your hands to the ceiling while breathing in. From here you can continue.
2. Triangle Pose
This standing pose helps in building strength in your hips and leg while stretching your arms and shoulders.
To perform this yoga, place a mat on the ground, and stand more than hip-width apart. Then raise your arms till they are parallel to the ground and begin to extend your torso into the side of your front foot and then downwards.
Try to touch your front hand to the ground. If you are a beginner, this might be extremely challenging. Go ahead and use a yoga block to support your front hand.
3. Chair Pose
This is one of the best yoga moves as it increases muscular strength in the lower body as well as the back.
For the chair pose, raise your arms above your head and keep your feet close together, and begin to bend your knees until they are parallel to the floor.
4. Tree Pose
This is one of the most common holdings standing poses. It helps to build muscle by engaging your core as you hold the pose standing on one leg.
For the tree, the pose begins by standing hip-width apart. Then slowly lift one leg and bring it to the thigh of the other leg. Then raise your hands either to a prayer pose in front of your chest or upright towards the sky.
These full-body yoga asanas help in toning and strengthening the full body, especially the core. Planks and their variations are often used in challenging flows. Planks can be performed on the palms, the elbows, and one on either side as well. Side planks target your oblique muscles.
Begin on all fours. Try to keep your back as stable and straight as you can. Try to avoid any arches here. With your hands on the ground, spread your fingers to get better support. Then slowly move your legs back until they are straight, and then lift towards the ceiling.
To get the proper benefits of planks, it is necessary to keep your core tight and your body straight. Engage your core to help maintain the position for longer.
For a side plank, begin in a normal plank. From here, roll onto the edge of your right leg, as you shift your weight to the right side. Stack your left leg on top of your right leg. Then extend your left arm till it points to the ceiling. Repeat the same on your left leg as well.
6. Crow Pose
The crow pose is one of the more challenging poses as it involves challenging arm balances and lifting your entire body weight. This yoga pose helps in building muscles as well as upper body strength.
To practice the crow pose, go into a deep squat, with your hips parallel to the ground. Next, place your hands on the ground in front of your body centrally. Then slowly begin to lift your legs off the ground and place your weight over your hands and put your knees above your elbow.
The handstand is an example of an inversion pose. This help to strengthen your arms and core. Such arm balances help improve overall balance in your body.
The handstand is an extremely advanced move and should ideally not be practiced without a yoga instructor around.
The Final Say
As you can already see, yoga is scientifically proven to help in creating a muscular physique. If you are a fitness enthusiast already, or a complete beginner, commencing a yoga practice can be one of the best decisions of your life.
Surely it will help in the muscle-building journey, but you can also reap all the benefits of yoga. This includes better bone health, blood flow, balance, flexibility, digestion and mental well-being.
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, join a yoga class and find joy in building muscle through a rejuvenating practice.
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