Does Yoga Build Muscle: 7 Best Yoga Poses to Build Muscles

Widely practiced and loved because of its numerous benefits, Yoga is quickly evolving in the fitness and well-being world. But does yoga build muscle?

Yoga is an age-old practice revered for its mental and spiritual benefits. However, a regular yoga practice can be the perfect workout routine1.

Does Yoga Build Muscle?

Yoga’s cardiovascular benefits 2are 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.

Woman doing yoga
By: Lucas Pezeta on Pexels 

How Does Yoga Build Muscles: The Science Behind

All strength training follows the same principles of building muscle. Yoga is a form of bodyweight training3, this means that, unlike weight lifting, yoga involves using your body weight to help burn calories and build muscle. But does yoga build muscle?

The key processes that help build muscle in strength training are –

  • Metabolic stress

    Metabolic stress is the phrase termed for the physiological process that muscle fibres undergo. It causes hypertrophy i.e. the lengthening of muscles which results in muscle growth and increased muscle strength.

    Muscle hypertrophy

    4

    is common when we practice challenging flows. Metabolic stress can therefore help in muscle building through yoga.

  • Mechanical Damage

    This occurs when the strain of the weight causes stress on muscle fibres 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 fibres undergo this tear and in turn, grow to make your muscle mass greater, but does yoga build muscle?

  • Eccentric overload

    Every exercise has eccentric and concentric muscle contraction. Eccentric contraction is the portion when your muscle lengthens.

    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

    Progressive overload is the process through which one increases the number of repetitions or the duration of their workout 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 v. Weight Training

All the scientific methods mentioned above are a standard part of building muscle through any form of work. So what makes yoga better than simply lifting weights? Does yoga build muscle? Here are a few reasons-

1. Yoga Helps the Entire Body

Yoga is 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 with 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, and band 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:

Now that you know does yoga build muscle, let’s delve deeper.

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.

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 poses5 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 muscles6. 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:

Woman does warrior pose
By: Polina on Pexels

When we talk about does yoga build muscle, this pose is a must.

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.

Woman doing triangle pose
By: Marta Wave on Pexels

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 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 lifting one leg and bringing 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.

5. Planks

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.

Woman doing plank
By: Marta Wave on Pexels

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.

Two women performing crow pose where one does a variation
By: Elina Fairytale on Pexels

7. Handstand

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.

Does yoga build muscle
By Michiel on Pexels

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you get fit with yoga only?

Despite all of yoga’s advantages, practicing by yourself won’t be effective. Cardio, strength exercise, agility, an energized brain, and a balanced diet all contribute to being fit.

2. Is yoga better than the gym?

Yoga is the best exercise for you if you want to improve your posture, strength, flexibility, and stability. But working out in the gym is the best option if you’re seeking to gain muscle.

3. Is yoga better than a gym for muscle?

Yoga is focused on the muscles, glands, and internal organs while also eliminating toxins. As a result, it helps the body detoxify more effectively. Exercise in the gym is mainly focused on strengthening muscles and enhancing cardiovascular health. So, for gaining muscle, the gym is a better choice.

The Final Say

As you can already tell by now, 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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  1. Verstegen, Mark, and Pete Williams. Core performance: the revolutionary workout program to transform your body and your life. Rodale, 2004. ↩︎
  2. Jayasinghe, Satyajit R. “Yoga in cardiac health (a review).” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology 11.5 (2004): 369-375. ↩︎
  3. Harrison, Jeffrey S. “Bodyweight training: A return to basics.” Strength & Conditioning Journal 32.2 (2010): 52-55. ↩︎
  4. Schoenfeld, Brad J. “The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 24.10 (2010): 2857-2872. ↩︎
  5. Verma, Manisha, et al. “Yoga-82: a new dataset for fine-grained classification of human poses.” Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF conference on computer vision and pattern recognition workshops. 2020. ↩︎
  6. Abe, Takashi, Charles F. Kearns, and Yoshiaki Sato. “Muscle size and strength are increased following walk training with restricted venous blood flow from the leg muscle, Kaatsu-walk training.” Journal of applied physiology 100.5 (2006): 1460-1466. ↩︎

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