by Susan T.
Does yoga build muscle? This is a question that a lot of people have been asking. When most people think about building muscles, what comes to mind is strength training. While this is true, it is worth knowing that yoga can help with muscle gain as well.
When done properly and consistently, certain yoga poses can target your muscles and increase your body strength and flexibility.
This article explores everything you should know about building muscles with yoga.
Yes, you can build muscle with yoga. Usually, one develops muscles when additional stress is put on the muscle’s fiber due to a high level of resistance. The body then initiates processes to repair the damaged muscle fibers, which then increases the muscle mass and size.
Generally, bodyweight and weight training may be considered effective for building muscles because of the resistance. This leaves the question of whether yoga can help with muscle growth. Well, the answer to this is a resounding yes.
Unknown to most people, yoga is a type of bodyweight resistance training since it involves exercises that challenge the muscles, leading to muscle growth over time. Different types of yoga routines are specifically designed to cause resistance and tension in different muscles.
This can lead to an increase in their size and mass. Ideally, muscular stretching and contractions promote muscle growth stimulation.
According to a journal by Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, stretch training, which is what yoga does, can help promote muscle growth. This occurs when the stretching is done between active muscle contractions.
Although strength training is the most common method of building muscles, yoga training can also offer benefits for building muscle. Unlike strength training, yoga is all rounded and its main focus is building the muscles around the core.
As a result, yoga can help promote:
What’s more, different types of yoga poses can effectively focus on specific muscles. This makes yoga an effective muscle workout.
There are different types of principles that make yoga an effective way to build muscles. They include:
This is a strength training principle that can continually help you challenge yourself to build muscle and strength. According to this principle, you need to gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.
Doing this prolongs the process of tearing and repairing your muscles. As a result, your muscles will grow over time. This is especially useful for overcoming strength deficiency.
Ideally, this is the difference between the force produced voluntarily and the force produced by someone. That is why increasing the weight and number of reps while shortening breaks is useful. You may also want to increase the length of time.
Metabolic stress is a principle that operates when stress is placed on the muscle cells from the metabolites (substances formed during metabolic processes) after performing a high rep set.
Metabolite accumulation occurs when low energy levels are released inside cells during resistance training. When your body is experiencing a lot of tension, you may be unable to do another rep resulting in long rests.
According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, doing intense training and then taking long rests can help stimulate metabolic stress. This can in return lead to muscle strength.
When you increase the intensity of your yoga exercises and then take long rests, you are likely to increase tension in certain areas. This can promote metabolic stress, causing your muscles to grow.
Mechanical damage is the other way to achieve muscle strength and growth, also known as muscle hypertrophy. This is common in individuals that lift weights as the muscle fibers stretch and stress and this leads to microscopic tears.
While this is often achieved through lifting weight, mechanical damage can also occur when doing yoga. This happens when you hold the poses for longer causing fatigue and muscle burnout that then stretches the muscle fibers. As the muscle stretches and repairs, muscle growth is encouraged.
Doing eccentric movements is the other muscle-building method. Normally, the muscle lengthens in the eccentric and shortens in the concentric phase. Eccentric movements are slow and lengthening contractions for a specific muscle, without rounding the upper body.
Eccentric movements can promote muscle change, improve the range of motion, and improve tendon health. These movements can also enhance the mind and body connection.
During yoga training, ensure that you slow down when making the moves. This is true when doing moves simultaneously stretch the muscles.
Strength training is always encouraged when you encounter muscular fatigue, as this can help stimulate muscle growth. Usually, muscle fatigue can occur when you increase the number of sets, loads, and reps in strength training.
When it comes to yoga, you can increase the fatigued muscles by doing repetitive movements targeting the same muscle. It is recommended to perform two rounds of the strength flow to target the places where you suffer fatigue.
Most people check their muscles before and after doing yoga to see the difference. On average, it may take about 6 to 12 weeks of yoga training to get results in muscle growth. A journal published by Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine established that doing yoga for 12 weeks can help with muscle gain.
Besides that, the study established that doing yoga for this period can help improve cardiovascular health. It also helps improve flexibility in the hamstring and lower back. However, it is worth noting that the period can vary from one person to another.
To build muscles with yoga, it is highly recommendable to practice yoga daily. This will increase your body strength, make you lean, give you flexibility, and promote muscle growth.
Once you have gotten ahold of the yoga practices, you now need to figure out how to optimize these practices. This will help ensure continuous muscle growth. Here are some tips for you:
Below are top yoga poses, that when practiced daily, can lead to muscle growth and mass.
The tree pose is a standing posture that involves pressing down on the floor using the standing leg while placing the opposite leg on the thigh of the standing leg. Tree pose (Vrkasasana) focuses on strengthening the glutes, legs, core, and back.
This pose is also effective for improving posture. When it comes to the muscle, this pose helps to stimulate the muscles around the hip, knee, and ankle.
Warrior III is a more challenging pose that requires a lot of stamina and concentration. Known as Virabhadrasana III in Sanskrit, this balancing yoga pose involves leaning forward while standing with one leg. The opposite leg and upper body remain perpendicular to the ground.
This pose puts most of the weight on the standing leg and works on the muscles around the glutes, hamstring, calves, back, and shoulder. Besides strengthening the leg muscles, it also engages the core muscles and the backside with the forward-leaning orientation.
This is a great pose for any beginner as it is easy to do and requires you to form the shape of a bridge with your body. It involves lying on your back and lifting your back while your knees are bent and feet flat on the floor.
This simple but engaging yoga pose stretches your back and strengthens muscles in the lower body. This includes your abdomen, glutes, and legs.
Also known as Utkatasana, the chair pose is a powerful strengthening pose that focuses on strengthening the arms and legs muscles. It also stretches and tones the shoulders, back, hips, and butt.
The pose involves taking a pose like you are sitting back on a chair, with your hips moved back and your knees bent. In this pose, your legs support your weight so that you are standing in a half-squat position.
Warrior II or Virabhadrasana is done by bending the front knee to stretch your hips. It is a great pose for opening the hip muscles, stretching the chest, and strengthening the legs.
Generally, this pose offers a rare combination of lengthening and opening. It can also energize the body and mind, helping you enhance your focus and stamina.
Also referred to as the four-limbed staff pose, this low plank pose is achieved by ensuring that your body is parallel to the ground. You then need to support yourself using your toes and palms.
This modern pose is for strengthening the arms, lower back, wrists, and abdominal muscles. It is a more challenging pose and is great for challenging arm balances.
If you are looking to strengthen your leg muscles, the horse pose may be an ideal yoga pose. This yoga posture is also known as Vatayanasana and is great for targeting glutes, quads, and inner thigh muscles.
The pose is suitable for both beginners and intermediate yogis that want to stretch and strengthen their leg muscles.
As the name may already suggest, a boat pose is a modern yoga pose that requires you to seat with your legs stretched out in front of you. With your torso upright, make a V shape with your legs to target the abdominal and core muscles.
Also, this seated yoga pose, which is also known as Navasana engages the deep hip flexors, giving your balance, especially if you sit a lot. It also helps to stretch the spine, torso, and hamstring.
This yoga pose focuses on stretching the front body part and strengthening the back of your body. It is a reverse plank and it focuses on activating the muscles, chest, and the front part of the ankle.
In the end, the Poorvottanasama works wonders when you want to strengthen your wrists, arms, and legs.
This is a modern yoga pose that focuses on awakening the mind and the body. This yoga pose focuses on maintaining the correct balance for our body to function in the right harmony. What’s more, you can use this yoga variety to tone your body.
Vinyasa yoga is a popular yoga pose that features a continuous flow of poses and transitions. These postures are linked with the breath. Unlike traditional poses, this yoga pose does not hold each pose in a steady position.
This fast-paced yoga pose comes with many benefits including building muscle strength. Since it does not involve holding the poses, this yoga targets different muscles with each pose, giving you a full-body workout.
Besides relieving stress and anxiety, yoga builds muscles. With different yoga poses for building muscles, the right one for you will depend on your goals, experience, and fitness level.
So, you don’t have to go to the gym for strength training while you can build muscles at home through yoga.
About Susan T.
Susan T. is an internationally celebrated yoga teacher, but to her, it all started with a very basic motivation: she just really wanted to be able to touch her toes. Susan has come a long way since then- she now regularly leads yoga teacher trainings and workshops all over the world, and has been featured in Yoga Journal, Mantra Yoga, San Jose Mercury News / Health, and more. But Susan will tell you that her simple quest for flexibility has led her to so much more than just touching her toes.