Can Yoga Build Muscles? How Is It Done?

Sunil Murthy
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Building Muscles in Yoga Class And Not Through Weight Training

The good news is that yoga is excellent for building muscles in many ways. The bad news is that this muscle building takes time. Yoga is a difficult exercise for your muscles to adjust to.

Yoga has been proven to increase muscle endurance and flexibility, but it does not increase muscle mass as weight training does. However, it is an excellent way to keep your muscles at a steady state of strength, and it is an excellent activity for recovery from injury.

As a yoga practitioner, your body will begin to learn and gradually do complicated poses. But it seems your arm muscles can learn to do complicated poses before your leg muscles can. Over time, the transformation will be noticeable to you and your instructor. But it can take years. So don’t expect results right away.

Here are the top 4 Benefits of building muscles through yoga:

  • If you are a beginner, building muscle through yoga is a great way to build your abilities and confidence. Studies have shown that yoga can make you physically more flexible and tone muscles without creating bulk. So if you are just starting with yoga, you will benefit from the muscle-building aspect of yoga slowly with time.
  • Since yoga is a physical activity, you will likely end up with slimmer, fitter legs, trimmer arms, and a tighter stomach. All that is required is a lot of stretching, and you just need to follow the particular yoga poses for more effective muscle building through yoga.
  • If you are advanced in yoga routines, you can continuously enrich your yoga practice with more challenging poses. Yoga is a surprisingly advanced activity that makes you gain muscle and surprisingly tones your body. Since it is a mind, body, spirit activity, yoga will give you good balance, personality development, coordination, and physical fitness that help you build muscle and tone your body effectively.
  • Adding more and more weight to the bar at the gym will inevitably take its toll on your joints and tissues. Yoga builds muscle in a low-impact environment and therefore is perfect for improving the muscles functioning and quality in a sustainable manner.

3 Ways Yoga Helps To Build Muscle

When you think of yoga, your mind may drift to a slender woman or man balancing on their hands, their fingertips, or laying on their back or stomach doing amazing things with their body. Throughout the images, there’s a good chance that you are thinking fast, quick, flexible, and strong, but there is more to yoga than just that.

Yoga helps the body, mind, and spirit heal and grow. It can help you fall in love with yourself and enjoy the amazing body that you have. Physically, yoga can help you build strong muscles, increase flexibility, improve posture, and release tension.

Core Strength is the powerhouse in yoga to channel more energy. You should incorporate as many core-strengthening poses as you can to build a well-toned muscular body. To stay strong requires functional strength, which one can only accomplish by building muscle. It is where the classic yoga poses can help.

1. Progressive Overload

Yoga for muscle gain tends to work by increasing flexibility and improving balance and coordination. These are essential aspects of strength training and are progressive. Yoga isn't a weight training program, it’s a workout regimen, but for an enthusiastic muscle builder, yoga can be an essential part of a workout that incorporates a strength training component.

In yoga, our load is our body weight, which we obviously can’t instantly modify. With body-weight exercises, we need to get creative about how we adapt load to our bodies. This is why it’s crucial to understand both the principles of progressive loading and the different loading parameters to make decisions that get customized to our unique bodies. Flexibility, balance, and coordination are part of yoga routines, but the strength can be increased by the weight training component of the workout.

One can do this in multiple ways by modifying loading parameters. Try modifying magnitude by adding points of contact with the floor to decrease magnitude and vice versa. Try modifying direction by changing the angle. Doing a push-up on the ground is one load. Doing a push-up against the wall is another load. Doing a push-up leaning over a bench, or a countertop, or a bar is another. And lastly, modifying duration has a significant impact too.

2. Metabolic Stress

How does yoga build muscles? Think back to the last time you exercised. How did you feel afterward? Did you feel tired and sore? If you did, then you've felt the muscle-building effects of a workout as you've pushed your body to new limits.

Yoga, while relaxing, is an intense strength-building workout. Yoga focuses on the entire body, especially the muscles. If you were to survey people who do Bikram yoga, most of them would be able to point out the firm muscles they have developed in their arms, legs, and butt.

Like traditional workouts, yoga targets your large muscle groups, particularly those in your legs and butt. It also focuses on the smaller, supporting muscles in your arms. The specific asanas (poses) you do in yoga directly target the muscles, forcing them to work harder than they are used to, leading to metabolite accumulation.

3. Mechanical Damage

Now, it's essential to understand that yoga does not "build" muscles. Instead, yoga "releases" muscles, softens the fascia, relaxes the connective tissue, and improves flexibility. However, it is still possible to gain large, strong muscles doing yoga if that's your goal.

One way to do this is through isometric exercises. Hold a pose in yoga, and you'll be accumulating force. This can tire muscles, and by doing this consistently, you can expect to see permanent gains in strength. However, if you are trying to build muscle mass, this alone won't cut it. You'll have to increase those isometric pressures, and while holding those poses, you must breathe deeply, frequently, and in rhythm with the muscle group, you're holding.

Another way is to combine regular workouts with yoga. This is similar to the above, except the difference lies in that you are doing traditional weight training rather than yoga for the majority of the week. Only a tiny portion of the week should consist of yoga. In a traditional workout plan, incorporate yoga after your standard workouts in a cool-down session.

Yoga Poses to Build Strong Muscles

Yoga can benefit those who want to improve their body’s strength. Yoga poses (asanas) are practiced in a sequence to warm up the body before poses are held. Some poses help you stretch and build muscle strength.

Yoga is often taken up by those who are looking for a lighter version of fitness. However, yoga makes you stronger and more flexible and increases body awareness.
Depending on the style of yoga you are practicing, there are poses like the Cobra or other poses that require you to lift your torso. The Plow pose is another example of a strength-training position. The Plow pose can also have the added benefit of improving your digestion.

Yoga also strengthens the core because it helps you to focus on breathing. Yoga and meditation help you control your attention more effectively, focus on the present, and be thankful for what you have instead of worrying about the future or what is lacking.

# 1 Tree Pose

The majority of Yoga poses and exercises involve balancing on our feet and hands. The Tree Pose utilizes the whole body to maintain a balanced stance with the help of the mind. Like a tree, the pose requires personal strength and balance.

You need to step onto your left foot and grab your right ankle with your right hand and place your foot on your upper inner left thigh. Hold your arms out at the sides of your body, horizontally, or place your hands in Prayer Pose in front of your heart.

As you move into the pose, there are various things to keep in mind. You should attempt to bring your shoulders parallel to the floor. It also helps to keep your thighs and trunk in a straight line. Besides, keep your hips in a straight position, and your toes should point to the front.

Hold this Tree Pose for a few minutes as you inhale and exhale deeply. If you do the tree pose regularly, it will help you in toning your muscles and help improve your balance and posture.

# 2 Warrior Three Pose

Warrior Three is a good exercise if you want to build your muscles and work out your entire body. It is a good exercise for your shins. You need a yoga mat for this purpose.

  • Step 1: Stand straight with your knees slightly bent. Hold your palms in front of your chest. Stand as tall as possible.
  • Step 2: Bend your left knee to a 45-degree angle. Do not bend it past a 90-degree. Lean your torso to the right and bring your right thigh perpendicular to your left. Continue your position leaning forward and contracting your right quadriceps muscle.
  • Step 3: To work your quadriceps, make sure that your knee is pointed in the same direction as your left toes. Inhale deeply and hold this position for at least three counts. Put your left foot back on the mat.
  • Step 4: Repeat the process for your left knee. Bend your right knee and extend the left up. Contract the quadriceps muscle. Stretch your leg and lean forward.

# 3 Bridge Pose

The bridge pose is an easy yoga pose for you to start within the beginning of yoga practice. You will place your body on your back in the bridge position with your knees raised as high as possible. Place your palms under your buttocks for support. Focusing on the rhythm of your breathing, the bridge pose is done to gain control over the mind. It also improves flexibility and the spine’s health.

# 4 Chair Pose

The chair pose is used in a series of yoga poses that allegedly give you long, lean muscles. The chair pose is a non-impact, core-building move that can strengthen your back and buttocks.

To perform the chair pose, kneel on the floor. Keeping the knees on the floor, rise on your toes and hold the position. If you can balance in that position, you can easily build muscular endurance in your legs.

# 5 Plank Pose

The plank pose is a static pose that is intended to strengthen and stretch the upper and lower abdominal muscles and the triceps, chest, and lower back. It is also intended to improve the body's flexibility, reduce stress, prevent and rehabilitate lower back pain, improve athletic performance, and reduce fatigue. Considering that just 15 minutes a day of yoga helps decrease stress, you can see the therapeutic value derived from a couple of minutes of this pose.

The following are four other benefits of the plank pose:

  1. Builds abdominal muscles: The plank pose will help condition the abdominal muscles. These muscles must be pretty intense if you want to maintain a straight back while holding this pose.
  2. Improves posture: Not only will your abdominal muscles be strengthened, but so will your back muscles. This will give you better posture, and you will be able to stand up straighter and taller.
  3. Reduces backaches: When you do the plank pose, you will be strengthening the muscles in your back. It will give you a stronger back, and it will lessen the chances of suffering from backaches.
  4. Strengthens the core: If you're working on losing weight, this is an excellent exercise for you. When you get in this pose and hold it for the recommended 20 minutes a day, your core will get stronger, and it will help stabilize your posture.

# 6 The Suryanamaskar Cycle

Make a straight line with both feet. Stand up straight. Place your hands in front, and hold them together. Now bend forward and put your hands on your feet. Do not bend too much. Then move a bit forward. Bend your knees and put your hands on your knees. Do not bend too much. Straighten your hands and stand up straight. Now slowly raise your left leg and put your hands on the foot.

Bend and bring your head to the knee. Bend only to an extent where it does not cause pain. Hold your back straight. Then raise the leg and put the foot on the ground. Stand up straight. Now do the same with your right leg. This completes one Surya Namaskar cycle.
The posture starts with Tadasana, Namaskar Asana, Urdhva Thasana, Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Uttanasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Namaskarasana and ends in Tadasana.

Practicing this Suryanamaskar for a few minutes helps to develop some muscles of the abdomen and chest. It also helps in toning your neck and legs muscles and improves flexibility.

# 7 The Cobra Pose

Also known as Bhujang Asana, or the cobra, this yoga for beginner's poses works on your chest, back, shoulders, and stomach muscles. This is the perfect pose for beginners who haven’t yet developed core and abdominal strength and more advanced practitioners looking to regain or strengthen back strength.

Lie on your stomach and place your hands down next to your body in a child's pose. Push yourself up to your stomach and push your upper torso upwards. Slowly lift your upper body and hold for a few seconds. Repeat 20 to 30 times.

# 8 The Headstand Pose

One of the most important postures in Yoga is called the “Salamba Sirsasana” or headstand.

The posture is performed by taking your legs behind your body and raising your buttocks until they are above ground

Grab your ankles with your hands and allow your body to fall backward until your headrests are in the same plane of space as your feet with your back on the floor.
This posture is done for meditation and therapeutic purposes and is believed to cure diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, and migraine. It is also said to combat anxiety, nervousness, and depression.

Just like any other athletic activity, Yoga isn’t all fun and games. It would be a good idea for a beginner to seek guidance before attempting the headstand.
Once you master it, you can add it to your yoga poses that help burns fat and build muscles.

The posture strengthens the abdominal muscles and those located in the back of the neck.

It also helps to improve circulation and stimulate the thyroid. The Salamba Sirsasana also claims to speed up the elimination of toxins and blocks in the vital channels of the human body.

Can Yoga Build Muscle? Concluding Thoughts

Yoga is not a body-building workout. You will not bulk up by doing yoga. Yoga does focus on developing lean and strong muscles, and it does allow you to build strength. This is because your body will go through many changes that will make it almost impossible to get back into exercising.

If your goal is to build muscle or develop lean muscle, you will need to find a new workout routine. Some research suggests that the strength gained from yoga can be helpful for athletes that have other workouts in their training.

If you plan on taking up yoga, remember that it is very different from a physical workout. It is not a weight-training session. When you see celebrities in yoga classes, they most likely took it up to weight loss.

If you have injured your body, yoga may be a good choice as it will help you improve your flexibility.

No matter what your goal, take guidance from your instructor and get inspired by their experience. Yoga teachers can assist you in finding a routine that will match your fitness level.