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Does yoga build muscle? As a practice that requires you to hold poses for extended periods of time, yoga is not one you might immediately associate with getting buff. After all, when most people think of muscle-building activities, they think of lifting heavy weights or running sprints on the track.
Yoga, on the other hand, involves a lot of stretching and bending in ways that don’t exactly scream “build muscle!”
Regardless of what it looks like on the surface, though, yoga can absolutely help you build muscle—and it has many other benefits for your body as well.
To start with, there are over 100 different types of yoga. Some focus mostly on poses and others on breathing techniques; some are fast-paced and others slow; some are performed in hot rooms and others in cool ones. You can also mix and match poses from different styles to make your own version.
But no matter what kind or style of yoga you do, it will almost always have beneficial effects on your strength, flexibility, balance, and joint range of motion.
Table of Contents
- Muscles You Didn’t Know Yoga Could Build
- How Does Yoga Build Muscle?
- Other Benefits of Yoga
- How to Make Yoga Even Better for Building Muscle
- Bottom line
Muscles You Didn’t Know Yoga Could Build
As mentioned, there are many different types of yoga, and each type targets different muscles. If you’ve ever done any research into different types of yoga, you’ve probably heard of at least a few of the ones below.
Hatha or Vinyasa yoga: These are the most popular and well-known types of yoga in the West. They involve a lot of movement and flow between poses and are usually practiced in a room heated to around 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit. These types of yoga often focus mainly on your core strength and balance but also on building strength and flexibility in the body.
Ashtanga or Power yoga: Ashtanga is very much more focused on physical strength and is probably most recommended for muscle building, a lot of the moves can be quite demanding on the body also. This type of yoga is usually done in a room that is heated to around 70 degrees. It focuses on building strength and flexibility but also emphasizes breathwork.
Lyengar or Restorative yoga: Iyengar yoga is usually practiced in a room that is moderately heated, and focuses on the overall health and functionality of systems in the body such as digestion, lymph, circulatory and nervous systems but also building strength, flexibility, and relaxation.
Vinyasa flow yoga: Vinyasa flow is a combination of ashtanga and power yoga, and is usually done in a room heated to around 75 degrees. It focuses on building strength, flexibility, and breathwork. Mainly due to the challenging and sometimes difficult moves done with short spaces in between, vinyasa is known to build muscle.
Kundalini yoga: This type of yoga is usually done in a room that is moderately heated, and focuses on building strength and flexibility. Kundalini has a lot of quick and shallow breathing that can really activate and work deep ab muscles that many of us dont use all the time.
How Does Yoga Build Muscle?
There are many different theories about how yoga helps you build muscle.
Some people believe that yoga actually helps you build muscle, while others think that it helps you avoid losing muscle.
The truth is probably somewhere in between: yoga helps you build muscle and maintain muscle while building (and protecting) connective tissue.
To understand how yoga helps you build muscle, think about all the different muscles you use in any given yoga pose. There are muscles in your arms, legs, abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, and even fingertips.
Most yoga poses require you to use these muscles and many of your joints in a challenging but controlled manner, which is what you want to build muscle. If you simply held a static pose, you would not be able to build much muscle.
Other Benefits of Yoga
Beyond just building muscle and flexibility, yoga offers many other benefits for your body. Here are a few of them.
Yoga Can Help You Burn Fat: Many people turn to yoga to help them burn fat. Research shows that yoga can help you burn fat even if you don’t change your diet or exercise routine, so it’s a great way to lose pounds even if you’re not consistent about other aspects of your health.
Yoga Can Improve Your Mood: Studies show that yoga can be helpful for people dealing with depression and anxiety, and it might be even more helpful than medication. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, yoga can be an excellent addition to your treatment plan.
Yoga Can Improve Your Flexibility: Yoga is excellent for improving flexibility, and in fact, it might be even better at improving flexibility than traditional stretching. Flexibility is important for preventing injury, so if you’re not as flexible as you’d like to be, yoga can help you.
Yoga Can Help You Sleep Better: Yoga is a great way to wind down after a long day and get ready for bed. It can help you relax and calm your mind, which will make it easier for you to fall asleep.
How to Make Yoga Even Better for Building Muscle
If you want to make yoga work for building muscle, you need to pick the right style and the right pose.
Whatever style of yoga you choose, one way to really focus on building muscle with yoga is to focus on specific muscles in specific poses.
Pay extra attention when performing certain poses and where possible, hold poses for longer to get more out of them.
Here are some poses you can use to build muscle with yoga.
Arm muscles: go for the plank or the four-limbed staff poses. These poses will of course work your abs too but you will feel your arms start to wobble meaning they are working. These are challenging but manageable.
Back muscles: For the back, a good option is the snake pose. This pose can be done in almost every type of yoga, and while it can be challenging, it’s not too difficult to do correctly. This pose will have you sore after the first time you try it, but you will feel stronger.
Leg muscles: Among the many poses that can build strong leg muscles, the most common would be the bridge pose and/or the warrior pose. These moves when held for a long time will do a really good job at strengthening several muscles in the legs simultaneously.
Core muscles: For the core, a good option is the boat or the crow pose. These poses can be done in every type of yoga and are excellent for the core.
Yoga is not just a relaxing activity you do at the end of your day. It can also be an intense and challenging workout that helps you build muscle. You have to make sure that you choose a style of yoga that focuses on building strength and a pose that targets the muscles you want to build.
You can actively build muscle while also improving flexibility and decreasing stress and anxiety through yoga