Can Yoga Build Muscle?

We bet you know yoga isn’t about just building muscles? But if you want the short answer – then YES, you can definitely build lean and strong muscles with yoga. 

But in today’s body-positive world, we’re staying on the side of a healthy attitude to your body. So building muscles with yoga is not only about looking hot and well-sculpted; it’s about being healthy too.

And if you are on the same side, let’s see what it takes to develop muscles with yoga practice. 

How Can You Build Muscles with Yoga?

If you go to the gym, you already know that muscles grow thanks to the increased resistance, which can be easily reached with weightlifting by simply adding more weight. Yoga is closer to body weight lifting because yoga postures require you to hold your own weight in different positions. So how can you increase muscle resistance with yoga? The principle of building muscles in yoga practice is similar to those in gym training:

Progressive Overloads 

Progressive overload means you increase the loads your muscles undergo during the session. 

Why is such tension so effective in triggering muscle mass growth? Because that’s our body’s natural adaptive mechanism. Our bodies deal every day with the mechanical tension caused by gravity. Thus, when you create immense tension during the training, your body will respond to it by developing muscle fibers more actively.

While it’s easy to do in a gym by simply adding more kilos to your bar, it’s more challenging in yoga as the only weight you lift here is your own body. So how to do that?

Pose modifications:

  • Magnitude. Modify your position on the mat by adding or excluding full body weight. This can be done via adding points of contacting the floor. For example, doing push-ups from all-fourth is easier than doing the same from the plank pose. 
  • External weights. It may be a good idea to introduce some added weights like kettlebells or sandbags to your practice. 

Metabolic Stress 

That feeling of warmth or burning in your muscle you may have experienced during the training is the sign your muscles are under metabolic stress. In an active training session with many repetitions and the absence of rest periods, your muscles work more than they relax. In this way, metabolites start to accumulate in the fibers without a chance to be cleared. The increased metabolites level triggers muscle growth. 

To implement metabolic stress into your practice, use these:

  • Duration in static. Hold the position for more extended periods. Try to hold the plank for at least 2 minutes, and you’ll see how it feels. It’s obvious the more the hold, the bigger the load on your muscles, the more metabolites will accumulate, and the better the body will start growing muscle tissues. 
  • More reps. Doing more reps of the same exercise with little or no rest periods will also activate the metabolic stress processes in your muscles. 

Both of these can be easily included for the yoga practice of any level. In addition, you may need around 12 weeks of active yoga practice to get in shape and muscle up, according to the recent research published by Chinese scientists.

Is Yoga Really Better Than Lifting Weights? 

Numerous reps of muscle contractions you will do in weight lifting training lead to your muscles actually become shorter. Plus, weightlifting concentrates on isolated training of specific muscles or their groups. Thus, you will not be able to activate deeper muscles that stabilize your position. And without consistent exercise, those muscles become weak or shortened. Such prevents you from the natural range of moves your muscles were created to do. 

In the last 3 years, several gym junkies attended my yoga class. Usually, they are very confident like yoga class is a piece of cake for them. But it takes only a few yoga sequences to make them change their mind. In yoga, you can engage all groups of muscles and get the full-body effect and save the functionality of your joints and ligaments. 

Yoga Poses to Start Building Muscle

Tree pose

Chaturanga

Warrior pose

Navasana

Plank pose (+ variations)

What Type of Yoga Builds Muscle More?

All yoga styles include doing the above asanas; still, some are more effective if you want to build muscle.  Such active yoga types as HIIT Yoga, Ashtanga, Power yoga, and Hatha offer fast-paced, dynamic sequences that make your body work and add new muscle fibers. 

Of course, doing some Yin yoga will improve your physique with time. However, restorative yoga classes aim more on lengthening the tissue and may not be so effective in gaining more muscle mass.

FAQs to Build Muscles with Yoga

And before you go, we’ve got some more answers for you.

Is Yoga Better Than Gym?

A well-rounded gym workout or fitness is enough to build muscles and get excellent body shape for most people.  However, if you prefer a holistic approach, yoga can be a great choice. 

Depending on your tastes, you can use yoga as a separate method or combine it with your gym exercises in one way or another.

Should Yoga Be Done Daily to Build Muscle?

The main idea to stick to with yoga practice is consistency. Pick what fits into your schedule and make it regular for the best outcome. 

According to the American Heart Association recommendations attending the yoga class two times a week is enough.

How Long Should You Do Yoga Each Day?

Be it a 10-min sequence or 3-hours Ashtanga class, the session’s duration doesn’t really matter. Yoga works with your body as soon as you step on your mat. 

About

Stephanie started her yoga journey back in 2018 in an Ashtanga class. She likes to experiment and try new challenging postures and yoga tricks. When off the mat, sharing yoga lifehacks is another thing to do. She believes that energy settled in a safe and physically correct form can make you feel better not only in your body but deep inside your soul too.