9 Yoga Poses For Building Muscle
Whenever someone talks about building muscle, most of us automatically have our minds drift to large gyms with heavy weights and people groaning as they lift them. But there are a wealth of different ways to build muscle, and one of those includes yoga.
Though yoga may not be always looked at as a major contributor to building muscle, it has a wealth of possibilities thanks to the progressive overload, eccentric overload, and metabolic stress it puts on the body. This is all done through precise movements that are low impact and compound, but offer a wealth of flexibility and impact on overall muscle health.
So you see, there is a wealth of ways that yoga can help one build muscle and in this article, we're going to take an in-depth look at everything having to do with that. From the understanding of how yoga builds muscle to some poses that are specifically perfect for increasing your mass, we hope that we can help enlighten you on the wonderful effects of yoga when it comes to building muscle.
Muscle & Yoga: Is Building Muscle Possible with Yoga?
Yoga's main focus is more on a mind-body connection than it is on building muscle. With its meditation and mindfulness practices combined with physical movement, it is intended to help one create skills when it comes to breathing and aligning energies both inside and outside of the body.
However, just because it focuses on those core aspects does not mean that it has no capability of building muscle. It is after all physical activity, and you would be surprised at the effects it has on muscle mass. Not only is it going to help increase flexibility which will reduce the risk of injury, but it also, through its precise movements, creates better endurance when it comes to your muscles.
This is all thanks to the fact that the intricate and precise movements that are incorporated in yoga utilizes whole groups of muscles at once, rather than one single muscle at a time. It also uses your own body weight as opposed to free weights to lengthen and stretch the muscle fibers. This is known as eccentric contraction, and it creates a leaner muscle tone and better flexibility.
This is a vast contrast to what weight training does, which has you look at specific muscles and work on them. It actually uses something called concentric muscle contraction, which causes the muscles to swell up and compacts them. Both of these forms of contraction are vital to ensuring you build muscle, one just has more benefits both mentally, spiritually, and physically than the other. That one is of course yoga!
Understanding Muscle Building with Yoga: How Does it Work?
Now that you know that yoga can help you build muscle, you may be wondering how exactly it works. Though we went over a little bit about it above, we're going to take a more in-depth look at the three main reasons why yoga is so good for building muscle.
Those three contributing factors are:
Progressive overload is when you are adding more weight or more reps step by step to build your strength. The more heavy weights you lift, the more your body begins building muscles. Yoga actually uses the same idea except instead of weight it utilizes holding positions longer and variations of poses.
In this regard, the progressive overload in yoga happens through the repetition of poses through these sequences and the amount of time they are held. As you build your practice, you're going to challenge yourself to go further with the poses and hold them longer to maintain the buildup you have created.
Eccentric overload causes mechanical damage to the muscles, which is a vital part of the process of building them. The more tension and contractions you have in your muscles, the more microscopic tears occur in them. This is the same thing that happens when you are solely doing weightlifting. This process allows your body to heal the muscle tears by increasing the size of the muscle.
The eccentric overload in yoga is solely focused on the lengthening portion of the exercise when it comes to your muscles. Oftentimes, this happens when you are lowering or lifting your body into the positions.
“Feel the burn!” we've all heard that said in regard to more high-impact exercises, but the truth is you feel that burn when you are doing yoga as well, and it is scientifically known as metabolic stress. The amount of this process depends on the type of yoga and the intensity you are doing because you have to build up metabolites.
That means in order to have a high level of metabolic stress, you have to invest time in one of the more rigorous forms of yoga. So things like Bikram yoga are going to be more beneficial in this aspect of how yoga helps to build muscles than something as low impact as in yoga.
What Yoga is Best for Building Muscle?
The truth is that almost any form of yoga will help you build some sort of muscle, but if you're looking for mass along with strength, then there is going to be better options amongst the plethora of yoga styles. Below, we're going to take a look at a few of the best yoga practices for building muscles:
Where most others tend to focus on aligning energies and flexibility, this form of yoga is concentrated on both endurance as well as strength. The flow of the movements from one position to another is what this yoga focuses on so that there's a smooth movement.
It often has more rapid-paced movements between these positions, accompanying a specific level of breath work.
This type of yoga is a more high-impact version of Hatha yoga. It comprises of six different levels with a fixed pattern of positions. It combines both the Vinyasa flow movements with the breath work of Hatha.
Bikram is a more modernized form of yoga that has its roots in Hatha. It became big in the 1970s, and it is basically hatha yoga practiced in a heated room. This heat is not only going to help you sweat away calories, but it's also going to allow for your muscles to be more pliable and therefore have better blood flow that will help your muscles begin repairing themselves quicker, thereby helping build muscle.
Hatha yoga utilizes a wealth of definitions that are intended to help create a better body-mind connection. Though there are different types of Hatha yoga, if you choose a practice that is a little more vigorous, you can definitely see a good amount of muscle growth.
These sessions will often have longer hold times and more challenging positions that really look to hone in on certain muscular groups.
Why Use Yoga to Build Muscle?
It's very easy to look at other options when it comes to building muscle. After all, yoga is a practice you have to be consistent with in order to see the best results possible. But along with building the muscle, you're also improving the muscle health and flexibility, which will help in a plethora of different other areas.
We thought we could help you decide on why you should use yoga to build muscle by looking at the benefits you receive through dedicated practice:
Movement - Yoga utilizes functional movements that work a wide range of muscle groups all in one pose. This gives a more natural strengthening to the muscles as opposed to weightlifting which uses isolated movements.
Compound Movements - The poses used in yoga actually combine multiple movements that help improve balance. In other words, these compound movements and exercises allow for a more well-rounded workout as opposed to focusing solely on weights.
Low Impact - There are some people out there that, though they want to build muscles, can't execute a higher impact workout due to health concerns. Yoga is perfect for this because the movements and other components put less strain on the body than weight does. On top of improving your flexibility, it's going to also help with joint health and circulation, which is perfect for building muscle.
Flexibility - In order to build flexibility, muscles have to be lengthened and strengthened, and yoga is perfect for that. Better flexibility also gives you more range of motion and a better fitness level.
Reduced Chance of Injury - To build muscle you have to maintain good health of them. Since during the process of executing the yoga poses each of these muscle tissues is being lengthened and strengthened, it's going to improve mobility while building strength. This in turn will lead to less chance of injury.
Some Poses That Help
All poses when combined together will help one utilize yoga to build muscle, some poses are specifically great for helping to build strength throughout your body. As you progress through your practice you will of course modify them and wind up holding them longer or maybe even do more repetitions, but no matter what, these poses are perfect for strengthening your muscles:
There are two versions of this pose - warrior I and warrior II. This pose really engages the lower body while allowing for your chest to open up and stretch those muscles as well. That means that this particular pose focuses on things like your calves, hamstrings, and thighs.
The deeper that you enter these poses, the more tension will be put on your glutes and quads, and this will in turn help create those microtears needed to build muscle. The pose also is perfect for sculpting the legs and can also help with blood circulation.
This pose is typically held for anywhere from 30 to 45 seconds. It is meant to engage not only your lower body but your arms and your core as well as your spine. It is intended to help with balance as well as strengthen the oblique and help activate spinal nerves for improved muscle strength there as well.
The key is you have to keep your body straight though otherwise you will fall forward and then this will alleviate the challenge and results when it comes to building your muscles.
This pose is sometimes known as the four-limb staff pose. Its intention is to help build the strength of the upper body as well as the core. It is a key part of other poses such as the sun salutation and is utilized in a wealth of different yoga practices, including power yoga.
Ideally, you can utilize this pose in a low stance and hold it for as long as possible. Or you can utilize it as more of a traditional push-up to help build your back muscles.
This pose is another one of the yoga poses that utilizes a full body of muscles. It is similar to a squat, but you keep your knees together. This movement is intended to help build your thighs, ankles, and quad muscles. On top of that, it also activates your arms and your core too.
It may actually be one of the more challenging poses, especially when you take a deeper stance in it, as you will find yourself shaking and sweating as you would never believe. Along with this, if you want more of a challenge you can utilize a yoga block and hold it in your hands above your head which could strengthen and build muscles even more.
With this pose, the entirety of your body weight is going to be held on one leg. Not only is this going to build the muscles in that leg, but it's also going to help you strengthen your core and improve your balance.
There are multiple different forms of this pose, including one where you place your other foot on the opposite leg. There is also one where you combine both the tree pose with the chair pose to optimize the activation of a wealth of muscle groups.
The bridge pose is just that, you form a shape of a bridge. This particular pose is intended to work on the back muscles as well as the chest and spine. When looking at the muscle groups that this is going to help build, it's going to primarily be in the glutes, abdomen, and spinal area.
This pose has you pushing up your upper body on with your hands, almost in the form of a snake that is raised with its hood out. It is used to tone your abdomen as well as open up the shoulder area. It is perfect for strengthening your back muscles and helps with flexibility greatly.
On top of that, it can help with blood circulation, which leads to things like the proper functioning of your kidneys and other systems in your body. All of which can play a part in the healing process of your muscles so that you can build muscles properly.
The crow pose is definitely one of the more advanced poses. It almost looks like you were doing a headstand while hanging from a tree branch. This one cannot be tried by a beginner, so for those that are just starting, start with some of the others and work your way up to this one.
This particular pose works on your arms, abdomen, and wrist strength. It is also great to stretch out your upper back and helps with coordination and balance.
This pose is maybe one of the most difficult and definitely one that should only be tried by those that have a little bit more experience in yoga. The pose itself is a headstand where the body weight of the individual is solely held by the forearms. This helps build upper body strength and muscles.
Surprisingly, though, it also helps with legs and is great for toning your abdomen area. It also is key to helping with circulation and that will help your brain work better as well as the healing process of the muscle-building system.
Yoga, though not traditionally thought of as a strength or muscle-building practice, is actually quite effective at doing so. On top of helping one build muscles, it also has a wealth of other benefits that can help one find their way to a better life. Coupled with the mental, spiritual, and other physical health benefits, it is a crucial key in planning any type of wellness journey.
Through the utilization of core principles in weightlifting itself but with a gentler approach, yoga is by far a great option when it comes to the king for a low-impact way of building muscle. Yoga itself will unlock a whole body strengthening, building not only your physical muscles but your spiritual and mental as well. This is why so many people have found their way to developing a consistent yoga practice on their path to finding that happier and healthier life.