When you have held the downward-facing dog or the chair position for 15 breaths for the first time, you will know that yoga has a lot to do with strength. In this article you will find out how you can use yoga as strength training and thereby build muscles in a targeted manner.
Does yoga generally help to build muscle?
Although we "only" practice yoga with our own body weight, you will build up strength very quickly. It is undoubtedly a different force than what you are training with heavy weight exercises. You won't get any big muscle packs from it either. Yoga gives you lean and long muscles, which you can hardly tell how much strength and stamina they actually have.
Can I build muscles with yoga?
How much muscle you can build up through yoga depends primarily on three factors:
- How much muscle you already have from other sports. In general, the following applies: In order to build up muscles, the body needs intensive stimuli in the form of stress on our muscles. If you currently have hardly any muscles, you will be able to build muscles fairly quickly through yoga. The more strength and muscles you already have, the more intense (and unfamiliar) the stimuli you apply to your body must be so that more muscles are built.
- Which yoga style you practice and how regularly you practice. Some yoga styles are characterized by powerful and dynamic movements, others focus on rest and relaxation (more on this later). Regularity also plays a major role in building muscle. You should stimulate your muscles three to four times a week to achieve a long-term effect.
- Your physical and genetic makeup. You have the least influence on this factor, because there are people who build muscle very easily and quickly. By nature, you tend to have large, rounded muscles and need less intense training stimuli to develop them. Others are predisposed to have narrow or tender muscles. Although they build up muscles, their stature still remains rather slim and petite.
Is yoga suitable for building muscle?
Yoga is basically suitable for all people to build muscle - except maybe if your goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games in weightlifting. How quickly and to what extent you build muscles through yoga depends on the factors explained above. Especially people who do not enjoy training in the gym or who have not yet developed good body awareness can build strength through yoga in a gentle and conscious way.
Yoga for men: Is this trendy sport a good workout?
I have already had very sporty men in my yoga classes who came to me after the lesson and told me that they had never done anything so strenuous in their life. Yoga is definitely a good workout and can be very intense. The nice thing about it, compared to other sports, is that you learn to turn off the idea of competition and constant comparison with others. Because yoga is about challenging your body in the way that is good for you - and not emulating a given ideal.
Muscle building through yoga - that's how it works
If you want to build muscles with yoga, you should choose the right yoga style and practice several times a week. But it's not just a matter of frequency, but also of the yoga style.
Not every type of yoga is suitable for developing strength and muscles. For example, Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga are very calm styles that involve passive stretching and conscious relaxation. The effort and muscular tension are kept as low as possible.
Which types of yoga are best for building muscle?
All powerful and dynamic styles are ideal for building muscle. These include above all Vinyasa Flow, Power and Ashtanga Yoga. It's not just a matter of style, but also of the way you practice. Positions that are held longer are more used to build muscle than brisk flows, in which you switch fluently between the positions. The more repetitions of the same exercise you do in a session, the higher the training effect on the muscles working.
Which muscles are trained the most with yoga?
Basically you can train all muscle groups with yoga, because the exercises offer a great variety in which every part of the body is addressed. With standing postures such as the warrior positions, the chair and the goddess posture, you primarily strengthen your legs. Support positions such as the board, the four-link stick position and the side support strengthen your shoulders and core. With strength exercises in the prone position, you strengthen your back and arm balances give you strong arms. Balance postures primarily strengthen your core muscles, which are neglected in many sports and everyday movements. Yoga also works on your fasciae, which are directly connected to the muscle fibers.
The best asanas for building muscle
The following exercises are particularly suitable for building strength and muscles with yoga:
- Plank (Phalakasana)
The plank posture is one of the best exercises to strengthen the whole body and especially the core.
How does the “plank” exercise work?
1. From a four-footed position, bring your knees a good bit further back. Keep your arms straight and pull your belly button towards your spine to keep your core stable.
2: Lift your knees off the floor so that your whole body forms a line - from your heels to the top of your head. The shoulders are straight above your hands.
Make sure you don't sag in your core, as this can cause back pain. Practice with your knees on the floor until you have developed enough strength and a good body image to be able to perform the full plank posture cleanly.
Which muscles are strengthened as a result?
With the board you strengthen your entire body. The muscles of the arms, shoulders, abdomen, back, legs, and buttocks are all involved here to keep you stable.
- Four-limbed stick posture (Chaturanga Dandasana)
- Goddess pose (Utkata Konasana)
- Grasshopper (Salabhasana)
- Warriors 1, 2, 3 and other variations (Virabhadrasana)
- Lunge (Alanasana)
- Chair (Utkatasana)
- Downward Looking Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Hardly any yoga class can do without the downward facing dog. While it is almost a resting posture for advanced practitioners, it demands a lot of strength and effort from beginners.
How does the Downward Facing Dog exercise work?
From a four-footed position, stretch one leg back with your toes on the floor. Put the other foot next to it - you are in the plank position. From here bend your legs slightly and slide your pelvis far back and up. More important than being able to straighten your legs and bring your heels to the floor is a straight and elongated back here.
Make sure to place your hands shoulder width apart and actively press your fingers into the mat. Put your feet hip-width apart and push your toes firmly down into the ground.
In the downward facing dog, you especially strengthen the muscles of your arms and shoulders. The abdominal and back muscles are also involved
- Shoulder Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- Dolphin (Shishumarasana)
- L on the wall
What do I have to consider when performing the asanas?
Start with 5 breaths in one pose. As soon as you no longer feel the muscle fatigue effect, increase to 10, 15 or even 20 breaths for which you hold a position.
Even if it gets tiring and your muscles start to tremble, keep breathing calm and steady through your nose.
Make sure you have a clean alignment and let experienced teachers guide you.
Listen carefully to your body and leave this position immediately if you are in pain.
The supportive effect: strength exercises & yoga
Regardless of whether you mainly practice yoga and want to incorporate a few strength exercises from time to time, or whether you do a lot of strength training and integrate yoga exercises into your training - yoga and strength exercises go very well together and can be optimally complemented.
Can I combine strength training and yoga in everyday life?
If you already practice yoga regularly, make sure to regularly integrate the strength building exercises described above into your practice in order to build up muscles in a targeted manner. If you are already doing strength training, take 15-20 minutes at the end to stretch and relax the stressed muscles with yoga exercises.
Does yoga support my muscle building training - and if so, how?
Yoga can support your muscle building training in many ways. Either you use your yoga practice to specifically build up muscles by holding strengthening positions for several breaths. Or you can supplement your strength training in the gym with yoga exercises to keep your built-up muscles supple and flexible. Pure strength training makes the body stiff over time - yoga can create an optimal balance here.
Yoga and muscle building: important tips for healthy training
The most valuable thing you learn through yoga is to listen better to yourself and your body awareness. So you can push your limits in a healthy way.
In any case, warm up with mobilizing and activating movements before doing demanding strength exercises. In yoga we practice the sun salutation at the beginning of the lesson. If you are well warmed up, you will significantly reduce the risk of injuries while exercising.
How do I combine meditation and muscle building?
There are several options here as well. If you consciously combine the exercises with your breath, both your yoga practice and your strength training can be meditation in motion. Or you take a few minutes at the beginning and at the end of your unit to consciously feel into your body and observe your breath. This way you stay in touch with your body feeling better during the exercises and it is easier to find the right level of intensity for you - because it can be different every day. While doing yoga, you don't build up any big muscles, but you still develop a lot of strength that strengthens you from within and at the same time allows you to move more and more.
Author: Johanna Hector