Does Yoga Build Muscle Strength?
Yoga probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think about strength training. Although improving flexibility is often touted as the primary benefit of the mind-body practice, yoga can also build and strengthen your muscles. Every time you perform poses like the tree or plank pose, you're strengthening and stretching several muscle groups.
Why Are Strong Muscles So Important?
Strong muscles aren't just important for opening stubborn lids or winning weight-lifting competitions. Muscle strength is essential for everyday activities from running to catch the train to lifting your child to standing in a long line at the airport. Core muscles in your abdomen, trunk, and hips support your entire body. Weak core muscles could make it hard to carry a fully loaded grocery bag from your car to your home or exercise without injuring yourself.
Strong muscles are also essential for good bone health. Muscle pressure exerted on bones keeps bone tissues strong and healthy. When bones are strong, you're less likely to experience a fracture if you fall. Strong muscles also provide better support for ligaments and tendons and help you avoid strains and sprains.
Weak muscles make it harder to keep your balance, which can lead to falls. Do you find yourself slouching or leaning to one side slightly? Muscle weakness could be the source of your poor posture. Eventually, poor posture can lead to aches and pains and body imbalances.
Increasing Muscle Strength with Yoga
Unlike weightlifting exercises which focus on increasing the strength of specific muscles, your yoga sequence targets all muscle groups. When you work all groups equally, you won't have to worry about one group of muscles becoming too strong, while others weaken.
Yoga poses use your weight to create resistance essential for strong muscles. A research study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2015 explored the effects of Hatha yoga on flexibility and muscular strength and endurance.
Participants were tested on their ability to perform push-ups and curl-ups and perform a sit-and-reach test that evaluated the flexibility of their lower back and hamstrings. Both male and female participants showed significant improvements in curl-ups, push-ups, and right and left leg tests after finishing a 12-week-long yoga course.
Which Yoga Poses Are Best for Muscle Strength?
Many yoga poses offer muscle-strengthening benefits, including:
- Plank Pose. The plank pose is one of the best all-over strengthening poses. As you balance your weight on your hands and toes, your head, torso, and legs align to form a straight line parallel to the floor. The plank pose is a good choice if you want to strengthen muscles in your abdomen, back, legs, feet, chest, arms, and shoulders. Holding the pose for longer than a few seconds can be challenging at first. As you continue to practice the plank, you'll find that you'll be able to maintain the pose for increasingly longer periods.
- Tree Pose. Performing the tree pose is an excellent way to strengthen your core, legs, abdomen, and glutes. As you balance on your right leg, you'll bend your left leg and press your left foot against your right thigh. The pose improves balance and stability and enhances your posture.
- Bridge Pose. Lifting your abdomen and thighs while keeping your head, shoulders, and feet firmly on your mat strengthens muscles in the back, glutes, and legs and stretches your spine.
Not sure which type of yoga class is ideal for muscle strengthening? Get in touch with us, and we'll help you explore the options at our yoga studio.
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Effects of a 12-Week Hatha Yoga Intervention on Cardiorespiratory Endurance, Muscular Strength and Endurance, and Flexibility in Hong Kong Chinese Adults: A Controlled Clinical Trial, 6/8/2015
Yoga Journal: Skip the Gym. These Are the Best Yoga Poses for Strength, 10/29/2021
WebMD: Yoga, 5/10/2023
NIH News in Health: Maintain Your Muscle, 3/2020