Does yoga build muscle

Does Yoga Build Muscle?

Short answer

Yes, Strength-focused yoga can build muscle when performed purposefully and frequently. Combining yoga with regular strength training also improves muscle building.

When you think of a yogi, someone with bulging muscles probably doesn’t come to mind, so you might doubt whether yoga builds muscle. You want a calm mind and bend-yourself-into-a-pretzel flexibility, but you also want well-developed muscles. Can you get it all during your mat session?

Strength-focused yoga can build muscle when performed purposefully and frequently. Fully engaging muscles while holding poses and maintaining poses for longer increases muscle stress, encouraging greater growth. Combining yoga with regular strength training also improves muscle building.

A peaceful mind and relaxed body might be what you notice most when you leave the yoga studio. But your session might have also triggered a reaction in your muscles to help them grow. However, yoga doesn’t always give you bigger muscles. You need to work for that lean mass! Keep reading for the lowdown on getting a muscle-boosting perk from your yoga workouts. 

Does Yoga Make Muscles Grow? 

Multiple studies show that yoga can build muscle. You won’t experience the muscle growth that comes with making friends with the barbell. Still, research says yoga can make muscles bigger, stronger, and tougher. So, they look more impressive and can work harder and longer.  

But these results are only possible under the following conditions:

You’re New To Strength Training 

Suppose you can do weighted squats easily and pull-ups with one arm (freeing up the other to wave at admirers!). Then yoga probably won’t build your muscles.

On the flip side, if you’re a strength-training beginner, yoga stands a chance to add lean mass to your body. 

You Do Strength-Focused Yoga 

Not all yoga styles have the same muscle-building effects. 

Meditative, restorative yoga styles like Yin or Kripalu don’t challenge muscles enough to result in gains. In contrast, styles like Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Iyengar have muscle-boosting potential.

You Do Poses That Effectively Target Muscles 

The Forearm Balance and Handstand are two poses that engage muscles best. These poses are also among the most challenging to perform, as they put huge demands on your upper body and core muscles while you hold yourself upside-down. 

Other popular muscle-strengthening poses include the Four-Limbed Staff (targets arms and shoulders), Side Plank (for arms), Reverse Tabletop (works core, arms, and legs), Boat Pose (targets core), High Lunge (targets legs), and Forearm Plank (for arms, core, and legs).

You Practice Frequently 

You must rest your muscles for at least 2 days after doing strength-training exercises like lifting weights. 

This isn’t the case with yoga. You’ll need to do yoga about 5 times weekly for noticeable muscle growth. 

You Keep Challenging Your Muscles

Your muscles will only get stronger if you keep pushing them. 

So, when beginner poses feel easy, try intermediate poses. And when you breeze through those, tackle some advanced poses. What about when advanced poses no longer make your muscles burn? Hold them longer! 

How Does Yoga Build Muscle?

Muscles grow when they’re stressed. Exercise makes them contract and relax. This puts tension on and damages the muscles, ultimately triggering a healing process that makes them bigger and stronger. 

There are different types of muscle contractions. For example, when you do weight training, your muscles shorten as you lift the weights (concentric contractions) and then stretch as you lower them (eccentric contractions). 

Then there are isometric contractions. This is when you hold your muscles in a contraction, and their length stays the same the whole time they’re engaged. Yoga works your muscles in this way. You go from pose to pose, holding each before moving to the next. 

With yoga, it’s not weights that stress your muscles and make them grow but your body working against gravity. 

Is Yoga As Good As Other Forms Of Strength Training?

In the battle for major muscles, concentric and eccentric contractions beat isometric contractions. So, you can’t swap pumping iron for mat time and expect the same muscle gains. 

Although yoga won’t give your muscles as dramatic a makeover as regular strength training, it’s kinder to your body, making it a top muscle-building workout for older people or those recovering from an injury. Yoga also has less risk of stiffness. 

How To Do Yoga For Max Muscle Gains

Here are 3 tips for getting the most muscle-building benefit from your yoga sessions:

Tip #1: Zone In On Your Muscles

Become aware of how you hold poses. Do you use your flexibility or call on your muscles for support? 

Train yourself to visualize and activate your muscles to keep you steady while holding poses. Move slowly to help you connect with and properly engage your muscles.  

Tip #2: Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone 

If your muscles aren’t fired up, they won’t grow. So, never let your yoga sessions feel easy-peasy. 

When you’re beautifully aligned in a pose, hold it until your muscles burn. Then do the pose again with good form and regular breathing. And one more time. 

Tip #3: Combine Yoga With Regular Strength Training

While yoga can encourage muscle growth, this isn’t its claim to fame. You’ll have the most success building muscle with yoga if you combine your practice with go-to strength-training moves like squats, lunges, deadlifts, and bicep curls. Building muscle is what these exercises do best.

Yoga and strength training work together to give you better results. Yoga makes strength training more effective so it can grow bigger muscles. 

Here’s how yoga can help you get the most from your muscles during strength training:

  • Yoga develops muscular endurance (so you can do those extra reps).
  • Yoga promotes muscular strength (helping you lift heavier weights). 
  • Yoga encourages you to get in touch with your body, making engaging and challenging your muscles easier. 

Adding regular strength training to your yoga practice will help you experience ongoing muscle gains as your body gets used to even the most challenging yoga poses. Remember: You need to shake things up to keep your muscles fired up and growing. 


Keeping your muscles challenged during frequent yoga sessions can make them not only more powerful but also bigger. So, yoga can give you a strong mind, a supple body, and shapely muscles. 

Yoga’s muscle-building potential is limited, though, so if you’re after a hulky body, combine yoga with regular strength training for bigger muscle gains. 

Frequently Asked Question about building muscle with yoga

Strength-focused yoga can build muscle when performed purposefully and frequently. Combining yoga with regular strength training also improves muscle building.

Multiple studies show that yoga can make muscles bigger, stronger, and tougher, resulting in increased muscle mass and improved performance.

Yoga is more likely to build muscle if you are new to strength training, practice strength-focused yoga styles like Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, or Iyengar, perform poses that effectively target muscles, practice yoga frequently (about 5 times a week), and keep challenging your muscles by progressing to more advanced poses.

Yoga stresses the muscles and triggers the healing process, leading to muscle growth. Unlike weight training, yoga primarily relies on isometric contractions and the body working against gravity to stress the muscles.

While yoga may not provide the same dramatic muscle gains as regular strength training, it is a gentler option for building muscles, particularly for older individuals or those recovering from injuries, as it has less risk of stiffness.

To maximize muscle-building benefits from yoga, you can focus on activating and engaging your muscles during poses, push yourself out of your comfort zone, and combine yoga with regular strength training exercises like squats, lunges, deadlifts, and bicep curls.

Yoga complements strength training by developing muscular endurance, promoting muscular strength, and helping you connect with your body, making it easier to engage and challenge your muscles during strength training. Adding regular strength training to your yoga practice enhances ongoing muscle gains and performance.

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