Yoga has been known for its exceptional healing power and improving body tolerance. It strengthens your muscles and allows your body to unwind and relax. Yoga for muscle building has been quite an effective practice to relax and soothe your body muscles. With busy routines and tight deadlines, you may not be able to move your body much, and physical fitness and flexibility are often sidelined. Sitting on a chair or in one spot for long hours is quite common nowadays, but that can make your back and spinal muscles weak and stiff (1). And that might be very difficult and unpleasant to deal with. However, yoga can be an effective remedy for strengthening your muscles and back (2). So, by doing regular yoga practice, you can relieve the stress your body goes through and help it unwind and relax. Even if you can’t engage in any outdoor activities, yoga will offer the relief your body may need while you’re at home or the office. Let’s explore how you can build muscles with yoga so that your health and back don’t suffer while you’re engaged in work.
Can Yoga Help Build Muscles?
Yoga is a mind-body practice that involves a variety of muscular exercises as well. Studies indicate that yoga improves muscular strength, enhances the flexibility of the body, besides boosting your physical functioning (3). With yoga, your body and mind are aligned, and that makes it an ideal practice for physical as well as mental well-being (4). The association between strong muscles and physical growth is another factor why yoga is important to enhance the growth of your body (5). Different yogic practices have proven to aid cardiovascular fitness and are good for the health of your heart (6). Hence, yoga not only helps in the development of your body but also keeps your heart sound and healthy.
Top Yoga Poses for Muscle Building
1. Hatha Yoga Poses
Muscle mass grows at a greater pace when the rate of muscle protein synthesis is more than the muscle protein breakdown (5). Studies indicate that Hatha yoga can enhance muscular protein synthesis, strength, balance as well as physical fitness within 8-12 weeks of daily practice (6). So, by doing a hatha yoga pose, you can ensure your muscle mechanism is running efficiently. On another note, you can do hatha yoga in almost 15 different ways.
Steps to Follow:
- Lay out your yoga mat or choose a soft spot for this yoga asana.
- The easiest hatha yoga pose is a child’s yoga pose, and you can do this in your garden as well.
- Sit on the floor/grass/yoga mat at ease.
- Bring your head towards the floor gently and sit on your knees.
- You may either stretch your arms or keep them on either side.
- Once you maintain the posture, breathe gently, focusing on your lower back.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds and exhale by relaxing your upper body.
- You may repeat this exercise for 5-10 minutes.
2. Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose)
Activating the gluteus maximus is often challenging, and that may hinder your lower body strength and movement (7). Warrior pose has proven to activate and stretch the gluteus maximus muscles in your buttocks which can enhance the functioning of your thighs (8).
Steps to Follow:
- Stand in an upright position and keep your spine erect.
- Now, place your left foot in the front by stretching your leg forward. Point the toes outwards but don’t press your foot strongly into the ground.
- Stretch your right leg and place your right foot in the opposite direction.
- Bend your left knee slightly and shift the weight on the left foot slowly.
- Spread your shoulders and ease your chest.
- Lift your arms and join your hands for support.
- Try lifting your neck upwards if that feels comfortable.
- Soften your gaze and stay in this posture.
- Now, take a deep breath while contracting your upper body.
- Hold your breath for 5-10 seconds and exhale by releasing your arms and relaxing your body.
- You may do this 10-12 times before taking a rest.
3. Suryanamaskar (Sun-salutation)
Surya namaskar has proven to stretch abdominal, thoracic, and intestinal muscles and help in strengthening arms and muscles (2). It’s usually performed in the early morning hours and helps in spinal column expansion and building strength (9). So, beginning your day with this positive practice can do a lot of good for your stomach and back. Also, you can suit yourself and choose from the variety of ways this yoga workout can be done.
Steps to Follow:
- Surya Namaskar starts with doing standing poses or pranam asana.
- Stand straight by ensuring your spine is relaxed and erect.
- Keep your feet together and balance your weight on them equally.
- Relax your chest and shoulders.
- Take a deep breath and lift your arms.
- Exhale and bring your hands together in a prayer position at the center of your chest.
- To do the next pose, relax your arms and stretch them backward over your head.
- Once you’re in this backward salute posture, inhale deeply and softly.
- Hold your breath for a split second and release it gently.
- Next, breathe in and bend in a forward direction, keeping your spine erect.
- Relax your hands and bring them close to your feet on the ground and exhale.
- Kneel by shifting the body weight on your hands gently.
- Stretch your right leg as far as you can while ensuring the knee of your leg is on the floor.
- Look upwards and soften your gaze.
- Now, push your left leg back, and make sure your spine is erect and your body forms a straight line.
- Then, drop your knees to the floor, move forward, keep your chin softly on the floor, and lift your posterior a little bit. Your hands, feet, knees, chest, and chin should touch the floor.
- Then move forward and lift your chest up.
- Now lift the hips along with the tailbone gently and bring your body into an inverted ‘V’ pose.
- Inhale and put your right foot forward and place it in between your hands. Your left knee should be on the floor. Push your hips down and look up.
- Exhaling, bring your left foot forward and keep your palms firmly on the floor.
- Release your body and stand up in a straight position.
- Bend backward and lift your arms over your head and inhale.
- Exhale while releasing your arms and stand straight.
- Ensure your spine is erect, and arms are relaxed.
- You may take some time and notice the sensations in your body.
4. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
Trikonasana has been proven to enhance lateral spinal mobility, elongate leg muscles, improve stability and posture, and remove any stiffness in the hips and legs (10). This pose is perfect to stretch your body and relieve pain and discomfort. If your posture is deformed or you struggle to enhance upper body strength, you may as well make this yoga asana a part of your daily exercise.
Steps to Follow:
- Stand in an upright position and keep some distance between your feet.
- Lift your left hand above your head.
- Bend your torso towards the right side.
- Bring your right hand close to your right leg, almost touching your ankles.
- Tilt your head upwards and inhale.
- Take some time before you exhale by releasing your arm and waist.
- Follow the same technique for the right leg.
- Repeat this yogic practice 10-12 times.
- Release your arms and body to unwind.
5. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Bridge pose helps in training your muscles and targets lumbar and hip muscles to offer support and stability (11). So, if you want to activate your muscles and enhance their motion and functioning, the bridge pose will do the magic of strength training for you.
Steps to Follow:
- Lie down with your back touching your yoga mat or a sturdy floor.
- Raise your legs in a way that your knees are pointed upwards and your feet are relaxed on the ground.
- Keep your hands with palms down on the ground and lift your hips and tailbone slowly. Ensure your neck is in the center and not tilted towards the left or right.
- In this lifted position, take a long deep breath by contracting your abdominal muscles.
- Hold your breath and relax your abdominal muscles. Exhale.
- You may try lifting your hips a little higher while keeping your arms and legs pressed on the floor.
- Repeat the inhale-exhale technique 5-10 times.
- Unwind by placing your hips back on the floor and extending your body.
6. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Cobra pose has proven to relieve back and neck muscles from stress and strain naturally (12). So, if your work demands prolonged sitting, you may as well include this effective yoga asana in your routine to offer supreme comfort to your back and neck.
Steps to Follow:
- Lay out your yoga mat on the ground. You can also do this pose on the floor but ensure it is soft and won’t press harshly into your body.
- Kneel and lean backward in a position so that your entire body is expanded and your chin touches the floor slightly.
- Lift your chest and face in an upward motion by shifting the weight of your upper body on your hands with palms touching the ground.
- Don’t put excessive pressure on your hands. Instead, use your hands as a medium to leverage the lower body strength while moving your upper body.
- Once you are in a lifted position, tilt your head upwards gently without straining your neck.
- Ensure you’re stretching your spinal cord lightly. Avoid exerting pressure on it abruptly.
- After maintaining this lifted posture, take a long breath through the nose deeply and hold it for 5-7 seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth forcefully by sticking your tongue out.
- Repeat this inhale-exhale technique 5-10 times.
- Relax your body by sitting comfortably and easing your hands, neck, and shoulders.
7. Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
Camel pose has proven to reduce the risk of disc generation and helps in releasing tension and compression in the spinal cord (13). So, by doing this pose, you can prevent the occurrence of painful discs and keep your spinal issues under check.
Steps to Follow:
- Spread out your yoga mat on an even floor. Avoid doing this yogic exercise on the ground directly as that may pinch your knees.
- Kneel by making your knees the main point of your contact with the ground.
- Relax your legs backward and keep your feet close with heels facing in an upward direction.
- Now, tilt your head and chest backward while touching your feet with your hands.
- Don’t push your head or spine forcibly. Instead, extend your arms, head, and chest backward slowly.
- Once you get in the posture, check if you’re putting excessive pressure anywhere and try to release it.
- Take a deep breath expanding your chest and hips in a backward position.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds and exhale by gently exerting some downward force on the knees and thighs.
- Repeat the same inhale-exhale exercise 5-6 times.
- Release your body by easing your arms.
The impressive benefits of yoga are too many to not include it in your exercise routine. Not only do you feel calmer and relaxed but your muscles are also expanded which creates a smooth pathway for your body growth. By doing targeted yoga for muscle building, you can relieve your body of severe pain and discomfort and enhance its exercise tolerance. Your participation in different physical exercises may as such improve without causing damage to your muscles. So, doing yoga is a win-win for all the right reasons.