You’ve probably seen the pictures on Instagram––those one-armed handstands and amazingly balanced side twists––and wondered how is it possible? I know we have. You see, yoga isn’t just about flexibility, it’s also about strength. So, without further delay, this is your guide to building muscle with yoga, and not just for that Instagram pic.

Does yoga help build muscle?

Yes! It’s true; we weren’t lulling you into a false sense of security with the intro. So, if you’re asking, “can yoga build muscle?” You won’t be disappointed. Yoga may be about flexibility, mantras and the alignment of body and soul.

But do you know what else it’s about?

Endurance––holding those poses takes energy, they require your muscles to work in ways they’re not used to, and that results in strength.

Why yoga builds muscles?

There are a number of reasons that yoga is a great way to build your muscles and your strength.

  1. When participating in yoga, the poses require you to use your own strength to balance your body. Essentially, instead of dumbbells, your bodybuilding equipment is you.
  2. During yoga your muscle training is balanced––you’re not just working out your quads or triceps––for most poses, you need to engage nearly all your muscle groups to get it right.
  3. Thirdly, yoga helps improve your posture. That means you’re much less likely to injure yourself while doing yoga or even afterward during other exercises.

Top yoga poses for muscle building

While yoga is a very effective tool to help you build muscle, the slight downside is it may take some time for you to see those Instagram results. The photos you see online are often professionals who have spent years training to build their muscles with yoga.

So, if you don’t see results right away, don’t be disheartened––you will get there. Plus a few gym selfies never hurt anyone. Be proud of your progress!

Pose No.1 The Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

chair yoga pose

Think of yourself in the process of sitting on a chair, now stop midway and raise your hands in the air and lift yourself on your tip-toes. And take the actual chair out of the picture––that is chair pose.

In this pose, you utilize your back, leg and butt muscles, while perfecting your posture––this is how to use yoga for muscle gain.

Pose No.2 Raised leg side plank (like a boss)

leg in the air plank

You know how to plank, it’s a test of endurance, but all-around it's a simple pose to do. Side plank has you shifting that sideways, and balancing on one arm. This raised leg side plank, takes it further; lift the arm and leg that are not touching the ground and try to find balance in the pose.

The raised leg side plank position focuses on your endurance and balance; it requires you to hold your limbs straight and your tummy tight to maintain this pose and is perfect for building muscles all over your body.

Pose No.3 Chaturanga (four-limbed staff pose)

four-limbed staff pose

Before you can even dream of headstands, let’s build your body on the ground. Chaturanga goes by many names––the four-limbed staff pose, low plank or yoga push up––with the last providing the most accurate description.

Starting from the plank position, bend your elbows and lower yourself down into a push up pose. Your elbows should now be level with your midsection and your back and legs straight, parallel to the floor. This is a test of true endurance, so hold out as long as you can, and you’ll soon see the results.

Pose No.4 Locust pose

girl doing a locust pose

Aside from the *delightful* name, locust pose is a plague to your body’s muscles, but this time a good plague. It strengthens the muscles of the back and chest while building your endurance.

To get into locust pose, lie face down on the mat, then raise your chest and arms upwards and backward. Slightly lift your legs, while keeping them out straight and tense.

Pose No.5 Wall-facing handstand

upside down pose

Not for beginners, plus you better get a mat ready for if (when) you fall. This is the start of those Insta-worthy photos. The wall-facing handstand sees you exercise your shoulder and back muscles while finding your balance so as not to topple over.

You need a wall for this pose; so, once you’ve found one, it’s time for a downward-facing dog pose, with your legs towards the wall. Next, take a deep breath and begin to walk your legs up the wall until your body is at a right angle. In this pose, your arms should be out straight, and your stomach muscles tensed to hold the pose.

Once you’ve mastered this, you’re well on your way to building your strength and muscles with yoga, and soon you’ll be able to attempt some of the more adventurous poses too.

Written by Maria Isabella Neverovich
Maria is an Irish writer, Health Editor at Verv, lover of forests, mountains and all things nature. She enjoys discovering new vegetarian dishes, creating...
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