Does Yoga Build Muscle? |

does yoga build muscle

Everyone knows that yoga improves flexibility and range of movement, but few people know that yoga can help you build muscle. In order for yoga to build lean muscle mass, it has to be tweaked in a few key ways. This article will explain why and how yoga can be used like weight training is in the gym to cause a progressive overload of the muscles and stimulate them to grow in size and strength.

What Types of Yoga Work The Muscles Most?

Like any other strength training, some types of yoga are better for building muscle than others. The three forms or types of yoga that work the muscles most are power yoga (Vinyasa), hot yoga, and ashtanga.

Power Yoga involves holding poses for long periods or adding weight to them (such as lifting a leg over your head). These exercises can be perfect for working out the abs by pushing yourself into poses you wouldn’t normally do without support from something like weights.

Hot yoga is another version of power yoga but with an added difficulty factor. It is done in high temperatures, forcing you to push even harder due to the extra strain on your body’s ability to regulate its temperature while exercising. Ashtanga focuses on specific postures that build strength in addition to flexibility.

yoga pose
yoga pose

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (power yoga)

In terms of difficulty level, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is probably among the most challenging forms of yoga. It consists of six sequences or levels of increasing difficulty that most beginners cannot master. To move from one pose to the next, you must constantly do triceps pushups, backbends, and Downward Dogs. While the poses are the same as other forms of yoga, the sequences make them more challenging to the muscles.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha is another form of yoga that is considered challenging on the muscles because it has many different poses that are often repeated. This repetition can be mentally and physically taxing. Still, it is also an excellent workout for the muscles involved and is more likely to cause muscles to be challenged and reach exhaustion.

Bikram Yoga (hot yoga)

In the beginning, novice practitioners often find Bikram Yoga, also called hot yoga, the most challenging. Due to the heat, it can be physically and mentally demanding. It’s critical to start slowly with this style of yoga as the heat, and physical demands can cause heat-related stress and issues if you are not careful or used to it. 

Hot yoga can help build muscle due to the physical stress it puts on the working muscles but also because of the intense heat. Studies show that heat can prevent muscle atrophy or breakdown while at the same time increasing skeletal muscle mass[1]


Does yoga build muscle?

Yoga can be an effective way to build muscle; in the same way, bodyweight exercises can be effective in building muscles. With yoga, you are essentially doing repetitions of different poses. These poses are often held for short or long periods. 

This is no different than doing pushups or situps. Does yoga produce enough stimulus or stress on the muscles to cause an anabolic response, increased protein synthesis and ultimately lean muscle growth?

One could ask the same about weight training or lifting weights. If you go to the gym and do not lift enough weight or volume, you may not stimulate or stress the muscle enough to cause any muscle growth. The same holds true for yoga; you can push yourself as hard or as little as you want. 

The key to muscle growth is overloading the muscles and taking them to physical failure. This challenge of the skeletal muscles provides the stimulus for building muscle. The saying that is often used in gyms by bodybuilders is “no pain no gain,” and this refers to the fact that when you take the muscles to failure, they hurt because of the lack of oxygen, the increased blood supply (pump) and the buildup of waste products such as lactic acid.

But this saying could also be applied to yoga. If you do your yoga routine with the same intensity and take your muscles to failure, you will feel the “burn” and the same lactic acid buildup, and you will cause the same level of muscle-building stimulus as strength training in the gym would provide.

Often people say that to build strength and size; you have to lift heavy weights. but this is not true, and studies show that lifting light weights with high repetitions, as is often the case with bodyweight exercises or yoga, can build muscle strength and muscle size just as well as lifting heavy weights with low repetitions.[2][3][4]

how to build muscle with yoga?

The best way to build muscle with yoga is to hold your yoga poses for long periods. Studies show that time under tension of the working muscles is critical in stimulating protein synthesis and muscle growth.[5]

By holding your yoga poses for a long time, you are doing isometric exercises. Isometric exercises such as when a muscle is contracted statically, meaning it does not move through its range of motion, think of flexing in the mirror. 

Studies show that isometric exercises like yoga can affect skeletal muscle hypertrophy as regular weight training (concentric and eccentric training).[6]

So what this means is yoga can help you build muscularity and size, but you have to do physically demanding poses and hold them for long periods and challenge the muscles.

What is the best yoga Poses to Build muscle?

As we mentioned above, for yoga to increase muscle mass, you have to challenge the muscles and make them work to physical failure. To do this, you have to do physically challenging body weight yoga poses, hold these for extended periods, and repeat them many times. Below are some more challenging poses that could help you build lean mass.

Tree Pose

The tree pose is a basic pose in terms of technique but is a good workout for the planted leg, and while trying to balance, you are working all the tiny stabilizer muscles. It is also a good workout for the core muscles.

Warrior Three

This pose is another single-leg pose like the tree pose, but it requires more balance and thus recruits more core and stabilizer muscles. The forward-leaning nature of this pose adds more tension and difficulty for the working muscles.

Bridge Pose

The bridge pose is an excellent muscular workout for the leg and gluteal muscles and the lower back muscles.

Fierce chair pose

The fierce chair pose is like doing a static squat. The thighs are partially bent, and if this is held for any length of time, it will be an excellent quadricep workout. This pose is a great leg muscle exercise. 

Boat pose

The boat pose is a fantastic ab workout. Good luck holding this one for any substantial period. It is a total core muscle workout because you flex the hips slightly off the ground.

Plank pose

The plank works the core muscles such as the abdominal and obliques and the triceps. This pose is like doing a static or isometric pushup. There are variations of the plank, such as the side plank in which you rotate your core to the side and raise one arm of the floor, so you are supporting your body weight with one arm instead of two. This variation can significantly increase the stimulus to the muscles and might lead to better muscular gains.


As outlined in this article, it is possible to build muscle by doing yoga. You will not turn into Arnold Swarzenegger or the Rock, but you can transform your body and make it more muscular in appearance. You have to remember a few critical things for yoga to build muscle.

  • Take the muscle to exhaustion and cause progressive overload
  • Hold the poses for long periods
  • Repeat the poses numerous times
  • Repeat the above points until you cannot anymore!

If you do these simple things, you will begin to build strength and size from your yoga session instead of just improving your flexibility.

The information contained within this article should not be taken as medical or health advice. Talk with your doctor for health and medical advice.