Does Yoga Build Muscle?

Yoga promotes muscle growth, flexibility, and well-being. Learn how it complements strength training for a balanced fitness approach.
Nov 6, 2023


Hey guys!

I've often been asked by clients trying to build muscle about how effective yoga is. My answer is always a resounding YES, and if you've ever tried holding a plank pose or dabbled in some warrior poses, you'd know what I'm talking about.

Woman Yoga

So, let's explore the question "does yoga build muscle" a bit and take a look at the science behind how yoga helps build muscle and why it can be a fantastic addition to your strength training routine!

The Science Behind Yoga and Muscle Growth

How Yoga Poses Stimulate Muscle Fibers

Let's get a bit geeky for a minute. Every time you twist into a tree pose or balance in a boat pose, you're working those muscle fibers. Certain yoga poses, especially those that require holding positions, engage and challenge various muscle groups.

Yoga Stretch

This engagement causes tiny tears in the muscle fibers. Fear not! This is a good thing. These micro-tears repair and grow stronger, leading to muscle growth.

For instance, think about the plank pose. This isn't just an exercise for your abdominal muscles. It's a full-body workout! You're engaging your back muscles, shoulders, arms, and even legs.

And as you work to stay balanced and maintain the pose, you're recruiting even more muscle fibers, making them work hard and promoting growth.

The Comparison: Yoga vs. Traditional Strength Training

You might be thinking, "Well, I can just stick to lifting weights and strength training if I want to build muscle, right?" While weight training is fabulous for muscle building, yoga has its unique advantages.


Traditional weight training focuses on isolating specific muscles and adding more weight to encourage growth. Yoga, on the other hand, uses your body weight (more on that soon!) and combines flexibility, balance, and strength.

This holistic approach not only builds muscle but also improves posture, flexibility, and mental well-being.

Using Body Weight in Yoga

The Power of One's Own Body Weight

Let's chat about the wonders of using one's own body weight. In yoga, we're not pumping iron or using resistance bands, as we'd do in traditional strength training. We're relying on the weight of our bodies to provide the resistance needed for muscle growth.


It's a beautiful, natural way to gain muscle without the need for any extra equipment.

The power of body weight training lies in its versatility and adaptability. For instance, holding certain poses for longer periods can increase the intensity of the workout, challenging your muscles even more.

Standing Poses and Major Muscles Activation

Ever tried the warrior poses? If you have, you'd know they are no joke! Standing poses, like the warrior variations, require muscles activation.

Standing Pose

They engage everything from your legs, glutes, core, to your arms. Holding these poses doesn't just test your balance but also strengthens and tones your major muscles.

And let's not forget about the tree pose. Balancing on one leg, you're engaging the muscles of the standing leg while working your core to stay upright. It's a full-body engagement, and over time, as you practice regularly, you'll notice the muscle tone and strength you're building.

Yoga Practices That Enhance Muscle Strength

Power Yoga: The Intense Yoga Workout

If you haven't tried it, it's time to roll out that mat and get sweaty! This is a more vigorous, fitness-based approach to the traditional practices.

It's tailored to get your heart rate up, build muscle, and improve athletic performance. Does yoga build muscle, you ask? One session and you'll have your answer!


It focuses on strength, flexibility, and endurance. Sequences are designed to flow more dynamically, and poses are often held longer to boost muscle strength and stamina.

Not only will you be enhancing your muscle tone, but you'll also be torching calories, making it a fantastic workout for those looking to shed some pounds alongside building muscle.

Vinyasa Yoga: Flowing for Muscle Tone

Flow, breathe, and tone with Vinyasa yoga! Vinyasa is all about fluid movements. Each posture seamlessly transitions to the next, synced with your breath.

This continuous movement, combined with holding poses, provides a cardio benefit while working to tone and strengthen your muscles.

Imagine transitioning from a plank, which works your entire body, into a chaturanga, challenging your arm and back muscles, and then flowing into a downward dog, stretching and strengthening your calves, hamstrings, and shoulders. It's like a dance for muscle growth!

Key Poses for Muscle Development

For Core Strength

Let's face it; we all yearn for that strong, toned core – not just for the aesthetics, but for the foundational strength it provides.


Yoga has a plethora of poses to help with this. One of my favourites is the boat pose. Sitting on your mat, balance on your sit bones, lift your legs and extend your arms.

This pose is a powerhouse for engaging your abdominals, hip flexors, and even your spine. Hold, breathe, and feel that burn!

Basic Yoga Poses with Major Muscle Impacts

You don't need to be a yoga guru to reap muscle-building benefits. Even basic yoga poses can have significant muscle impacts.

Yoga Shadow

The warrior poses, for instance, are not only iconic but also work wonders for your legs, glutes, and core. Extend this with a side-angle pose, and you're now engaging your obliques and shoulders.

Plank pose, which we've touched on earlier, is another essential. It's like the push-up's peaceful cousin – working almost every part of your body. Transition this into a side plank, and you're now putting more weight on one arm, challenging your obliques and stability even more.

The Benefits of Incorporating Yoga into Strength Training

Complementing Weight Training with Yoga

Marrying weight training with yoga can be the secret sauce to your fitness journey.

While traditional strength training sees people lifting weights predominantly to focus on building muscle, yoga complements by enhancing flexibility, balance, and even providing some active recovery.

Weight Training

This blend ensures you're not only gaining muscle but also improving your range of motion and preventing injuries.

A leg day at the gym paired with a Vinyasa flow can help soothe those muscles, making sure you're ready and raring for your next weight session.

Achieving Lean Muscle Mass Through Regular Yoga Practice

We all adore the sculpted, toned look that lean muscle mass offers. But how does one achieve it? The answer is regular practice.

Engaging in consistent yoga not only helps with flexibility and mindfulness but also aids in the development of lean muscle.

Leg Press

Yoga poses often involve holding and stabilising with your own body weight, which is key for enhancing muscle endurance and promoting a leaner physique.

One thing to remember is that yoga isn't about bulking up; it's about strengthening and toning. Over time, as you maintain a consistent yoga routine, you'll notice a more defined musculature, especially in areas like the core, arms, and legs.

This lean muscle development is not only visually pleasing but also functionally beneficial, improving posture, stability, and overall body strength.

Practical Tips and Considerations

Essentials: Yoga Mat, Clothing and More

So, you're sold on the idea and wondering, "How can I make the most of my yoga workout?"

Here are some essentials:

  1. Choose the Right Mat: A good yoga mat can make all the difference. It provides grip, ensuring you don’t slip during those sweaty yoga sessions. Plus, a bit of cushioning is always welcomed for poses where you need to kneel or lie down.

  2. Stay Hydrated: Just like any other workout, hydration is key. Remember to drink water before and after your session.

  3. Wear Comfortable Clothing: Opt for stretchy, breathable materials that allow you to move freely.

  4. Maintain Consistency: To see muscle growth and other benefits, regular yoga practice is crucial. Whether it's 20 minutes daily or an hour a few times a week, find a routine that fits and stick with it.

Yoga Practice: More than Just Muscle Building

While we've heavily focused on the muscle-building aspect, it's vital to remember that yoga offers so much more.

It's a holistic practice that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. Beyond building muscle, you're enhancing flexibility, mental clarity, stress reduction, and overall well-being.

So, every time you step on that mat, embrace the full spectrum of benefits coming your way.


In wrapping up, does yoga build muscle? Absolutely!

Yoga provides a myriad of ways to strengthen, tone, and grow those muscles. Coupled with traditional weight training, it offers a balanced approach to overall fitness.

Downward Dog

So, unroll that yoga mat, strike a pose, and embark on a journey that marries strength, flexibility, and peace. Whether you’re looking to complement your gym routine or seeking a standalone practice, yoga is the way to go. Here's to building muscle, one pose at a time!


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