Most yogis don’t start a yoga practice with the goal of building strength. Still, having a more muscular and toned body is one of the many side benefits you’ll receive when you do so. So if you feel weak and want to strengthen your muscles but find the gym tedious or intimidating, give yoga a try instead.
This article looks at how yoga helps us build strength and the best postures to practise if you want to tone your muscles. Let’s dive in.
How Does Yoga Help To Build Strength?
Dynamic, yang yoga styles like Ashtanga and Vinyasa are full-body workouts that involve the engagement of all muscles and, thus, can make you leaner and stronger. However, yoga builds strength in a very different way from weightlifting.
Yoga is an isometric exercise that involves the static contraction of a muscle. You build strength through yoga as you statically hold the posture or use your body weight against an immovable force, in this case, the floor. This results in longer, leaner muscle tone.
So with this type of physical exercise, you primarily increase muscle tone and definition. It is possible to increase muscle size, but isometric exercise is less effective at doing this than isotonic exercise, like lifting weights.
You do numerous reps of muscle contractions when you lift weights using the weights as resistance. This shortens the muscles rather than lengthens them, like in yoga. That’s why weightlifters have a bulky look, whereas yogis look slender.
Yoga And Inner Strength
It’s important to note that yoga doesn’t just build physical strength but also mental strength. This is because regular yoga teaches patience and focus and helps cultivate resilience and positive thinking.
Through yoga, we increase our capacity to observe our thoughts and emotions. This then allows us to respond to them more positively and compassionately. It also builds self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-acceptance, allowing us to step into our power, push past fears, and break out of our comfort zones.
Top 6 Strength-Building Yoga Poses
So how do you know which yoga poses can help you build muscle?
Well, if you have the PlayPauseBe yoga deck, it’s easy, thanks to the benefit indicators on the back of the cards! With the benefit indicators, you can learn the benefits of each pose and effortlessly create a sequence around a particular perk.
So to create a sequence around strength building, look for postures with the strength icon highlighted. And remember to check the “fast-forward” and “rewind” icons on the front of the card. This shows you which asanas will help you prepare for the card in hard and which counter-poses you should do to stretch out the muscles you’ve just worked.
Here are a few of our favourite yoga poses for building physical strength.
If you need to strengthen your core (don’t we all!), don’t skip the boat pose (Navasana). Yes, I know it’s not the most pleasant feeling. Still, it is, hands down, one of the best yoga poses for toning the abdominal muscles, burning fat, and strengthening the spine and hip flexors.
If you’re new to yoga or your core/spine muscles are weak, start with the bent knee version, which takes some pressure off the lower back. Then, as you build core strength, you can try the full variation with straight legs.
Plank Pose & Chaturanga
Plank Pose and Chaturanga are two common poses in Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga. They are part of the Sun Salutations and are used as transitions from one flow to the next. These poses strengthen the core and the upper body, build forearm, wrist and hand strength, and improve spinal stability.
While chaturanga is fantastic for building your upper body strength, knowing how to do it properly is essential; otherwise, you may get injured. Learn how to do chaturanga correctly and safely in this video.
Crow Pose (Bakasana) is a fun but challenging arm balance that helps build upper body, arm, and hand strength. In addition, because the crow pose requires strong core engagement to maintain the posture, it also strengthens the abdominals. If you want to challenge yourself a little further, try Side Crow Pose and test your balance to the extreme!
All arm balances are immensely strengthening for the upper body, but the crow pose is often the first one yogis learn. Check out this helpful video to learn how to do Bakasana.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana) is one of the most strengthening asanas for the entire body. It calls for the engagement of various body parts; the legs, upper back, lower back, shoulders, hamstrings, hips, glutes, and feet.
As a result, it strengthens the entire lower body (especially the thighs) and makes the knee and ankle joints sturdier. In addition, Utkatasana elongates the back, helping to tone the core. If that’s not enough, by reaching your arms overhead, you’re strengthening the arms, chest, and shoulders, too.
Warrior 3 involves balancing on one leg while hovering the body at an angle parallel to the ground. This “power- pose” creates stability in the entire body to allow you to maintain balance.
Warrior 3 also strengthens the legs, back and abdominal muscles, the three areas that work the most to maintain balance. In addition, it dramatically strengthens the small stabilising muscles in the feet and ankles.
Because Warrior 3, like all balancing poses, requires focus and determination, many yogis find this posture is as helpful at cultivating inner strength as outer strength.
Learning inversions also builds strength in the core. Like balancing poses, it requires the engagement of all abdominal and spinal muscles. In addition, inversions like forearm stand and handstand help to build upper body strength.
Moreover, if you’re looking to build inner strength, inversions are excellent asanas. They push you out of your comfort zone, require intense concentration and mental stillness, and build resilience as they take a long time to master.
If you’re interested in building inner and outer strength with inversions, check out the PlayPauseYoga Upside Down in 30 days course. In this online course, you’ll learn the best techniques for safely performing headstands and handstands in just one month. With this course, you’ll overcome all weaknesses (physical and mental) to become your most powerful self!
Dynamic styles of yoga can be very strength-building. A well-rounded yoga practice involves engaging all muscles, which improves tone and definition all over. However, as yoga is a very different form of exercise from weight lifting and other strength training systems, don’t expect to build muscle mass in the same way or as rapidly.