Does Yoga Build Muscle?

The question, “Does yoga build muscle?” is one of the first inquires that new yogis ask. Yoga is generally seen as a practice for flexibility, balance, and inner peace. While that is certainly true, they aren’t the only benefits of yoga. Yoga is a fantastic way of building muscle. It’s also great for cardiovascular exercise.

One reason why yoga is not traditionally seen as a method to build muscle is that it can be deemed as a feminized or purely spiritual practice. It’s an unfair assumption that yoga is only for women, because it has wonderful benefits for men, too.

And while for some, yoga is part of their spiritual practice, a lot of people find that their exercise regime has a spiritual, or deep relaxing effect on them. Your practice can be whatever you want it to be, so don’t let stigmas prevent you from engaging in this wonderful exercise.

Does Yoga Build Muscle

The Truth About Yoga For Muscle Building

Yoga builds muscle the same way strength training at a gym does.

You can view yoga as body weight resistance training. Think about all the various poses in a yoga practice. When you put your body in these positions, your muscles need to be supported. It challenges your muscles, and over time, it causes muscle growth.

Okay, so yoga builds muscle through progressive overload, metabolic stress, and mechanical damage.

Progressive Overload

So, if you’re into weightlifting, then you’ll likely know what progressive overload means. It’s simple in theory. When you keep lifting heavier things, your body, overtime, will build muscle to enable that.

In yoga, you do this by modifying your pose. So, there’s going to be poses for beginners, intermediate, and advanced. By using these different levels, you can practice progressive overload.

You then might ask, “What happens when I reach the advanced stage? How can I use progressive overload?” In this case, you utilize volume. So, you’re going to add more repetition of poses to your routine, and increase the length of hold.

Pretty simple, you just have to plan your workout routine around your goals, like any other exercise regime.

Metabolic Stress

One way of building muscle through yoga is through metabolic stress. Even if you don’t know the meaning of metabolic stress, you’ll know its street name, ‘The Burn’.

Yep, it’s that deep burning feeling you get when you’re exercising. It’s a physiological process that affects your tissues and muscles when you exercise. It’s due to the accumulation of waste metabolites that are found in the muscles.

There’s a good reason why people say ‘feel the burn!’, or ‘push through the burn!’ and that’s because it has a beneficial effect on muscle growth.

The level of metabolic stress you experience during yoga will be dependent on the type of yoga you’re practicing, i.e., a vinyasa flow class is sure to get those muscles burning. It also depends on the effort that you’re putting in.

If you’re an intermediate, but you’re doing a beginners routine, you’re not going to be pushing yourself enough. You need to challenge yourself to reap the rewards.

Muscle Mechanical Damage

Muscle mechanical damage is microscopic tears in the fibers of the muscle. It is caused by the mechanical action of your muscles. If you cause enough damage, it will increase muscle growth as the muscle repairs.

This is what happens when you wake up the morning after a rigorous workout, and something as simple as walking upstairs is difficult. It’s because your muscles are repairing themselves after tearing. The tearing is due to the tension your muscles are under.

It’s not as scary as it sounds. You don’t want to overdo this. You have to let your muscles heal after a workout, even if that means two days off. Otherwise, you can damage the muscle, and that’s not helping anyone.

Yoga is very effective at this. You’ll often see big, buff men attend a yoga class, and then explain how it knocked them out the next day. It’s because a lot of the poses in yoga are eccentric contractions. In the eccentric phase, your muscles are lengthened.

So, if your workout is full of eccentric contractions, you’re going to be doing a lot of lengthening, and that’s going to cause a lot of tears. As I said, you need to let your muscles heal after this. But it does remain a very good way of building muscle if you look after your body properly.

Benefits Of Building Muscle Through Yoga

Let us consider some other benefits of building muscle through yoga, opposed to a traditional strength training program. Yoga will help you build functional strength. When you do strength training, usually you’re repeating isolated movements. Yoga practice involves lots of movement and exerting your muscles through these movements.

Also, keep in mind that most yoga practices are very balanced. At a regular gym routine, you’re going to have days when you focus on one area, more than another. While there is a yoga set for different parts of your body, i.e., yoga for the core, they are still balanced. You’re going to be doing compound movements, which will overall help your entire physique.

We’ve all seen those guys with huge chests and tiny legs. You’ll never miss leg day with yoga. Nor, chest day. Another great benefit is that it is low impact, which means there is less risk of you damaging your joints and tissues. It’s just as effective but much safer than weight training.

Lastly, you’re going to increase your flexibility. While being strong is great, if you’re only doing weight training, you’re going to reduce your mobility and flexibility. Yoga, by its nature, increases your mobility and flexibility, while strengthening your muscles.


That brings us to the end of our article. We hope that you’ve found it useful, and you’re ready to embrace the wonderful practice that is yoga. Remember, yoga can build muscle. It just depends on the workout that you curate for yourself and the effort that you put in.

Laura Simmons
Latest posts by Laura Simmons (see all)