Practicing yoga increases the amount of control we have in what we want to achieve for our bodies, especially in the present moment. If your focus is your muscles, then it should first be known that yoga will not simply build muscle, so much as that it will support you as you build your muscles through traditional workout exercises. 

Of course, the volume of your muscles can increase through vigorous practice, there are many different types of yoga, with several distinct intensities! But you can also use yoga to tailor your exercise routine depending on the current state of your body, to mix up your daily workout, and build endurance for the muscles you work to help them strengthen and be more stable.

Here are five ways yoga can help you build muscle:

1. Varying Yoga Poses Challenges the Muscles

When looking to build muscle in the body, you may come to rely on a set of poses that gives you what you need at first, but then begins to become stagnate and no longer helpful for achieving your final goal. 

Reflect on the phrase, "What got us here won't get us there".

With yoga, even one pose will have variations that can be altered depending on what the body needs. For example, Plank Pose (Phalakasana) can be your first pose to warm the upper body, and later you can take it to the next level by practising Wild Thing (Camatkarasana), one of the most challenging poses for the upper body that specifically targets the arms and shoulders. Following that, you can rest your body in Child's Pose (Balasana) and provide a stretch for your tired muscles before moving back onto Phalakasana or another arm-building movement. This prevents damage to the muscles you wish to build and gives you more control over your exhaustion. The unpredictability throughout an exercise routine also helps avoid muscle memory, which is when your body becomes accustomed to a certain move and no longer provides the same muscle-building benefits. 

2. Yoga Increases Stamina

When you increase your stamina, you can increase the amount of time a certain muscle or your whole body can be exercised. 

In yoga, we have the choice of holding our poses for a longer period of time, and the longer we hold our pose (with correct posture, of course), the more muscle endurance we are creating. 

Instead of staring at a stopwatch, which may interrupt your flow, you can measure the length of time you are keeping a pose through the number of breaths you take. You can set a goal, for example, holding Chair Pose (Utkatasana) for five breath cycles (one cycle being an inhalation and an exhalation), and the next time you practice, you can aim to hold the pose for ten breath cycles, and so on. 

Keeping a record of how long we can hold our poses for in a journal is a helpful tool to track progress. 

A few fantastic poses that benefit from being held for longer periods include Plank Pose (Phalakasana), Warrior II (Virabhadrasana), and a Utthita Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose) variation where both arms are engaged and raised in order to workout the obliques.

3. Yoga is Adjustable for Entire Body or Target Areas

While you cannot exercise your body to only lose fat in a certain area, you can target specific muscle groups, which yoga is great for. 

Through a yoga sequence, you can decide if you want to create a full-body experience or work only a few chosen muscle groups each day. If you feel like you want to supplement another exercise routine with your yoga practice, you can aim for a lower body stretch with a more challenging upper body workout, or vice versa. Have fun planning your sessions and adding a new way of strengthening your body.

Most poses benefit some parts of the body in one way or the other, so you can carefully choose which poses will serve your needs. If you decide that you want to build muscle for your entire body that is as well possible. Orchestrate your sequence through full-body poses such as all three Warrior standing poses. If instead you decide to target a specific muscle group through each pose, you can put together a string of movements such as Crow Pose (Bakasana) which will target the arms and shoulders, Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) which builds muscle in the glutes and back, and Boat Pose (Navasana) which primarily works the abdomen.

4. Yoga Helps Melt Fat to Showcase Gains

Yoga can even be used to up your cardio game by emphasizing movement and speed throughout your practice. 

If emphasizing muscle is the focus of your practice, cardio will help melt the fat away to better showcase your growing body. To create a cardio-focused practice, it is best to know which poses you will use before beginning the routine to avoid any unnecessary pauses in your heart rate. You can follow a Vinyasa Flow video, a class or do it yourself by keeping a journal outlining the poses you will be practicing on a session, and deciding the order, then place it close to your mat so you can focus on your workout rather than struggling to remember which pose is next. 

A wonderful way to warm up the body is by working through five Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) at a faster speed each time. You can also add extra movements to your poses rather than holding them for extended periods. For example, Side-Angle Plank Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) works the entire core with an emphasis on the obliques. Typically, you will stay in this position for each side for a few breath cycles before moving onto a new asana. However, to increase your heart rate, you can enter Side-Angle Plank from Plank Pose in an even cycle by lifting your arm, one at a time, and turning your body, holding for one breath, returning to plank, and completing the side plank on the opposite side, which would equal one cycle. Completing this set five times will certainly work up a sweat.

5. Specific Yoga Flows Provide a Full-Body Workout

Ashtanga Yoga is one form of yoga that relies on preparing the body for the more difficult variations of a yoga pose by first completing the gentler versions. Ashtanga can bring to mind a word game where we start with five letters and change one letter at a time until a new word is formed out of completely different letters – we can change one pose at a time until our last cycle of movements are nothing like what we started with! 

The benefit of Ashtanga to increase muscle is that, perhaps due to its modernity, it focuses on the more physical aspects of yoga such as achieving a full-body workout through sequential challenges. Ashtanga is actually a form of Vinyasa , as other types of yoga are technically under Vinyasa. 

The concept of Vinyasa Yoga is simple, and is significantly less structured than Ashtanga; poses and asanas are connected through movement and breath. If these two components are combined, we are already participating in Vinyasa-style yoga! Through Vinyasa, and by choosing not to rely on structure, you can manipulate your practice to benefit exactly what you want to or need, and choose the poses as you go.

As you can see, Yoga is more than what you first thought, there is a perfect practice for you no matter what your needs and goals are.

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