Though many people think of yoga as simply stretching or something that increases their flexibility, yoga is actually a full strength-training process that will help you to build lean muscle mass throughout your entire body. More vigorous types of Hatha and vinyasa yoga will build more muscle than the gentle yoga styles.
"Yoga Journal" explains that the demands and stress placed on your muscles throughout a practice will build muscle and boost your metabolism. Yoga provides a balanced strength as it approaches the body as a whole. The benefit of this over traditional strength training is that you build muscle and strength evenly throughout the entire body, rather than focusing or bulking up on one muscle group, which can leave other areas weak and vulnerable. This is done through repetition and using your body for resistance. For example, the pushup motion is built into many of the poses; without even realizing it, you may execute near 100 pushups by the end of a 90-minute class.
Yoga elongates your muscles as it strengthens them. Flexibility and strength are often thought of as exclusive from one another, but flexibility is an integral part of building lean muscle mass. Stiff muscles are not only uncomfortable, but they can cause pain and injuries to either the muscles themselves or to the joints, tendons and ligaments that surround and support the muscles.
When you start to practice yoga on a regular basis you will quickly see that many of the advanced poses actually require quite a bit of physical strength and endurance to execute. Lean muscle mass is required in the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves in order to be able to hold standing poses such as high lunges, Warrior I, Warrior II, Dolphin pose and Half Moon pose. Balancing poses such as Tree and Warrior III require a strong core. Arm balances such as Crow, Firefly and Peacock rely on back, shoulder, arm and core strength. And inversions such as handstand and headstand draw strength throughout the entire body.
In order to utilize yoga as an effective strength-training and calorie-burning technique you must commit to a regular vinyasa practice, according to "Yoga Journal." It is recommended that you practice three to six days per week. If you are new to yoga, start slow and gradually build the frequency as your strength increases. You can practice yoga at home as well as in a yoga studio, which makes it easier for you to fit your workout in.