The Only 7 Yoga Poses You Need to Build Muscle

Doing strength-based yoga poses, like Chair and Warrior II, can help you build and maintain muscle mass.
Image Credit: Zinkevych/iStock/GettyImages

If you're not too familiar with yoga, you might think it only makes you more flexible, but the truth is, incorporating yoga into your daily routine can increase your strength too.

"Mostly yoga is better known for its flexibility and balance," says registered yoga teacher Ashish Painuly. "But incorporating strengthening poses in [your] yoga practice tones muscles, connective tissues and hypermobile joints all over the body, which in turn, reduces the risk of injury [when practicing] advanced yoga poses."

In fact, a July 2011 study published in the International Journal of Yoga shows that a regular yoga practice helps not only relieve stress and anxiety, but it can also help build muscle mass and maintain strength, which can protect you from conditions, such as arthritis and back pain.

How to Follow a Yoga Practice for Building Strength

If you're looking to gain more strength from your yoga practice, Painuly recommends beginners start with two to three yoga sessions a week, ranging from 30 to 60 minutes depending on your fitness level. However, if you're a seasoned yogi and have a consistent practice, Painuly recommends incorporating strength-based yoga poses in your regular routine for four to five days a week.

"Some poses can't be perfected in one day — they need consistent practice, where it's common to repeat the pose several times," Painuly says. "Practicing strengthening poses regularly helps to maintain a healthy and natural body posture, prevents the loss of muscle mass and improves bone density, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis."

Ready to get stronger? Here are seven yoga poses that will help soothe your body and mind, strengthen your muscles and leave you feeling accomplished at the end of your practice.

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Move 1: Plank Pose

Move 1: Plank Pose
Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com
Type Strength
Activity Yoga
Region Full Body
  1. Start in a tabletop position with your shoulders stacked above your wrists and hips over knees.
  2. Extend your legs to the back of your mat, coming onto the balls of your feet. If necessary, come down onto your knees as a modification.
  3. Tuck your pelvis in and tighten your quads and glutes. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths

Tip

Resist sinking your tailbone into the ground by drawing the shoulders down your back and pushing them away from your ears.

Move 2: Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)

Move 2: Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)
Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com
Type Strength
Activity Yoga
Region Upper Body
  1. Kneel on the mat with your knees directly below your hips. Bend forward until you're on your forearms with your shoulders stacked over your elbows.
  2. On an exhale, press your hips back while lowering your chest toward your mat.
  3. Tuck your toes and press your fingers down firmly into the mat.
  4. Push your hips up toward the ceiling as you press your shoulders away from your ears.
  5. As you exhale, push your thighs back and stretch your heels down toward the ground.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Move 3: Crow Pose (Bakasana)

Move 3: Crow Pose (Bakasana)
Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com
Type Strength
Activity Yoga
Region Upper Body
  1. Start in a yogi squat (malasana) with your feet and knees separated wider than your hips.
  2. Lean your upper body forward and extend your arms to place your hands on the ground in front of you.
  3. Turn your hands inward slightly and widen your fingers. Bend your elbows, resting your knees against upper arms.
  4. Lifting up on the balls of your feet and leaning your torso forward, bring your thighs up toward your chest and your shins to your upper arms.
  5. Round your back as you feel your weight transfer to your wrists.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Move 4: Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Move 4: Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com
Type Strength
Activity Yoga
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand in Mountain pose (Tadasana) with your big toes together and heels slightly apart. Inhale, and raise both of your hands overhead, keeping your arms straight and lengthening your spine.
  2. Exhale and bend your knees, leaning your upper body forward so that it is at a 45-degree angle to the ground. Keep your lower back straight.
  3. Relax your calf muscles, allowing the weight of your upper body to sink into your pelvis. Transfer your weight into your heels.
  4. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Move 5: Chair Pose Intense (Utkatasana Variation)

Move 5: Chair Pose Intense (Utkatasana Variation)
Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com
Type Strength
Activity Yoga
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand in Mountain pose (Tadasana) with your big toes together and heels slightly apart. Inhale, and raise both your hands overhead, keeping your arms straight and lengthening your spine.
  2. Exhale and bend your knees, leaning your upper body forward so that it is at a 45-degree angle to the ground. Keep your lower back straight.
  3. Relax your calf muscles, allowing the weight of your upper body to sink into your pelvis.
  4. Press down into all four corners of your feet and when you're ready, transfer your weight into the balls of your feet.
  5. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Move 6: Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Move 6: Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com
Type Strength
Activity Yoga
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand up tall in Mountain pose (Tadasana), exhale, then step sideways so your feet are 3 to 4 feet apart. Your left foot should be in front and your right foot behind you.
  2. Lift your arms parallel to the ground and reach them out to the sides with your shoulder blades wide and away from your ears, palms facing down.
  3. Turn your right foot out to about 90 degrees and align your left heel with the arch of your right foot.
  4. Exhale and bend your left knee so that your shin is perpendicular to the mat.
  5. Turn your head to the left and set your gaze over your fingers.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch sides.

Move 7: Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)

Move 7: Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com
Type Strength
Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Sit in Staff pose (Dandasana) with your spine straight and your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Lean back slightly, bending your knees and supporting yourself with your hands beside your hips.
  3. Your fingers should be pointing forward and your back straight. Exhale, and lift your feet off the ground as you lean back from your shoulders, finding your balance between your sit bones and tailbone.
  4. Slowly straighten your legs in front of you so they form a 45-degree angle with your torso. Point your toes and lift your arms to the sides. If needed, keep a bend in the knees with your calves parallel to the ground.
  5. Pull your abdominals in toward your spine as they work to keep you balanced. With your palms facing up, stretch your arms forward through your fingertips and elongate the back of your neck.
  6. Hold 5 to 10 breaths.