You know about yoga's gentle, stress-relieving side and its alluring promise of flexibility, but don't forget another major benefit to the human body: increased lean muscle mass. By practicing strength-focused yoga on a regular basis, you'll start to see stronger, more shapely muscles. Increased muscle mass also means a metabolism boost, increased energy, reduced body fat and stronger bones.
Lean Muscle Mass Facts
Lean muscle mass refers to the amount of muscle in your body, often in relation to body fat. As you age, your body's natural processes start to cause muscle mass to decrease, usually beginning for men in their 20s and for women in their 40s. As muscle mass decreases, so does your strength, resulting in fatigue and lowered endurance. By adding in strength-building yoga, such as Hatha, Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga, you can maintain and build muscle. Yoga targets the often-neglected stabilizer muscles, smaller muscles in the shoulders, core and legs, along with the larger muscle groups for a total-body fix.
To begin building lean muscle with yoga, new yogis can start with the Hatha yoga style. Hatha yoga provides a safe introduction to practicing poses with a slow yet challenging pace, offering extra focus on proper alignment to avoid injury. Hatha yoga teaches proper breathing techniques paired with each movement. Downward-facing Dog and Plank poses are excellent total-body poses. Standing balance poses such as Tree pose and Warrior III target the lower body and stabilizer muscles. Arm balance poses, such as Crane pose, transform timid upper-body muscles into lean, toned biceps and triceps.
Vinyasa yoga picks up the pace, offering yogis a heart-pumping, muscle-building class filled with quicker movements, more challenging combinations of poses and strength-building Sun Salutations. Many Vinyasa classes have you warm up with multiple variations of Sun Salutations, which combine five to seven well-known yoga poses in a flowing sequence. Vinyasa yoga yields stronger muscles, increased range of motion and enough sweat on your yoga mat to let you know you're really working.
Ashtanga yoga, founded by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, is widely considered the most physically challenging style of yoga. Similar to Vinyasa and Hatha, Ashtanga synchronizes breath and postures for an invigorating practice, but Ashtanga moves at a quicker pace, holding each pose for five breaths. Individual poses are linked with Sun Salutation A, adding up to dozens of muscle-building salutations by the end of class. Students new to Ashtanga yoga begin with the Primary Series, which includes Sun Salutations, standing poses, balance poses, seated poses and inversions. As you get stronger, Ashtanga offers five more series, or set sequences, to keep challenging your body.
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