A regular yoga practice can reduce muscle aches, lead to a better night’s sleep, give you a sunnier disposition, and improve your mental focus, along with numerous other benefits. One such hidden benefit of yoga is toning your muscles. 

Can yoga truly sculpt and tone your body, improve muscle mass, and actually boost your metabolism?

Expert Sohan Singh, a proponent of yoga and the founder of Sohan Yoga International, answers the question.

1. How does yoga help with toning of the muscles? Can you get a firmer looking body with yoga?

Of course, one can get a toned body through yoga. Toning is a phrase used to describe the strengthening and development of certain muscle groups—usually your thighs, arms, or lower abdomen. When you practice yoga, the connective and muscle fibres get longer and added resistance helps the body build and maintain a toned appearance. In fact, yoga is an excellent way to tone every major muscle, including abs and the booty.

2. What are the benefits of yoga for sculpting the body? Can yoga be used to change your body shape?

Yoga has the potential to increase fat loss, build flexibility and tone muscles. This leads to a more lean-looking physique. Indeed, yoga has the potential to completely transform your body, if you are serious about it. But, growth is a process; transformation cannot happen in a single day. You have to be patient and consistent towards your goals in order to achieve them. Yoga’s muscle-building benefits may also help you achieve those rock-solid abs. 

The truth is, different yoga asanas have different effects on your body. Some of the poses help you to tone up your body, while some help you to strengthen your muscles. Both types of asanas are a must in order to get the maximum benefits. With regular practice of yoga, you will notice that your body is more sculpted along with those defined muscles. 

3. What are some precautions to adhere to while practising yoga along with a gym workout?

Yoga makes your muscles tissues more elastic and it helps to prepare your joints for the pressure they will be exposed to, during the training at the gym. Yoga helps you gain better control of your moves. Make sure to practice stretching exercises before lifting weights in the gym, and even after the work out session.The increased sense of balance, flexibility, controlled breathing, and improved core strength because of yoga will definitely help any supplementary exercise routine.

4. How long does it take for yoga to transform your body?

It takes time and consistency for any kind of transformation. Consistency gives the maximum results. Within a few weeks of practising yoga, one can see that their body is becoming more flexible and comfortable with mid/high level yoga asanas. Over each month, the transformation becomes more and more evident, not just physically but psychologically too. You don’t just look fitter and stronger, you feel and are fitter and stronger too. 

5. Can body-sculpting yoga be done on your own or should you do it with a trainer only?

Once you have been trained by an expert, you can practice any form of yoga on your own. But if you are a beginner, I would not recommend you to perform it on your own. It should be performed under expert supervision only. Ideally, get some early guidance to understand the right form and breathing techniques from an expert. Then you can go solo and go back to the expert when you want to take your routine to the next level with variations.

Step-By-Step Guide Of Body-Sculpting & Muscle Building Yoga Asanas

1. Setu Bandha Sarvanga-Asana (Bridge Pose)

Bridge pose stretches the spine, back, thighs and hip flexors. It opens up the chest, shoulders and heart. If you suffer from stress, fatigue, anxiety, continuous headaches then you must try this asana. If you are an insomniac, bridge pose is the asana for you. 

  1. Lie on your back, bend your knees and feet flat on the floor. Keep your arms by your sides with palms facing the floor.
  2. Now using your arms strength push your pelvis off the floor, towards the ceiling. Exhale as you do this.
  3. Similar to a bridge, keep your body lifted such that your neck and head are still flat on the floor and the rest of your body is in the air.
  4. Hold this pose for five steady and consistent breaths.

Tip: If you have a knee or back injury, avoid doing this asana.

2. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Bhujangasana or cobra pose is one of the most opted for yoga asana when it comes to back strengthening. It is one of the poses that is beneficial for the entire body (right from head to toe). It stretches your entire body and it is utmost beneficial for the spine. 

  1. Lie flat on stomach. Keep hands at shoulder level on either side, close to the chest, with palms facing the ground.
  2. Place your body weight on your palms and slowly raise your head and trunk.
  3. Press hips, thigh and feet on the floor.
  4. Hold the position for 10 seconds while breathing normally.
  5. To release slowly come down and rest your forehead on the ground.

3. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Bow pose completely stretches the spine and thighs. It is not only helpful to attain a healthy spine but also helps to ease menstrual pain by increasing the blood flow. Give it a shot!

  1. Lie down on your belly, place your hands alongside your hips with palms facing up. Slowly bend your knees, stretch your hands backwards (towards your feet) and hold your ankles for a while.
  2. Breathe in and gradually raise your body in such a way that your upper body (mainly chest), as well as your thighs, are off the ground. Try to be stable in this position and hold your breath. 
  3. Be in this position for at least 15 – 20 seconds. Return to your original position by lowering your body gradually.
  4. Exhale as you release your ankles. This position is known to the relaxing state. Stretch and repeat this asana at least five more times.

4. Navasana (Boat Pose)

This is a fun way to test your balance and strengthen the spine. It also stretches the shoulder muscles and gives a complete stretch to your back. 

  1. With your knees bent and far apart, your feet flat on the ground, your toes brushing your partner’s.
  2. Before doing anything, visualize this: You’ll be taking Happy Baby Pose, sitting upwards, and straightening the legs.
  3. Lean back to lift both feet off the mat, taking your legs into an angle of approximately 90 degrees.
  4. Engage the stabilizing heart as you straighten your legs into a straddle.