Yoga is a great form of exercise. You can do it anywhere and it requires no special equipment. It also enhances flexibility, endurance as well as muscle tone. Yoga asanas (or poses) have a dual function – some of the poses use your body weight to tone your muscles, while others strengthen the muscles. A good example of where you gain muscle definition through bodyweight exercises are Chatturanga (four-limbed staff pose) and Paripurna navasana (boat pose), while poses like Trikonasana (triangle pose) engage major muscle groups to strengthen them and also improve your flexibility, balance and muscle tone.

In fact, so effective is Yoga in strengthening your muscles, that a study done by the American Council on Exercise in 2005 revealed that beginners at the gym who practiced Hatha Yoga for 8 weeks could do more sit-ups and push-ups because of increased muscle mass, compared to those who did no prior workouts. With regular practice of Yoga, you will visually notice that your body is more sculpted and muscles defined, without ever having to lift weights at the gym!

Could Yoga be Better than Hitting the Gym?

While your workout at the gym will bust calories at a faster pace, it causes a lot of stress on your bones, joints, and muscles, which also makes you more susceptible to injuries. On the other hand, yoga gently takes your body through a full range of complex motion, which gently loosens your tight muscles without putting any extra stress on joints. In fact, because yoga is a weight-bearing exercise, it puts only adequate stress on your bones which in turn enhances their ability to store calcium, hence toning not only your muscles but also strengthening your bones at the same time.

Make the Most of Your Yoga Session

For a well-toned body, make sure you keep your workouts challenging. Start with ‘Yoga for Beginners’ to get your body used to the asanas. But make sure that as your strength and flexibility increases, you start practicing more complex and advanced asanas to keep your muscles challenged. Make the most of your workout by increasing the pace at which you do each pose or hold every pose for longer and do more reps. You can also add more asanas to each yoga session, try new variations of a pose, or even other forms of yoga to tone your muscles further.

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Yoga and its Limitations

While Yoga will give you muscle definition and strength, it isn’t vigorous enough a workout for someone to ‘bulk up'. If you are looking to add muscle mass, yoga is not the right workout for you. Also, because yoga is slow and relaxing, it will also not offer any high-intensity cardio benefits. Yoga will tone your body only using your body weight, which may not be enough to reach your fitness goals, particularly if you want to have much larger muscles.

The Final Verdict:

Yes, yoga asanas will tone the body, but they are more than just a way to lose weight as they concentrate on deeper aspects of effectively functioning muscle groups. “Strong toned muscles at the core of your body support good health. Yoga can help you develop the perfect balance of abdominal strength, suppleness, relaxation, and awareness. Rotational exercises like Jathara Parivartanasana (revolved abdomen pose) engage the internal and external obliques, key muscles for developing a firm abdominal wall. When toned well, the diagonal muscle fibers of the internal and external obliques form a powerful, interlacing network that draws in the abdomen and these can be strengthened by doing Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)”, says Deepika Mehta, a world-famous yoga teacher in Mumbai, who trains many Bollywood celebrities.

So, if you have sufficient cardio workouts by running, jogging, cycling, or playing a sport and are only looking for a way to tone your muscles without having to depend on gym equipment, Yoga is definitely the right choice for you. Just make sure that you consult a yoga teacher before starting a new regime, to ensure that you don’t cause yourself an injury. Image Courtesy: Glow Images

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