We often turn to Yoga as a means to gain calm, flexibility and to get in touch with our higher selves. All of these are fantastic reasons to get on the mat, but did you also know that the asana practice is an amazing way to build muscle? And did you further know that by building muscle, we in turn build strong bones?
Keep in mind that not all Yoga practices are designed to build muscle. For example, Vinyasa Flow is primarily aerobic and a moving meditation and Kundalini is about moving energy through the body. Alignment based practice: one that intentionally aligns the bones and muscles to move in concert is the best Yoga style to build muscle and strength. How do I know? Because I have examined all three styles (I taught Vinyasa flow for a few years) and viewing my body and those of my students, I can say with confidence that the Alignment Practice is the way to go if muscle strength and bone density is the goal that you seek.
My findings are also rooted in exercise and anatomical sciences. The bones undergo a process called remodeling,. in which they breakdown and rebuild. The quality of the rebuild is based on habitual body alignment. So if someone practices bad posture or bad form during exercise, when the bones remodel, they will form in a way that mirrors these bad habits. Conversely, when proper alignment is learned and practiced, the quality of bone remodeling increases: better posture, better bone density. The muscles come into play, because their activity determines how many bone cells the osteoblasts will produce. If you are sedentary, the body will choose efficiency and instead of activating osteoblasts, it will spend that energy elsewhere. If you exercise, it will build bones to support the muscles.
So which exercise is best? According the National Academy of Sports Medicine, weight bearing exercises are best. These are the exercises that teach our body to resist gravity and include downward facing dog, plank, any of the standing lunges such as Warrior I, II and of course standing balances and arm balances. These exercises will make you stronger and your bones healthier but they will not add bulk (unless weights are added).
If you would like to begin an Alignment- based Yoga practice to build strong muscles and bones, please visit my website juliehollyyoga.com for my online, live class schedule. I have also recorded my first class and it is specifically designed to align and strengthen the upper body. Please join my mailing list (the pop up will appear when you visit the site) to receive details and how to access.