As a yoga teacher, it literally hurts my soul when I hear people say that yoga is “just stretching” and “not enough for a workout,” Yeah, I get it, strength training is commonly associated with grunts in the weight room and aggressively sweaty HIIT circuits. But if you’ve ever been to an intense vinyasa class, you’ll totally believe me when I tell you that yoga builds muscle.
Yogis are constantly lifting their own body weight and engaging their core throughout their practice, and over time, this is just as effective as heavy lifting at the gym. Plus, yoga is actually a balanced approach (pun intended) to building muscle in the long run, because a consistent practice will strengthen, lengthen, and tone muscles all over your body.
Weight training, on the other hand, typically isolates and flexes one muscle group at a time, leading to a potential imbalance and possible injuries down the road. However, it is true that, if all you’re looking to do is build muscle, weight training is the more practical and straightforward approach.
But if you’re sick of skull crushers and done with dead lifts, yoga is sure to be your new BFF when it comes to muscular gains. So, yeah, the yoga haters can suck it, because the practice can definitely replace strength training if you dedicate your time to it.
Here are six poses that will make you feel strong AF, without ever having to pick up a weight again.
1. Boat Pose (Navasana)
Boat pose is no joke. I can feel the internal (and often external) groans of my students when I instruct them to do this pose in class.
Navasana works both your abs and your hip flexors, requiring you to balance on your sitting bones and tailbone.
Peace out free weights — I’m on a boat.
2. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
If you incorporate a few chair poses into your everyday routine, you’ll never have to do a weighted squat again. The glute gains are just real with this bad boy.
Make sure to lift your chest as you sit deeper into your imaginary chair, and relish the booty burn that this pose brings.
3. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
Chaturanga is one of the poses most frequently returned to in a vinyasa class — and one of the most difficult.
I like to call it a zen-style push-up, but TBH, there’s nothing zen at all about this shoulder sculptor. When I used to teach it to college football players, they honestly looked like they were emotionally damaged from the challenge.
Hopefully that convinces you to leave your barbells behind and hop on your mat!
4. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Locust pose will bring you the back gains that you thought you needed a fancy machine for. Thankfully, your incredible bod can do the damn thing all by itself.
Salabhasana will strengthen the back of your torso, your legs, your arms.
5. Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)
Side plank is a powerful arm and wrist strengthener that requires balance and focus.
Lifting heavy weights often brings about a wrist injury somewhere along the line. Vasisthasana, on the other hand, will set any wrist woes aside and reveal your badass biceps at the same time.
6. Upward Plank Pose (Purvottanasna)
As a yoga instructor, I’m probably not supposed to have a least favorite pose, but upward planks hurt me on a spiritual level.
This baby is hard AF, and that’s because it strengthens your arms, wrists, and legs to the max, while simultaneously stretching your pectoralis major and minor, and your anterior deltoids.
Damn, I’m out of breath just typing that.
Drop your dumbbells and purvottanasna it out — or just say the name 10 times fast. You’ll probably sculpt your core muscles just trying to work around that tongue twister.