Yoga is utilized to improve fitness, especially neuromuscular performance, but no data are available quantifying muscle activation levels during yoga poses at different skill levels.
PURPOSE: To compare muscle activation levels for different yoga poses and skill levels.
METHODS: Activation of 32 muscles (15 upper, 4 core, and 13 lower body) was examined by surface electromyography (EMG) during 11 poses in 36 subjects (9 M/27 F; 31.6 ±12.6 y). EMG amplitude was quantified using root mean square of the signal normalized to MVC of each muscle (NrmsEMG). Data were analyzed for each muscle using 3 (skill level) x 11 (pose) and pose using 3 (skill level) x 32 (muscle) repeated-measures ANOVAs.
RESULTS: Significant main effects of pose for 30 muscles and skill level for 3 muscles were seen (p<.03). Higher NrmsEMG for instructor (INST) and advanced practitioner (ADV) than novice (NOV) existed for flexor carpi radialis, for INST than NOV for vastus medialis (VM), and for ADV than NOV for iliotibial band. Significant skill level x pose interaction existed for 7 muscles (p<.05). INST’s NrmsEMG was higher than NOV for anterior deltoid in forward fold (FFold) and right warrior (WarRGT); for medial deltoid (DeltMED) in down dog (DogDWN), left warrior (WarLFT) and WarRGT; for latissimus dorsi (LAT) in up dog (DogUP), and for Soleus in FFold, mountain arms up (MntUP) and WarRGT. For DeltMED and gastrocnemius lateralis, INST produced higher NrmsEMG than ADV and NOV in Chair: (Chr) and FFold, and in halfway lift (HLift) and WarRGT, respectively. For LAT, ADV’s NrmsEMG was higher than NOV and INST in DogDWN, and higher than NOV in FFold. For pectoralis major sternal head lower fibers, NOV yielded higher NrmsEMG than INST in Chr. Significant main effect of skill level existed in 8 poses (p<.05). INST’s NrmsEMG was higher than NOV for DogDWN, FFold, WarLFT; higher than NOV and ADV for mountain arms down, HLift, MntUP, DogUP and WarRGT. Significant skill level x muscle interaction existed for Chr (p=.014) with INST showing higher NrmsEMG than NOV for brachioradialis and rectus femoris, and higher than NOV and ADV for DeltMED and VM.
CONCLUSION: Our results provide evidence that muscle activation levels are affected by differences in poses and skill levels. These can be used in designing conditioning and rehabilitation programs and for cuing during yoga training.