Muscle utilization patterns vary by skill levels of the practitioners across specific yoga poses (asanas)

Meng Ni, Kiersten Mooney, Anoop Balachandran, Luca Richards, Kysha Harriell, Joseph F. Signorile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare muscle activation patterns in 14 dominant side muscles during different yoga poses across three skill levels. Design: Mixed repeated-measures descriptive study. Setting: University neuromuscular research laboratory, Miami, US. Participants: A group of 36 yoga practitioners (9 M/27 F; mean. ±. SD, 31.6. ±. 12.6 years) with at least 3 months yoga practice experience. Interventions: Each of the 11 surya namaskar poses A and B was performed separately for 15. s and the surface electromyography for 14 muscles were recorded. Main outcome measures: Normalized root mean square of the electromyographic signal (NrmsEMG) for 14 muscles (5 upper body, 4 trunk, 5 lower body). Results: There were significant main effects of pose for all fourteen muscles except middle trapezius (p<. .02) and of skill level for the vastus medialis; p= .027). A significant skill level. ×. pose interaction existed for five muscles (pectoralis major sternal head, anterior deltoid, medial deltoid, upper rectus abdominis and gastrocnemius lateralis; p<. .05). Post hoc analyses using Bonferroni comparisons indicated that different poses activated specific muscle groups; however, this varied by skill level. Conclusion: Our results indicate that different poses can produce specific muscle activation patterns which may vary due to practitioners' skill levels. This information can be used in designing rehabilitation and training programs and for cuing during yoga training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)662-669
Number of pages8
JournalComplementary Therapies in Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Asana
  • Electromyography
  • Yoga pose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing
  • Complementary and Manual Therapy


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