There are a number of fitness options you can incorporate into your workout routine. One option you might want to consider is yoga.
Yoga Fitness Benefits
The health benefits of yoga are a bit different from what you might experience with other kinds of cardio, or even some similar workout methods like Pilates. It isn’t going to burn the same kind of calories as running, swimming, using an exercise bike, or other cardio machines, but yoga fitness does help improve other areas of your body, which is why you should consider adding it to your weekly routine.
The Kinds Of Yoga
Before you run off to the local gym and sign up for the first available yoga class it is important to know the difference between the different kinds of yoga.
Much like martial arts, there are many practiced forms of yoga, and each has a varying twist to it. Now, the majority of yoga classes you find at traditional gyms are basic poses, often pulling moves from several kinds of yoga.
However, when looking at yoga studios near you, you’ll find the more knowledgeable instructors will specialize in specific kinds of yoga. One of the best ways to determine not only the kind of yoga but the knowledge of your instructor is to ask which form of yoga they teach. If they are unable to answer this question it’s likely because they are not certified in yoga.
Generally speaking it is always best to work with a certified, licensed, and trained yoga instructor as they know how to spot poor form and assist you in avoiding injury.
Ashtanga yoga continually moves from one pose to another. As there are no breaks in this yoga you will learn a number of breathing techniques.
These techniques are designed to help focus your mind and to pull more oxygen into the body. Because this kind of yoga is constant and doesn’t give you any breaks in between poses you should be experienced in practicing yoga. It is not something you should jump into right away.
Birkram yoga (we’ll cover this specifically a bit further down). Is similar to hot yoga. Now, many hot yoga studios will follow the temperature requirements but not necessarily the pose requirements.
It is a challenging form of yoga as it does follow a very specific sequence of poses. If you’re considering Birkram yoga you should have some experience with yoga.
You will also need to drink plenty of water, otherwise you risk cramping (especially in your calf muscles, and if you’ve ever had your calf turn to a cement brick while cramping you know exactly how painful this can be).
Hatha yoga is one of the most popular forms of yoga (at least in the United States). It focuses on the physical aspect of yoga. So, while breathing is still important you will not focus on specific breathing techniques (outside of breathing in deeply and letting it out slowly).
This is a beginners form of yoga where you will learn basic poses. If you’re interested in extracting the basic physicall benefits of yoga, this is a nice way to start out.
However, if you also want to learn breathing techniques to help calm the mind there are other options. Kripalu yoga is similar to Hatha yoga, although it moves even more slolwly. The movements are more pronounced and specific. This is a great cool down for your regular workout. It is designed to slow the heart rate while boosting your mind and body awareness.
Iyengar yoga in many ways runs hand-in-hand with Hatha yoga. It is slow paced and focused more on the physical poses rather than the breathing.
However, unlike Hatha yoga you will use some props to help aid in certain poses. This can include anything from blocks to bolsters, and belts. As you progress with yoga you might not need the blocks to obtain a certain stretch, but when starting off these props are especially beneficial.
Where Hatha yoga focuses on the physical element, Kundalini yoga targets the mental and spiritual side. If you’re interested in a kind of yoga that targets meditation and breathing techniques, this is the style of yoga you’ll want to enroll in.
There are also a number of chants as Kundalini. Depending on your daily stress levels this may be exactly what you need. After all, sometimes it’s more about the mental clarity than about burning a few extra calories.
If you want to burn as many calories as you can while performing yoga you will want to check out power yoga. This kind of yoga will focus on some upper-body strength poses, which will both stretch and challenge your muscles at the same time. While you won’t be burning the same number of calories as you would with traditional cardio, it gives you the combination of light cardio and stretching, all at the same time.
Are you suffering from a physical injury?
Does your shoulder bother you from a rotator cuff issue or do you struggle maintaining poses in other kinds of yoga?
If so, Sivananda yoga may be perfect for you. This form of yoga focuses on 13 individual poses. Between each pose you will return to a laying down position. This helps your body recover from the stretches.
Lastly, if your main goal of yoga is to improve your flexibility and stretch out your muscles but you’re not aiming ad complex poses you’ll want to check out Viniyoga. This form of yoga isn’t as concerned about exact poses. It’s more about the stretch and improving your breathing. It is an excellent form of yoga when you are attempting to recover from an injury (WebMD, 2019).
If you’re looking for a way to shred calories yoga should not be your target exercise.
In many ways, yoga is what you would do before a workout to improve blood flow and elongate your body. So it is important to not look at yoga fitness as a way to drop weight but instead as a way to improve other areas of your body.
Just how many calories will you burn while practicing yoga? It does depend a bit on the moves you’re performing.
However, If you weigh 180 pounds you would burn about 170 calories or so every 30 minutes of yoga. So for an hour yoga class you could expect to burn around 340 or 350 calories. If you’re into hot yoga you’ll still burn the same amount, but you’ll sweat more, which can help you shed some excess water weight.
Hot yoga is a form of Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is performed in a room set to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. A traditional Bikram yoga session will include 26 postures with two breaks built in. Over the course of this 90-minute session you’ll burn up to 460 calories (Healthline, 2019).
The True Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is a fantastic addition to your workout routine, although it shouldn’t be your one and only form of physical fitness.
Instead, it supplements your other workouts, helping boost the production and end results of your other workout routines. And, as is the case with any supplement, it isn’t something that will stand on its own.
But what are the true benefits of yoga for fitness?
According to WebMD, yoga will help improve your flexibility, elongate your muscles, assist with better posture, help you with your breathing, and it helps lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Depending on the yoga you practice it can also help calm your mind.
The origins of yoga are centered not only on performing certain positions but also on calming your mind and sweeping away the anxieties and stresses of daily life.
Some yoga studios will have a more mind-centric form of yoga where there goal is to fully clear your mind and allow yourself to remain at peace with the world around you. Others will have you focus on certain ideas and your breathing. You will want to take up the kind of yoga that works best for your individual needs.
Importance of Flexibility
One of the main physical improvements you’ll experience thanks to yoga is an improvement in flexibility. Improving your body’s flexibility will help boost your ability to perform in other physical activities. This includes your regular workouts including both cardio and weight training.
By elongating your muscles you will cut down your risk of injuries, specifically to your joints. While you are not specifically targeting your joints during yoga (in most instances you do not want to lock up your joints during the individual poses) the elongated muscles will help improve your joint’s full range of motion.
When muscles over develop and are restricted it cuts down on the overall movement of your joint. It can also place added pressure on your joints. Boosting flexibility cuts down on injuries thanks to this boost in movement.
Improving Blood Flow
Blood flow is key with just about every workout you’re going to do. When weight training blood will pump into a given muscle group that is being worked hard (it’s why when you focus only on your biceps for an entire workout the muscles will look larger and “pumped up”). The blood rushes to these areas to help support the damaged muscle fiber and deliver the necessary oxygen and protein to assist in repairing the damage.
When you boost flexibility thanks to yoga you will improve blood flow to these muscles. This way, when you lift weights more blood will reach your target muscles. With more blood reaching your muscles it will improve the pump appearance of your muscles. It will also help repair your muscles as more oxygen and more nutrients reach the damaged muscle tissue (Mayo Clinic, 2017).
Make Sure To Warm Up
Hopefully your yoga studio doesn’t just jump right into the yoga poses. If it does you might want to start looking for a new studio.
Because jumping right into stretching is more likely to lead to injury.
But, what about all those times in gym class and with high school sports where you were required to stretch before practice?
Basically, the theory of stretching before a workout has been proven to be wrong.
You don’t want to jump right into stretching because you blood is not pumping heavily yet. Your muscles are cold, which means the fibers in your muscles are tighter. Stretching tight muscle fibers increases your chance of tearing muscles and injuring yourself (Business Insider, 2016).
Instead, you need to have a brisk warmup. This can be a subtle jog for five minutes or some really lightweight work. The purpose of this is to waken up your body before moving into the stretching. After the brisk warm up you will then be ready to begin your yoga session.
Now, if you like the location where you practice yoga and your instructor does not provide any kind of warm up (it can be as simple as jogging in place or jumping jacks) consider parking a few blocks away and walking the rest of the way. Do what you can to get your body moving some. As long as you do this you’ll be able to get the most out of your yoga fitness routine.
Yoga might not be the calorie burning form of exercise that you will need to burn off excess calories.
However, it will help elongate your muscles and improve blood flow. By improving your blood flow you will deliver more oxygen and energy to cells throughout your body.
This cuts down recovery time following a heavy weight lifting workout. It also helps stretch out your muscles and boost flexibility. When only focusing on weights your body is more likely to become tight and the muscles might begin to pull in unnatural directions, including the rounding of your delt muscles.
While yoga isn’t necessarily something you need to do every day for fitness, adding it to your weekly routine is highly desirable. So instead of looking at yoga fitness as a means to burn calories, look at it as a supplement to all your other workouts during the week.
After all, just about everything else you do during the week will improve because of it.