If you’ve been a member of Groupon or LivingSocial for even a short period of time, there’s no doubt you’ve been inundated with Yoga trial offers at some point.
While yoga is not a replacement for your entire workout, it is a wonderful exercise to incorporate into your routine. You’ll get more flexible, you’ll flush out toxins, and you’ll feel great. You may even find that “problem areas” in your joints or muscles start to heal quickly.
However, if you’re brand new to yoga, it can be difficult to know where to start and whether or notdoes yoga build muscle. Here are some guidelines.
How to Work Yoga Into Your Workout…
#1 Go to a “Real” Yoga Studio First
If you’re new to yoga, the last thing you want to do is base your practice on what your all-in-one gym is teaching you.
At a big gym like Bally’s or 24-Hour Fitness, there are usually a few yoga classes available each week. I’m going to suggest you skip those until you’ve taken a number of classes at a “real” studio
When you go to a studio that specializes in yoga and only yoga, you will generally get the best teachers. The yoga studios pay more and are more competitive to work for, so they attract the best talent.
In class, the instructors will help you learn the postures and correct bad habits that can take away from your practice or even cause injury You can also check out .famous yoga poses for a better idea.
Most importantly, you’ll know what good yoga is supposed to look like.
After taking some real classes for your workout schedule, you can go back to your regular gym and try a class there.
Most likely, you’ll find that the instructor there is not nearly as good and isn’t trying too hard to correct the students… who are most likely using cheap foam stretching pads instead of the real yoga mats you are used to.
When you’re in a situation like this, your yoga becomes partially self-directed, which isn’t so bad once you know what to do. However, if you went straight to the less-supervised classes for your first lessons, you’d likely be a mess and wonder why people say yoga is so great.
So for your first 20-30 yoga sessions, go to a place that specializes in yoga and do some research on Yelp before choosing.
#2 Ignore the Hype
Once you’ve done your research and found a location, you may find yourself in a small yoga studio that looks like it’s been time-warped straight out of India circa 200 AD.
In this nice place, you’ll not only learn the proper yoga movements but also that you never have to pick up a weight again since yoga is the “perfect” exercise. You will also learn how to lose water weight, if you’re doing vinyasa.
You’ll also learn that this class is the only real version of yoga because your teacher was taught by the grandson of the guru master who taught Mahatma Gandhi how to find inner peace.
Once you understand these truths, several of these students will tell you they’ve recovered from every disease and injury known to man and that all your problems will be solved if you stay at this yoga studio.
If the place does its job, you’ll start to believe the hype and wonder why you ever bothered with cardio and weight training since you have found the greatest fitness palace on earth.
Instead, you should just nod, acknowledge to yourself the benefits you are getting, and ignore all claims beyond that.
And continue to check out other yoga studios… even the big trendy yoga companies in your city because…
#3 Corporate Yoga is Really OK (And Sometimes Better)
If you go to one of those small super-niche yoga studios first, you may get fed the party line that the “corporate” yoga companies have sucked out all the spirituality and are breaking the rules that the ancient yogic masters had in mind when they invented the discipline.
The truth is that the big yoga companies often have a tighter system of quality control and more systematized routines to make sure your experience is consistent and helpful.
In California, for example, we have Core Power Yoga, where the instructors are generally excellent and surprisingly incorporate quite a bit of spirituality into the classes while giving a great, cleansing workout.
It won’t be like this for every yoga company, but definitely be open-minded to try out the corporate giants. It will be at these places where you’re most likely to get an inexpensive sign-up deal as well.
#4 Experiment With Different Styles
There are probably dozens of different types of yoga to work with, but to the layman, there are really only a couple main differences:
Posture vs. Flow
Heated vs. Unheated
Everything else is just details if you’re not a yoga fanatic.
In posture yoga, such as Bikram, you hold a posture for anywhere between 15 seconds and two minutes. In flow yoga, such as Vinyasa, you move from posture to posture, often changing movements for each breath.
Of course, for both posture and flow yoga, you may have rooms that are cool, warm, or blazing hot. It’s not uncommon to be completely drenched in sweat after some yoga sessions.
Experiment with these types of yoga and see how you feel afterward. You may find one yoga practice more physically cleansing and another yoga more emotionally cleansing. Some yoga practices may get you more flexible right away as well and you might even ask can yoga build muscle. Only your own body can tell you what you can expect from more sessions.
#5 Know When to Ignore Your Instructor
No matter where you take yoga, whether it’s heated or unheated, posture or flow… your experience will rise and fall based on who’s leading the class.
On some occasions, you’ll have a deeply introspective and chatty instructor who may bore you.
However, the bigger risk is the instructor who’s the “drill sergeant.” This is the one who will say “Ignore the pain and go past your flexibility.” I’ve actually heard that quote word-for-word from several yoga instructors.
Bikram studios seem to be the worst offenders for this, but I’m sure it can happen anywhere.
Remember that even professional yoga practitioners get injured from overdoing it. Your joints have a very difficult time recovering from injuries and pushing them when they’re already in pain is just asking for trouble.
If your “spider sense” is tingling when an instructor gives you a posture, either do a modified form of it or just relax into Child’s Pose (they’ll show you what that is early on or you can just Google it for details). If the instructor is audacious enough to pressure you personally, just smile and say it’s the best you can do right now.
Overall, yoga is an excellent addition to your fitness practice a couple times a week or even just once a month. Next time you find an online coupon with a great deal, take the opportunity to discover something new for yourself.
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