Yoga is a total-body workout that involves strengthening and stretching poses. It can also improve breathing and calm the mind.
Many people use yoga as a way to lose weight and tone their muscles. It’s a holistic exercise that is accessible to everyone.
Stretching is a key part of a good yoga workout. Not only does it relieve soreness, but it also increases blood flow to the muscles to speed up recovery and improve performance.
If you are a runner, cyclist or swimmer, stretching before your exercise will help you prepare your muscles for the workout. Static stretching — in which you hold a fixed position for a long period of time, such as before a jog or ride — can reduce power output.
Instead, incorporate dynamic stretches into your warm-up routine or as a stand-alone session after warming up. Dynamic stretches are designed to increase flexibility and range of motion in the muscle, says sports medicine specialist and physical therapist Sarah Kurz.
To properly stretch a muscle, start by identifying the area you want to work. Then tense the muscle, if necessary, for 7-15 seconds. Then, relax the muscle for 20 seconds.
Regardless of the type and style of yoga you choose, many poses are designed to build strength by requiring sustained isometric contractions. This is the same principle that is used in weight training.
In a Vinyasa class, for example, your muscles will be under a lot of tension as you flow from pose to pose in Sun Salutations and other continuously linked poses. This is a good workout for your shoulders, core and arms as well as other upper-body areas.
Power yoga classes are also a great option for strengthening your body and improving mobility. In a study, people with Parkinson’s disease who took twice-weekly power yoga sessions showed significant improvements in their tremors and muscle rigidity.
Practicing strength exercises is also important for the mental health benefits of exercise, including stress relief and improved mood. Plus, it decreases your risk for developing chronic conditions such as obesity and depression. Getting stronger also helps prevent osteoporosis and lowers your risk of injury.
Flexibility is a key factor in a yoga workout. It can help you sleep better, be more injury-free, and build lean muscle faster.
It also helps you dance, run, and play sports better. And it can even increase your self-esteem and improve your mental health.
Aside from its physical benefits, yoga also focuses on meditative sadhana or practice. This allows you to reach deeper within your mind, resulting in a feeling of deep internal peace.
If you’re a beginner, try doing poses like downward facing dog, cat-cow pose, and warrior 1 to build flexibility in your back, hips, and shoulders. They also help you develop active mobility in these areas, allowing them to open and lengthen over time.
Breathing is one of the most challenging aspects for many beginners. However, it is essential for proper yoga workouts.
Taking time to focus on your breath will not only help you through your exercise, but also improve your mental health and overall wellbeing. Yogic breathing techniques, known as pranayama, can reduce stress and anxiety, improve digestion, and promote a sense of peace.
Ujjayi Pranayama, or the Healing Breath, is an effective breathing technique that helps keep you calm and your body warm during a yoga workout. You can practice this breathing exercise while seated in a cross-legged position, or even lying down.