Yoga is a low-impact exercise that helps strengthen muscles and improve balance. It can also help ease back pain and improve flexibility. It does not require equipment and uses your own body weight for resistance.
Twist your torso toward your right thigh in a lunge pose. Make sure your front knee does not extend past the ankle and you are not putting too much pressure on your left knee.
Stretching is a muscle-strengthening exercise that aims to increase flexibility over time. It improves movement in everyday activities and reduces pain in stiff muscles, such as your hamstrings, lower back or shoulders. Stretching also boosts circulation and vigor and can help speed recovery from strenuous exercise.
Some research shows that combining yoga and stretching — either before or after your workout — increases the benefits of both practices. This is because dynamic, or moving, stretches (like walking lunges) are better for warming up your muscles before exercise and static stretches (like quad and hamstring stretches) are best for recovery post-workout.
Whether you’re an avid runner or just starting to explore your yoga practice, the key is finding what works for your body and your life. It may take time to find a class that matches your fitness level, but once you do, you’ll experience the physical and mental stress-relief that yoga can offer. Aim for a 30-minute beginners class to ease your way into the practice and build strength and endurance over time.
Many people assume that yoga is a relaxing exercise that helps them stretch and feel balanced. They may also be under the impression that it can help them lose weight and improve their strength.
There are different styles of yoga, and some require more physical exertion than others. An Iyengar-style class, for example, requires precise alignment and may use props like blocks, bolsters or straps to assist students with certain poses. It is a slower-paced class and often involves holding poses for a long period of time, which can improve muscle endurance.
Power yoga classes, on the other hand, are fast-paced and can burn calories quickly. This type of yoga usually incorporates a series of poses that are linked back to back, which can build muscular endurance and train muscles to develop force even when fatigued. It can be used as a warm-up or incorporated into a workout routine.
Yoga is a low-impact activity that can improve flexibility without straining joints. It’s also safe to practice for most people who have high blood pressure, diabetes or heart conditions.
Flexibility is defined as the range of motion at a joint, supported by muscles, ligaments, tendons and the surrounding fascia. Tight muscles limit flexibility, which can lead to pain and injury. Yoga postures can help increase flexibility by stimulating and stretching the soft tissues that surround a joint.
Experts say nearly all poses in yoga can help improve flexibility. Examples include the cat-cow pose, which stretches the back muscles, as well as downward-facing dog and child’s pose, which stretch the shoulders, neck and spine.
Yoga doesn’t require any equipment, although a mat is recommended for keeping you from sliding during standing positions and to cushion you while you’re in seated and lying positions. It’s also helpful to have a yoga ball for balance, and blocks or straps to support the body during certain poses.
Whether used as a primary form of exercise or complementarily incorporated into an existing workout, yoga helps improve the mind along with the body. Incorporating mindful practice can help athletes stay focused on the task at hand and decrease the tendency to react emotionally during challenging situations.
Mindfulness is a technique for calming the mind by focusing on sensations and being present in the moment. It requires conscious effort at first, but over time it should become easier and more natural.
During a yoga session, worries and to-do lists should be put aside, and focus placed on the breath, the body and your intentions. Setting an intention—like feelings of peace, compassion or acceptance—can help keep you motivated throughout a class. This type of mental discipline may also reduce stress levels and promote immune function in those with mental health issues like anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. However, more research is needed to assess this and other benefits of mindfulness.