5 Ways Yoga Can Make You Stronger and Help You Get A Better Workout
There’s a common misconception that yoga is just a bunch of complicated stretches bundled into a routine. And although this isn’t entirely inaccurate, it’s definitely an oversimplification of the practice and power of yoga. You don’t have to “buy into” the chanting, sanskrit, and incense waving of yoga to feel the benefits (although chanting om can be surprisingly relaxing).
The beauty of yoga is that it’s as difficult or easy as you make it, as you can adjust the poses to suit your level of fitness and flexibility, so practiced with intention, no routine is ever quite the same. And whether you’re just starting to workout after a fitness hiatus, or you’re a five-a-week machine, adding yoga to your routine will benefit every aspect of your workout. Here’s how:
1. Yoga helps with breathing
If you do cardio of any kind, you know the importance of breathing. Proper oxygen intake helps keep lactic acid from building up in our muscles, meaning we can workout longer and harder, without tiring or getting sore. Regular practice of yoga builds lung capacity, so you breathe deeper and distribute more oxygen throughout your body – which means less huffing and puffing, and way more endurance.
Yoga also encourages you to breathe as you move, inhaling and exhaling as you flow from pose to pose, or sink deeper into a stretch. This kind of mindful breathing, coordinating movement with breathe, means you have a sharped focus with regards to your exercise. You can time your breathing with your steps, meaning you’re less likely to get that dreaded “stitch” when you run, or you can perfect your boxing with the proper exhalation when you hit. You’re also less likely to hold your breath when you lift, which is obviously beneficial – more oxygen, more endurance, more gains.
2. Yoga increases flexibility
If you want to gain an extra edge, adding yoga to your routine will definitely help. You can lengthen your stride, your reach, your wingspan – pretty much every move you make can be improved little by little through yoga. Which means you can get that perfect form for an upright row, or ace that elusive 7-minute-mile with a longer gait.
Flexibility also helps with recovery, as sore muscles loosen up with a few well-intentioned yoga poses. Stretching can also prevent injury, as overworked muscles are more likely to seize up if they aren’t loosened up. So don’t underestimate the power of stretching before and/or after you exercise!
3. Yoga increases balance
Having the strength to hold yourself in a handstand is actually incredibly difficult – your weight is literally balanced on the palms of your hands – but being able to achieve this pose requires strong arms, shoulders, wrists, core, legs, you name it! Working towards difficult balance poses means strengthening your entire body, which improves every other aspect of your exercise regime.
You may think balance is an odd goal to strive for in exercise, but a strong core can prevent back injuries, and helps keep you stabilized while also keeping you agile. So you can knock out those extra reps with the barbell knowing your back isn’t carrying all the weight in a deadlift, or your stride isn’t thrown off due to an unbalanced pelvis as you hit the pavement.
4. Yoga fends off weight gain
For all those who say yoga isn’t strenuous exercise, I challenge you to go to a power yoga class and not sweat! Regular yoga practice can rev up your metabolism, tone your muscles, and boost fat burning, on and off the mat.
Check the science; studies show that those who add yoga classes to their fitness schedule loose more weight than those who just do cardio – and they’re more likely to keep that weight off!
So adding yoga to your workout routine? Double the effectiveness if you’re trying to lose weight and tone up.
5. Yoga promotes deeper, better quality of sleep
I have trouble sleeping, but even hours after a morning class, I can still feel the benefits of my practice well into the day and night. Because yoga promotes a sense of calm, your body is more relaxed and ready to shut down by bedtime.
Regular practice also reduces stress and anxiety, which are common factors for sleepless nights. Even gentle stretches right before bed can help your slow those racing thoughts and release any tension you’re holding in your body, making it easier to fall asleep. So stop worrying about what happened today, or what might happen tomorrow, and start catching more z’s.
Inspired to give yoga a try? There are plenty of free apps and videos to show you the ropes if you want to try yoga at home. Your local gym is also a great place to check out classes, and yoga studios will have an even greater variety of styles available. Try different teachers and class types, and pick one that suits your personal fitness style. There are so many styles, classes, and teachers to choose from, so go ahead and add yoga to your exercise regime for a boost in health, well-being, and physical fitness!