Should you do yoga? What is it good for? Is it just for spiritual people, vegans, hippies, or trendy fitness types?
The simple answer: Nope! It’s good for just about anyone, and there are several reasons why you should try it this year. This blog will explain the benefits and types of yoga, as well as the reasons it can improve your health and fitness.
Fit Tip #19: Try Practicing Yoga Regularly
This article and video will help explain why you should consider incorporating it into your workout regimen this year. Regardless of what your physical level and preferences are, anyone can benefit from yoga, and I think it makes for a much more well-rounded fitness and a more flexible, healthy body. Below are some of the reasons why, which are based on scientific research.
Benefits of Yoga for Better Fitness & Health
- Back pain relief & prevention
- Stress relief
- Loose, flexible muscles
- Better and easier movement
- Improved muscle performance
- Greater strength
- Lowered cholesterol and high blood pressure
- Detoxifying and better digestion
- Improved blood flow
- Better mental clarity and focus
- Low-impact exercise
Is Yoga a Good Workout?
I made a video on the topic of whether yoga is a good form of exercise, so you can watch that for more details. Generally, I would say no, if you’re talking getting your heart rate up high or building muscle. I also went into more details of the stress relief benefits in the weight loss series Dianne’s Challenge: Fit for Wedding, where we also did some basic sun salutations, if you’d like to see that as well.
Types of Yoga
There are many forms of yoga, and personally I only practice a few. My preferences are restorative for when I want to deeply stretch my muscles and relax (such as before bed), Hot Yoga when I want to really loosen up my muscles but also challenge them and work harder, and things like Power Yoga, which isn’t exactly an ancient term or practice, but a common type you’ll find in the Western classes. Like hot yoga, I do this when I’m maybe taking a rest day from the gym but still want to move and engage my muscles without overly taxing my body.
I won’t go into extreme detail in this article, but here are some common ones and what distinguishes them from each other. This may help you decide which type of yoga is right for you.
Ashtanga – A physically demanding practice, and very structured, and focused on matching breath to movement. Definitely one to try if you don’t just want to stretch in your yoga class.
Hatha – This is a pretty basic form of yoga and a generic term, standard for Western styles, things you’ll see in gyms in the U.S. Not super taxing on the body, but good for basic stretching and learning more about yoga.
Bikram/Hot Yoga – This was created by a specific person using 26 poses that are always performed the same. If a class doesn’t follow this exactly, it’s just called Hot Yoga. These classes are done in heated rooms at a temperature of about 105 farenheit, so it will get your heart rate up. These classes are pretty intense, but a favorite of most people I know who do yoga.
Iyengar – The most precise form of yoga, this one focuses on perfecting form and posture in the poses, making it very demanding for your muscles, though not for your heart rate. For someone like me, a personal trainer who cares a lot about form, building strength, and using muscles correctly, this would be an ideal style to try.
Vinyasa – I think of this word as “flow” when it comes to yoga. This style is done in a very fluid way with lots of movement as it links poses and focuses on breath. I enjoy this style as it feels, to me, a bit like dancing, learning to move your body smoothly together to form good lines and flow in a pretty, feel-good way.
Restorative – Slow, simple, using straps and blocks to stretch and relax. Good for when you need stress relief or some healing from a long weak of pushing your body in training
Kundalini – A much more meditative, chanting, and spiritual type of practice, focusing on increasing consciousness and “awakening”. I avoid this type of yoga because, due to my Christian beliefs, I do not promote or adhere to any of the spiritual aspects of yoga and skip any class focused on that part of it.
I would suggest trying a few types to find what you like. One thing I really enjoy is how much it helps with body awareness and recognizing how you’re feeling. For me, it’s been very helpful and stretching out some painfully tight areas, and is a great way to start my morning feeling looser and more mobile and reduce pain.
And if you really don’t like it (some people just don’t vibe with it), then try Pilates instead, which is an amazing core workout and will strengthen those deep, small muscles that are so important but are easily overlooked and underused.
What You Need to Start
In reality, a basic mat will work to start with. Once you know if you like it, then in an ideal world, I would also recommend the following for beginners. These items are not just for beginners, however, once you have them you’ll probably use them forever because there’s so much you can use them for:
- Quality yoga mat
- Mat bag or carrying sling (if you’re taking your mat outside of your home beyond YouTube videos)