Most people look at Yoga and don't think much of it from a workout perspective. It looks simple and somewhat easy other than the flexibility required to achieve some of the poses. If you ask most people they'll likely tell you just that, it's easy as long as you're flexible enough to do to it. As someone who until recently had the same outlook, I can tell you beyond a benefit of a doubt that the naysayers are wrong. The more I've tried Yoga, the more I saw the benefits and how they could improve the 3 most vital aspects required for fitness.
Anyone who has ever played sports, or is working on their fitness, should realize there are three main parts to any program. These include strength, flexibility, and mental health. These areas are particularly important with most sports. Focusing too much on one area and neglecting other aspects can lead to injuries. Even though a non-athlete may not risk injury in the same way, neglecting one of these areas can also still lead to injuries in everyday activities. Unlike most workout activities, Yoga actually promotes all three.
It's no secret that working out promotes happiness. Not only do workouts help us get our mind off of worries, but seeing the results of what working out can do for our bodies can also bring about feelings of fulfillment. Calming the mind, not thinking, and just focusing on the task at hand is one of the main aspects most teachers of Yoga promote. It's rare to enter a Yoga class and not hear an instructor guiding students on their breath to relax and focus their minds.
These exercises that are promoted through yoga also carry over into our daily lives. By doing Yoga daily we're taught how to focus. The more we do this the easier it becomes to apply to life while working on other tasks. This is even more evident in sports where mental toughness and the ability to not 'choke' during pressure moments is so important. The next time you're stressed take a moment to use what you learn during a Yoga session. Take a few minutes to breath and quiet your mind. You'll notice how powerful this technique is for focusing and regaining control of your emotions, and how advantageous Yoga is to promoting it.
When most people think of Yoga, they think of flexibility and not strength. Yoga actually does promote strength though, as anyone who has ever tried it can attest to. It may not give you Schwarzenegger sized biceps like body builders dream of, but there is no doubt that you'll be working out muscles during a Yoga session.
With Yoga, the strength training isn't much different from the reasoning of using free weights over machines, except in this case it's our own body weight being used. With Yoga, not only are you using muscles to hold yourself in position, but those muscles also have to work for balance. Your body has to call upon more muscles to help stabilize itself, and it continues to use those muscles as the pose is held. In other words, the muscles are working hard while also getting some nice endurance training.
Think it's easy? Instead of lifting weights, try holding a weight out while remaining perfectly still and see how long your muscles can hold out. Not only are you building strength but muscle endurance. Both of these are useful in every day life, whether we're carrying in groceries, moving things around the house, or carrying children. In sports such as tennis or soccer, you get the bonus of strength without the issues that can be caused from having too much muscle mass. As an added bonus, there is no barbells, dumbbells, or other expensive equipment required. It's just you and a mat, and even a mat may not be required.
This one is a given. As I mentioned earlier, most people think of this as the hardest part of Yoga even though several poses rely more on strength than the ability to contort your body into a strange position. This is also an important part of fitness though, both in everyday life as well as sports.
Flexibility has many benefits from reducing stress and releasing muscle tension, balancing postures which help with joint movements, and even reducing the risk of injury. It can also improve your range of motion. Not only is flexibility a big part of protecting yourself in sports where fast movements and changes of direction are required, but it also plays a huge part in everyday activities. For instance, maybe you've twisted to grab a falling object, or grab a child that's about to run into the street, and pull a muscle. Even something as simple as picking up a bag of groceries can result in muscle pulls. By working on flexibility, something that's done in many Yoga movements, you lessen the chance of such muscle pulls happening.
While Yoga may not be your main focus based on your fitness goals, there are certainly added benefits that it brings to any routine. Doing a Yoga workout a few times a week will bring extra advantages to whatever fitness goal you're looking to achieve. I only wish I had known about it sooner. I can't say enough about what it's done to improve my own fitness goals and I'm positive that those who take the time to incorporate it into their routine will see the same benefits.