Yoga is not a new thing, but there are still misconceptions and fears about a yoga group fitness class. There is no need to be intimidated by yoga; it’s for everyone no matter gender or fitness training goal.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient Eastern art and discipline designed to create a union of the mind, body and soul. Yoga means “to join” and it is a combination of physical postures, breathing awareness, and control of the senses and the mind. As the mobility of joints is determined by the surrounding muscles, it is a strength and active flexibility workout.
Strong yoga practices work your entire body, particularly your core, and teach you how to hold yourself in optimal alignment in a variety of positions. Since these strengthening practices always include poses targeted toward flexibility, they are the perfect complement to any fitness routine.
Most people exercise to lose weight, build muscle and change their body shape. What they don’t realize is how important it is to stretch and create muscular length. The focus should be about creating a balance between strength and length. An intelligent workout includes flexibility training and postural work.
Yoga is great for flexibility and is one of the most effective ways to increase the length of your muscles and also improve the mobility of your joints. Other benefits of a regular yoga practice include:
- Encouraged body awareness and self-focus
- Increased core strength
- Improved musculoskeletal flexibility and range of motion
- Sense of calmness and balance to fitness program and life
- Decreased blood pressure
- Improved balance
- Decreased pain
- Improved immune function
It is also an excellent way to manage stress. Even if you can only attend once a week, you will notice a difference physically and mentally.
Why is flexibility and stretching such a big deal? If you already stretch all of your major muscle groups after a class or training session, why do you need to take extra time out of your week to stretch some more?
A group exercise instructor will tell you that the stretches performed during the cool down do not do much more than return your muscles to their pre-exercise state since your muscles have tightened after your cardio or strength session. In an average 60-minute fitness class each stretch is held for 10-30 seconds, which does not contribute to increased muscle flexibility overall. In order for you to truly increase your flexibility and encourage the look of long, lean muscles, you need to dedicate at least one hour a week to stretching each muscle group. When this is done as part of a yoga practice, you are not only assured an adequate stretch, but you can also be confident that you are placing your body in correct alignment and therefore less likely to injure yourself in the process.
Also, make sure not to skip out of class until savasana is over. This type of mini-meditation has many benefits including the stabilization of blood pressure, greater mental focus, and the increased ability to be less reactive to our emotions. All yoga practices incorporate a little meditation, and it can only serve to enhance your overall well-being. You cannot have a strong body without a strong mind.
If you’re not one of the many fit people who practice yoga regularly, then it is definitely worth your while to try a class. Remember that most of the time it’s about finding an instructor that you like. A good teacher should be able to offer options/alternatives so individuals are comfortable in each pose and feel a sense of achievement. Experience for yourself how yoga can enhance your life and contribute to both mind and body fitness.