Friday, November 14, 2008

Dispelling yoga myths : 'Yoga isn’t a real workout'

know this was a long held belief of mine. I would contemplate heading to a yoga class, but would trade it in favor of a big time sweat session on the elliptical or a long run, because I wanted a bigger, badder workout. More sweat and heart pounding. Then I took my first class at Baptiste Yoga in Cambridge and understood what it meant to really sweat. Gallons of sweat and plenty of thumping heartbeats. Yet it took me a long time to mentally make the trade-off between my typical gym routine, running, or spinning for yoga.

The thing is, you don’t have to make any trade-offs. Yoga can be part of your regular fitness regime and actually, it can increase your endurance, performance and overall enjoyment of the other things you do. Yoga helps open your body up, strengthens your core and perhaps, most importantly, teaches you how to breathe, really breathe. When I trained for my last marathon, I was shocked at how much a few days of yoga helped me to breathe up those nasty hills and manage the typical runner pains (tight hamstrings, IT bands, hip flexors). You don’t need to do yoga five days a week to reap the rewards. A couple days a week mixed in with your regular routine will still yield noticeable results, physically and mentally.

That said, it is important to note that not all yoga styles are the same. Some certainly are more athletic and physical (Vinyasa, Power Yoga, Ashtanga, Bikram), while others are more meditative and relaxation based (Hatha, Ananda). So, if you are looking for a really good workout – meaning you want to sweat a lot – choose something from the former category. “Hot” yoga classes such as Baptiste Power Yoga and Bikram are guaranteed sweat inducers but I’ve taken some ostensibly less intense classes that have worked me over just the same.

And if you have any question as to whether yoga is a legit “workout”, just take a peek at some of the regulars next time you’re in a class. You’ll know them by their toned limbs and amazing ability to hoist themselves into a handstand or arm balance simply by the will to float (read: very, very strong core muscles). Or, just check out Madonna’s arms.

The key thing to remember here is that the physical side of yoga is just one aspect of the practice. Yes, if you practice regularly you will very likely notice your body becoming more supple, strong, flexible and toned. But, I will argue that over time you will begin to notice and appreciate the less tangible (and arguably more important) mental benefits the practice yields: space, patience, a bit of stillness in our otherwise crazy, mixed-up days. As one of my instructors says, “Yoga allows me to function better in my life.” Who couldn’t use a little bit of that?

Source: By Laura G

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