A common question my clients ask is whether or not they should take up yoga. To which I always answer, “why not?” There seems to be a running theme among their answers, ultimately ending with it doesn’t fit their personality and it doesn’t count or feel like an actual workout.
Personally, I felt the same way before I started practicing. The meditation at the beginning and end of class seemed pointless because I’m an angry little elf who doesn’t have the patience to listen to myself breathe – and I still don’t. But I found something euphoric in yoga. And that feeling is why I continued practicing.
I wasn’t interested in the benefits of stretching, meditation, or fixing my scoliosis. I really just wanted to change up my workouts and challenge myself. I hadn’t realized my body adapted to my training routine and forced me into a plateau. Thus, my journey to resurrecting my backbend capabilities began.
After almost a year of practicing traditional yoga 4-5 times a week, I discovered power yoga. This type of practice was a lot more my speed, literally. It was fast paced and perfectly incorporated strength, stability and flexibility into my routine. Not only did I see progress in my poses and flexibility, but I noticed improvements in my resistance training as well.
1. It's not a challenging workout
Obviously you’ve never tried yoga if you believe it isn’t challenging. Yoga tests your physical and mental wellbeing by incorporating all aspects of wellness. It also makes you do ridiculous poses while balancing on one leg and stretching muscles that have been tied up in a knot for years.
Not to mention its ability to make you extremely uncomfortable by practicing inversions and other poses that are downright (pun intended) unnatural. During the first few weeks you’ll be in pain from head to toe after releasing years of built up tension within your muscles. It’s also considered an isometric form of training so I guarantee you’ll be feeling the burn.
2. it doesn't build muscle
Contrary to popular belief, yoga can build muscle as it’s considered isometric training. There are two main types of training: isometric and isotonic. Isotonic training means a contracting muscle shortens against a constant load – think of a dumbbell bicep curl. While isometric movements allow tension to develop in a muscle without changing the muscle length or moving the joint – like holding a bicep curl at a 90 degree angle for 10 seconds. Isometric training does not require weights and can use a significant amount of concentration to properly develop tension within the muscle.
Both isotonic and isometric exercises are an important component of any training regimen. Neither should be neglected but you’ll notice a lot of programs disregard the use of isometric training and lead to a training plateau. That’s because our bodies adapt. If we never change the program, we never see progress. Hint hint – try some yoga and see what happens to your strength.
3. It's more about meditation
Yes and no. While yoga is centered around on being in tune with your body, you don’t have to dedicate your life to it. The purpose of deep breathing and mediation is to reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, and relax – three things you probably don’t do everyday.
We’re all busy and stressed. Most of us decide not to listen to our bodies when we’re in pain, tired, anxious, or angry. We would rather continue to live a negative life for the sake of simplicity. I’m not saying you absolutely need to find yourself through yoga (I know I still don’t meditate) but it helps to realize the importance of these benefits and incorporate them into your everyday life through something else, like positive self-talk.
4. the poses are unrealistic
Now that I can understand. I had the same feeling when I first started, especially because my scoliosis prevented me from doing certain poses on one side. But wouldn’t you rather feel a sense of pride in accomplishing a challenging pose instead of getting frustrated that you can’t hold a headstand for more than 10 seconds?
There are progression and regression exercises for a reason. Start with what you can do and work from there. After a few weeks your body will adapt and the “unrealistic” poses won’t be challenging anymore.
Think about the goals you’ve set for yourself throughout your lifetime. What happens when you reach them? Do you throw in the towel because you’re done? No. You find something else to work towards and most likely never stop. We need that constant motivation in our life because what would we be without it?