Yoga is ever more popular with people looking to improve their fitness, mobility and peace of mind at the same time. It can be the only type of training you need if you do it right – and yes, you will get stronger too! Here’s how to make yoga your new gym.
Yoga as a total body workout
If you’ve ever tried yoga before, you know that each class is structured in a similar way – there’s warm-up, the main part that combines strength and mobility, and towards the end you slow down and relax. These are also the main ingredients of a good workout!
Longer yoga classes typically include sun salutations at the start, and sometimes also at regular intervals throughout. The sun salutation sequence is ingenious in that it alternates forward and backward bending on the spine, engages all the major muscle groups and gets the blood flowing with its fast pace.
It’s excellent for warming up your muscles and lubricating the joints, preparing your body for more challenging parts of the practice. Doing several sun salutations in a row is a great cardio exercise and, as research shows, it helps to build strength and stamina.
On top of that, this particular practice teaches you to synchronize breath with movement. That ensures that you are breathing properly to supply your muscles with plenty of oxygen, but it also trains your attention to stay in the present moment. Being focused on what you’re doing improves your body awareness, reduces the risk of injuries, and improves your state of mind.
If there isn’t a sun salutation at the start, there’s usually another dynamic sequence, and during each practice you go through other flows or transitions that get your heart pumping. If you practice yoga at home using an app, and want more of this cardio action, you can pause the video and repeat the sequence on your own before continuing.
Strength and mobility training
The image of yoga as a stretching exercise is long gone! Many people, including athletes, use yoga to improve their physique, move better and increase their range of motion.
Having strong muscles but limited mobility, or being super bendy but weak are not great places to be. Yoga provides both – it trains you to be stronger and at the same time more mobile, removing any limitations you may have.
It helps you build functional strength – that’s all about being able to move your body in all possible ways, mimicking real-life scenarios and engaging a wide range of muscles. On the other hand, lifting at the gym engages only a few muscles at a time and doesn’t always make them work together. Yoga trains your muscle groups to work in functional patterns, and makes you move with control.
One of the main benefits of yoga is that it strengthens your core and the deep stabilizer muscles. According to a comprehensive study, this not only reduces the risk of injuries, it can also improve your athletic performance.
While building all this functional strength, yoga helps you increase your range of motion by stretching. These two elements of yoga training increase your mobility, teach you how to move efficiently, and ensure balanced training. Yoga practice always alternates flexion and extension, isometric and isotonic contractions, and all muscle groups are engaged many times throughout.
If you want to focus on strength training above all, Skill Yoga has many strength-building classes to offer!
Stretching your muscles increases your flexibility and mobility, allowing your joints to move through their full range of motion. It is important for you to be able to move well and slash your risk of injuries.
Yoga practice includes both static and dynamic stretching together with breathwork. Static stretching makes you stay in a pose for a little while, allowing your muscles to release. In each of these poses, you breathe deeply, and it deepens the stretch.
Dynamic stretching means that you move in the pose, for example subtle bouncing up and down, or that you move in and out of the pose several times. This type of stretching allows you to let go of tension, makes you more flexible, mobile and better at balancing!
In a nutshell, yoga is a better kind of stretching than any quick stretch at the gym when you may be holding your breath for the few seconds you hold the position!
Yoga teaches you new skills
Gym might make your muscles grow bigger faster but yoga gives you functional strength with one clear advantage – you learn new skills, and you may be amazed at just what you can achieve. The feeling you get when you’re able to lift your whole body weight into an arm balance for the first time is priceless!
Because yoga develops your whole body, you get more control over it. While once you would have kicked your legs up into a handstand like a foal, with yoga you’ll be able to lift off like a calisthenics expert.
Even if you don’t have much time, just 15 minutes a day can be super effective. Try the HIT Yoga Strength program.
Yoga makes you more focused
You may have noticed that yoga isn’t just exercise but it also works with your mind. By making you more present in the moment, it trains you to be more mindful. Mindfulness – focusing on the here and now – can make you less stressed, less held back by negative thoughts, but also more focused on what you’re doing, which means you can perform better under pressure.
Of course, this can make you a better athlete too – being more focused means greater movement precision, better stability, and less self-sabotaging. It follows that mindfulness practice makes you less likely to injure yourself, as demonstrated by research!
When you’re at the gym, you’re either constantly distracted by your surroundings or you are distracting yourself on purpose by playing music. That can help you be less aware of your discomfort or pain, so you lift more or do more reps, but your technique and posture may suffer. Yoga brings your focus to what’s important and helps to make you a better athlete.
Yoga makes you stronger while sparing your joints
In yoga, you work with your own body weight, moving and lifting it in different ways with control. If you can’t do a certain transition or pose just yet, you can modify it to suit your abilities. Gradually, as you get better, you will be able to perform that difficult sequence – and it will feel amazing!
The best part about it is that you work with what you have, so no one drops a sudden weight on you that you have to lift. You are very much aware of where your body is at but also continuously testing your limits. That is a training approach that prevents a ton of injuries, and spares your joints from sudden overloads.
Many athletes turn to yoga after they’ve suffered an injury because it’s a joint-friendly type of training. Of course, if you try to force your body into a pose you’re not ready for, it’s not so joint-friendly so you’ll have to tame your ego a little!
Yoga is great for recovery
After you’ve been to the gym, you may feel sore and tired. As yoga has in-built features that facilitate recovery, you may get the same results as with gym but with much less pain!
In each yoga practice, you alternate flexion and extension, sideways movements or twists, so at any given moment, some muscle groups are engaging while the opposite ones are stretching. That means you are not leaving just five minutes at the end for stretching, and your muscles will feel the difference.
Yoga allows for greater blood flow into the muscles, bringing oxygen and nutrients while flushing away metabolic byproducts. This helps to reduce post-training soreness and stiffness. And that’s not all – yoga also helps you sleep better, which is another crucial aspect of effective recovery.
Read more about yoga and recovery: How to best use yoga for athletic recovery
Start your yoga training today!
The best thing about yoga is that you can do it anywhere – all you need is a mat and some guidance. No gym equipment, special shoes or outfits, all you need to do is show up. Skil Yoga is here to guide you on the way and help you progress.
Choose your preferences and we’ll set you up with a tailor-made yoga program that will evolve with you. Try it and we’ll help you achieve more than you thought possible.