10 Reasons to Love Yoga
I’m a new yoga fan. I used to dismiss yoga to be completely transparent with you, because I’ve battled some injuries over the years, mostly in remission now, because I was a big weight training guy. I was like, hey, yeah, patient, you go do some yoga and good luck with that and I just just never did it myself. But I realized, “You know what? I’ve got to practice what I preach. I mean, I do that 99% of the time with everything else. Why not with physical fitness?” So I started a yoga practice.
Yoga vs. Weight Training
I’ve been practicing yoga for over a year. Wow! Now I prefer yoga workouts versus weight training workouts. And I’ve lifted weights for 30 years, so I love lifting weights. Yet yoga has so many benefits! I don’t have time to list all the benefits, so here’s a highlight reel of how yoga checks so many boxes of fitness:
Yoga develops mobility, which means making sure joints can move in full range of motion. Developing flexibility helps you move pain free from any angle. Yoga is great for developing more flexibility and mobility.
2. Breath Work
Breathing with yoga is typically slow. You get to really focus on that belly breathing. That’s really essential. It’s one thing to workout, and I’m glad if you do that, but if we’re working out and holding our breath or our breath is shallow, we’re up in our ears, it’s not healthy. That’s not good and your core has a hard time. Staying on and staying engaged when we’re breathing like that and breathing really shallow is not healthy. Yoga, by contrast, does help you focus on slow and deep breath, which is really healthy.
Many people don’t realize that yoga is strength-based. Active, dynamic styles of yoga are great for strength training. They can be the equivalent to doing a lot of reps of body weight exercises.
4. One Session, Multiple Benefits
You can build flexibility and mobility and strength at the same time. A lot of times with weight training, you lift weights and then you have to go stretch and a lot of times you’re like, “Hey, I’m tired. I want to go home.” Right? Well, with yoga practices, depending how you design it, you can get both at the same session. So I think that’s awesome.
It’s scalable. Oftentimes for weight training or for resistance training, there’s a kind of a minimum level skill to really be able to take advantage of that and not hurt yourself. You really need to hire a trainer. You need to hire someone or at least studied for a while. You can’t just jump in and start lunges. If you have knee valgus or if your hip isn’t stable, you could have some issues right? Yoga is safe no matter what your issues are.
6. Easy to Start
You can start super beginner. You can start with one tiny exercise- just one plank or stretch. Hold it for a one count and and stand back up, right? You can scale it from the most disabled type folks that can barely move all the way to elite athletes. So it’s a very scalable-a lot more than weight training actually, and again, requires this entry level skill. So I love it for that.
7. Travel Friendly
Yoga travels really well. You literally need just you for yoga. You literally don’t even need any special clothes! You can just pop out of your car at a rest stop somewhere you get a little grassy patch when you want take a break and get into some Down Dog or Pigeon Pose or do some planks you can do it right on the spot. Yoga is there for you pretty much universally in any location.
Yoga is inexpensive. Even bands, which are some of the least expensive gym equipment requires spending money. You also have to have a place to safely anchor bands. Yoga is pretty much just about free. You know, if you have YouTube, jump on there, try to find a practitioner that you resonate with. There’s so many out there I’m gonna let you find what works best for you. But be sure that you go into ease and go slow. But it’s so inexpensive that there’s no reason not to at least try it out.
Yoga incorporates spirituality. Oftentimes, again, we’re trying to compartmentalize our weight training, our stretching, and meditation. We train and practice breathing all that as separate pieces. You can combine all that into one practice in yoga, you can get pretty spiritual with yoga. It’s pretty cool. Once you kind of get that beginner kind of newbie thing out of the way, after a few months, and you feel more confident you can hold some poses and really feel the muscles working, you can expand into more of a spiritual focus. You can slow down, feel your breath and really start to kind of go into that inner peace type space which all the yogis, like in India, talk about- it’s just amazing.
Yoga uses isometric strength. Studies show that this is one of the safest ways to build strength, especially for a beginner. You’re just holding a position. Why is that so safe? Because if you fatigue, it’s the muscle itself typically fatiguing not the joint. If you do weight training, if you overdo it, which means with too much force, or you just kind of like compensate with other muscles then joints get stuck to take the stress and then we start getting little achy and for example, your shoulder hurts. With yoga, we’re holding an isometric position. Belly muscle is going to take the brunt of the force, not the joint.
So check out a yoga practice. Start slow even eight to 10 minutes. And go from there, build up, and I think you’re going to see huge benefits.
Board certified Naturopathic Doctor in Lansing, MI