Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change. As you build strength you start to believe in your own potential.
– Tiffany Cruikshank
I will be honest. I am one who used to roll my eyes at yoga. Yoga days in P.E. were nap days. Yoga pants were pajamas. It was some pagan practice. Then I needed an extra Health elective in college; an hour of yoga a day, 2 days/week was the only elective that fit into my schedule.
So I started doing yoga, and here are some reasons you should too!
You become more aware of different parts of your body.
Has anyone ever told you to activate your core or your glutes? Or use your legs not your back? And you thought you were already using all those muscles. . . That is honestly the biggest benefit I took away from starting yoga.
The instructor I had that semester was great at making sure we had correct form, were breathing correctly (with our whole lungs, not just shallow breaths), and learned which muscles we should feel during the movements. Since then, I’ve been able to focus on activating or using certain muscle groups in my work-outs. When I’m doing lat pull-downs, I can actually focus on my lats, making sure I feel the force of the movement in the correct muscles, that I’m not using my arms. I can keep my core – abs and lower back – tight or flexed to prevent whole body movement with the pull-down.
I love training people who have taken some yoga classes because when I say something like “keep your core tight” or “don’t forget your glutes,” they adjust their movement accordingly. When I’m training people who have no experience with yoga, I can go back to my experience and use different exercises or movements to better teach my clients how to use their muscles.
You get a solid workout.
I was going to a yoga class which was a fundraiser for a medical missions trip. I walked in and see the yoga instructor is about 7.5 months pregnant. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It had been about 2 years since I took a structured yoga class, so I thought the woman who was 7.5 months pregnant would lead a slower paced yoga class.
That was brutal. I walked out of the class, called my mama, and told her a woman that far along had no business being able to move and lead such a fast-paced class! She just laughed and reminded me it’s probably because of yoga that she maintained such mobility and cardio strength/endurance so late in her pregnancy!
This gym hosted another yoga class, this one to benefit Rahab’s Ministries. All the Crossfit coaches attended this class. I felt pretty good about myself for being able to move and hold poses that caused my Crossfit coaches to struggle! By the end of the hour, those coaches – and everyone else – had worked up a sweat! It was a different type of workout than what most everyone in that class was used to, but it most definitely was, and is, a solid workout which will benefit your regularly programmed exercises.
You learn how to breathe better.
It’s not just that you learn how to breathe better during exercise, but you also learn how to take full advantage of your lungs and how wonderfully they are designed! This advantage can be beneficial when you are stressed or anxious, not feeling well, or coaching others through an emotional or physical struggle.
My favorite “trick” for helping my EMS patients who are, for one reason or another, in respiratory distress or fighting shortness of breath is to encourage them to breathe in for one length of time and breathe out for one second longer. For example, for the person having an anxiety attack, I encourage them to inhale through their nose for 3 seconds and exhale through their mouth for 4 seconds. They’re having to think about counting as a distraction while stabilizing their breathing. For the record, this has helped me many times as well!
Did you know that CPR for people who do not work in healthcare is now taught without the rescue breaths? The reasoning behind this is that the lungs have a certain volume of air that we do not fully exhale. As long as compressions are forcing blood through the circulatory system – which includes the lungs which is how the blood is re-oxygenated – there is oxygen being moved through the body even without supplemental oxygen. While getting the patient defibrillated (shocked or zapped) is important and that supplemental oxygen is definitely a benefit if available, our lungs can keep fighting with their oxygen stores even if the body is able to do the work itself.
This is important because learning about how to breathe to take in more oxygen increases the oxygen stores in the lungs in the event of being in a state of low oxygen – like needing CPR. That was one of the fascinating things for me in yoga – learning how to breathe to fill as much of all the lung lobes as possible!
Yoga helps your movements which helps your workouts.
It’s not just being more aware of your different body parts. Yoga also helps increase the mobility and flexibility of your body. Pigeon Pose is one of the poses that can increase hip mobility which betters your squats. Forward Fold or Bend is one of many, many poses that will increase the flexibility of your hamstrings which decreases back, hip, and knee pain in addition to increasing the potential for strength, power, and lifts.
Playing a large role in yoga is core stability and strength. Core strength is related to fall risk and back injuries among many other risks of injuries. If nothing else, after holding a plank or a bridge pose for any length of yoga time will increase your core stability and strength and decrease your risk of injury – whether an injury suffered during your workout, work, or life in general.
You will likely end up enjoying yoga as a welcome change.
If your gyms are anything like mine, the music is loud and the people trying to talk over it are louder. Yoga is the exact opposite. It’s meant to help de-stress you, to help you focus on you. The music is usually instrumental or sounds of nature. The instructors have been trained on keeping an even, soothing tone that is non-abrasive. You’re actually focusing on what your body is doing, how you’re breathing, and not just on the next lift. Your heart is working, but it’s the adrenaline rush you can get with your heavy lifts. You’re using different energy sources. It gives your muscles time to rest and reset for the next heavy lift day.
Your body will thank you for decreasing risk of over-use injuries. If you’re doing the same lifts – say, bench press; bicep curls; and pec flys – three times a week, the muscles involved might be growing, but the joints and connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, cartilage) are getting tired. Tired joints = increase in risk of injury = inability to lift for awhile.
I mentioned I had thought it was a pagan practice. I have heard of a few yoga studios where they actually do incorporate worship of Hindu deities in their classes. As a born-again, saved by grace through faith not of works Christian, I avoid those studios. It’s that simple. There are different cue words for the meditation time in the different yoga classes. Some instructors say to empty your mind; some say to focus on exhaling the negative and inhale the positive. As a woman, I can’t empty my mind; it goes a million different directions even when focusing on one direction. Instead, during that time, I’m either counting my breaths, or I am reciting Scripture to myself.
So. Where is the nearest yoga studio or class to you?