Yoga is not just stretching! It can be used to build strength
– yoga uses your own body weight instead of an external weight like dumbbells. Yoga postures were designed to strengthen core musculature and create total-body strength.
Strength training is a healthy habit for everyone to practice, even if it isn’t through yoga. Strength training doesn’t just affect your muscles – it builds resilience in your bones and support for your joints.
It will help you move through your daily life with activities like picking up your kids, carrying groceries, and pushing a vacuum. You’re also likely to gain energy and stay in a great mood!
In my opinion, the most important thing to know before beginning a yoga practice is the difference between mobility and flexibility, since yoga poses do incorporate a lot of stretching.
If you are flexible, you can push yourself into a certain range of motion without having to use control. If you have good mobility, you can push yourself into a certain range of motion by controlling your strength and coordinating your muscle movements. For example, if you lay on your back and someone takes your leg and lifts it up to the ceiling, they are testing the flexibility of your hamstring; however, if you’re standing and you lift your leg straight out in front of you, you’re testing your mobility.
Flexibility is not a bad thing, but it’s important to pair it with strength and mobility exercises (which are included in yoga). Maintaining strength and mobility, in addition to gentle stretching, can build control to avoid placing stress on the joints. Keep in mind that forceful, repetitive over-stretching can irritate your joints.
Balance is important for everything we do in life, whether it’s our dieting
, our work/play schedule, or our time–but we also need to focus on physical balance!
Building balance is essential to building an adaptable, supple body. In situations where we miss a stair or trip over the rug, our bodies need to be agile enough to catch ourselves or avoid collapse. Balance also plays a role in more mundane activities, like going up and down stairs, stepping over objects, and getting in and out of the tub.
During your yoga practice, your instructor will help you mentally concentrate in order to maintain balance. By decluttering your mind and focusing your gaze on a point in space (a Sanskrit term called “Drishti”), you will be more equipped to focus on your body and the pose. These methods are great for maintaining physical balance, but they also are wonderful strategies that can translate to daily life when we need to concentrate or clear our minds.
Muscle endurance is the ability to keep your muscles active under the load of your own body weight over a period of time. A typical yoga class will involve holding a pose for a while. Some yoga practices like Vinyasa yoga include transitioning quickly from pose to pose, building your cardiovascular endurance also.
Building muscle endurance will help you keep going throughout your day so that you don’t fatigue so easily. Whether you’re doing a lot of housework, going out for a day of walking, or preparing for your next race, practicing yoga can build the stamina needed to help you do these things without fatigue.