We all know yoga feels good, but how exactly does yoga actually help us stay or get fit, healthy, and in shape?
Apart from helping us focus more on the goodness in life, driving up better posture, and healthier breathing patterns, here are other ways yoga keeps you fit.
1. It builds muscle strength.
We may not be lifting dumbbells above our heads or joining a weight training team, but yoga encourages you to be able to carry AND hold your own body weight — not just in arm balances, but also in positions like Plank Pose and Downward Facing Dog. In lifting your own body weight, you are creating strength in your muscles and bones.
2. It increases your heart rate.
Sun Salutations increase your heart rate. The opening sequence of many yoga classes involves some formulation of Sun Salutation designed not just to begin opening your body, but to drive up enough body heat to keep you safe through out your practice. This is cardio and drives your heart rate up.
3. It tones your muscles.
Yoga builds long lean muscles rather than big bulky muscles. This is a more toning way to go about sculpting your body and can keep you in better shape for longer.
4. It builds stamina.
The long holds during Hatha, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram and some Vinyasa yoga classes will lead towards better stamina. Stamina is the kind strength that focuses on endurance and discipline more than just the number of push ups you can do. It is essential for optimal fitness.
5. It releases toxins and lactic acid.
Lengthening out during your workout encourages the release of stored toxins and lactic acid in the muscles. This will promote better health and fitness in the muscles each time you practice.
6. It makes you sweat.
Even if you don’t practice hot yoga, you will find your practice derives heat from your breath and from the long holds. This heat makes you sweat, which keeps the fluids moving through your body effectively, making you healthier in the process.
7. It makes you listen.
Becoming fit, healthy, or in shape has a lot to do with knowing what your body needs and what it shouldn’t have. This kind of knowledge only becomes a daily habit, without thinking about it, when you have mastered listening to your body.
“I’m hungry because I’m upset.” “My shoulder hurts so I should slow down.” “I have extra energy that I should burn off.” Noticing these kind of observations in yourself is a sign that you have created a healthy habit and are likely to stay in shape for longer.
8. It helps diversify your diet.
Yoga makes you crave different types of food. As you practice more and more, you begin to desire different types of food based on what your body needs to fuel it. In this sense, yoga is just like any other form of workout.
Yogis often crave fruits and vegetables throughout the day and some form of protein right after an intense class. This is your body craving the nutrition it requires to stay healthy. So dig in and shape up with your yoga practice!
Don’t forget to try different types of yoga, play with props, and try out asana variations to keep things interesting.