The practice of yoga and the yoga benefits are somewhat elusive to most people. Those who are gung-ho about heavy lifting straight out reject yoga for being something only weak people do. Others who dabbed into yoga swear by its health benefits and contributions to overall wellness. Who’s right, and can yoga be not only an integral part of your workout regimen but a regimen of its own?
Our Bodies in Peril
Our bodies face a boatload of issues today, and it’s hard to list them all without writing a novel-size article. We are all affected by drastic changes to our lifestyle, affecting our bodies in ways it has never done in history.
The fact that we sit on chairs all day, with our upper body crunched over, arms strained above the keyboard, and our eyes starting at blue light for hours on end has changed the way our body functions throughout the day. We also stopped walking. Instead, we shift between our office chair and the car seat, and we get angry when our cars are parked too far away. At home, we continue to lie on couches and watch TV.
The simple concept of movement is becoming something we try as hard as possible to avoid. The necessity of pleasure and the efforts we make to remove pain from our lives have led to a hedonistic lifestyle where we completely forgot to take care of our bodies.
Here are just a few symptoms you can see in most adults and, sadly, in some young adults as well.
Body Problems Affecting Our Wellness
- Strength—although nowadays, in your day-to-day life, you rarely need to use your force to survive, strength plays a huge role in your health. Having lean, strong muscles will help with your balance and posture and will prevent injuries. That doesn’t mean you need to become a bodybuilder, but you must possess at least a decent enough level of strength to help your joints and live safely.
- Flexibility—when you have flexible joints and muscles, your mobility and posture improve. You become more agile, and you reduce the risk of injuries and muscle soreness. As we grow older, we lose water in our tissue and spine, and our joints stiffen up. Muscles also lose some level of elasticity in the connecting tissue. Overall, we become stiff.
- Balance—this is your ability to control your body while stationary or in movement. Your balance also goes away over time as you get older; therefore, it needs to be practiced. Maintaining control of your body in the surrounding 3D space is a critical aspect of fitness and safety.
- Posture—maintaining your body in an aligned position means that your weight affects all your bones and muscles proportionally. With a bad posture, gravity will put an uneven strain on your muscles, bones, and ligaments. Your spine is significantly affected by this bad posture problem, and its damage is usually tricky to reverse, if not impossible.
- Endurance—the lack of endurance is a crucial signal that several organs in your body don’t work fully. If your lungs, heart, and circulatory system are not in good shape, you will see a decrease in your endurance and stamina.
- Weight—finally, your weight is a critical part of your overall health and wellbeing. The more sedentary you are, the more likely you are to gain unwanted weight. Of course, the most significant effect on your weight comes from proper nutrition, but physical exercise has a big impact, too.
I’m here to tell you that yoga can help with all of these and much more. Read below to learn more about the yoga benefits and how they can help you with little to no investment.
What Is Yoga?
First, let us look at what yoga is and where it came from. I believe there’s a lot of misunderstanding, and people tend to think of yoga as something that only gurus practice in an attempt to ascend their minds to some higher level and reach nirvana.
That could be it, definitely, but we’re not talking about that. Yoga has a very practical application for people from all walks of life, with all types of bodies and minds.
The word yoga derives from Sanskrit, an ancient Indo-European language considered by many scientists as the world’s oldest language. The root word in Sanskrit is “Yuj,” and it means “to join” or “to unite.” Others translate the term to mean “that which brings you to reality.”
Yoga is, therefore, a practice that aims to bring your body, mind, and soul together and align them. In the process, not only that your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves become centered and connected, they also heal, improve, and unite. Given that it works on all aspects of your entire self, it’s not hard to believe that yoga benefits come in multiple forms.
At a more practical level, yoga is a set of physical postures and movements, breathing, meditation, and relaxation techniques that promote a superior level of awareness and control over your body and mind. Practiced consistently, yoga will enhance your well-being by targeting all the problem areas mentioned above in a uniform fashion.
There are many types of yoga, and depending on which area needs more work, you can adapt your practice to target just that. There are yoga types that emphasize the physical body and target your strength, flexibility, balance, posture, and endurance. Other types of yoga work to improve your mind over body control, while some styles are designed to help reduce your stress and bring peace of mind.
The point is that yoga is a viable addition to your workout regimen regardless of where you are in life and who you are, and it will provide a wide variety of health benefits.
Where Does Yoga Come From?
Yoga began some 5000 years ago during the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, although researchers believe that it has been practiced for a lot longer than that, maybe even 10000 years. But the lack of documentation from the time forces us to place the starting point about 5000 years ago when the first records of yoga exist.
In the beginning, yoga was a bit of a mess because there was no central thought or idea. Instead, there were many thoughts and ideas practiced in different ways. Some of them were even contradicting.
Only sometime in the second century, Patanjali, a sage from India, wrote the Yoga Sutras, which marks the classical period for yoga. The practice at the time was focused a lot on reaching enlightenment.
Centuries later, the practice was adapted to the modern world. It began to shift to a set of techniques designed to rejuvenate the body and improve longevity and life quality. Tantra Yoga came to be, aiming to cleanse the body and mind. Later, these practices led to what we know today as western yoga or Hatha Yoga.
In the late 1800s, yoga began to penetrate the western world, but it wasn’t accepted widely at first. It was not until 1947, when Indra Devi opened a yoga studio in California, that the movement began to take form.
Today, there are many Hatha Yoga variations with just as many styles and ideas, and they are prevalent everywhere. There are yoga studios, yoga workouts on the web, yoga instructors, yoga in the park.
The movement caught on, and it’s now practiced everywhere. So, if it’s that popular, what are the benefits of this practice?
What Are the Health Benefits of Yoga?
Here are some of the main, widely accepted yoga benefits. What’s critical to understand is that the larger benefit of yoga consists of the synergy that all these benefits create and their combined effects on your body. So, even if you target one item that applies to you, it’s that element combined with the rest that will affect the most significant change.
Range of motion is critical for your body to function correctly. Over time, joints stiffen, and muscles spasm, pulling your bones into positions that restrict their movement. Yoga stretches contribute to reversing those effects by regaining flexibility in the joints and releasing stress in your muscles.
A lot of yoga positions are not only challenging but even impossible to hold for a beginner. They require superior control over your muscles and balance. When practiced consistently, yoga will increase muscle strength from the core outward, making you stronger, and improving your muscle tone. Properly combined with other forms of strength training and cardio exercise, yoga will complement those for better results.
When your body is out of alignment and your muscles pull your bones in awkward ways, you lose control over your balance. When your body is out of balance, you are prone to injuries and recover much slower from strenuous exercise. Yoga was designed with centeredness in mind, and practicing yoga poses will help you regain your balance and alignment.
Most yoga styles focus on matching body movements with the breath. Through this process, you almost re-learn how to breathe. You begin to control your breathing, which, in turn, affects your stress levels and your concentration. We often forget that oxygen is the most crucial ingredient in keeping us alive, so learning how to breathe for maximum benefits is a critical skill.
A big part of the yoga practice is mindfulness. As you transition your body through different yoga poses and controlling your breath, you begin to relax the mind. The mind and body connection is a critical element in yoga, and when practiced for more prolonged periods, this technique will slowly provide the mental peace you have been looking for.
It’s not a secret that we are all stressed. Stress shows up everywhere—in our body and posture, in the way we walk, talk, breathe, and behave. Yoga practice has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and the long-term effects of stress on our bodies. It does so by helping reduce the cortisol levels, a hormone known as the “stress hormone,” as shown by a scientific study conducted in 2013.
Protects Your Heart
Yoga poses focus a lot on movement, breath, and expansion. That means that it contributes to healthy blood circulation and flow, which, in turn, relieves pressure from your heart. By practicing yoga poses consistently, studies have shown improvements in high blood pressure and other circulatory problems.
The mindfulness elements of yoga are a critical part of the practice because the concept of mind over body is essential for overall wellness. In yoga, you train your body, but you also train your mind. By focusing away from your daily life and switching the focus on your body and breath, you learn how to control your thoughts and train your concentration.
Many yoga poses are kept for long periods in uncomfortable positions. Although the emphasis here is on your body, it’s the mind that does the trick. By training yourself to endure those poses for longer and longer, you train your mind to endure. Over time, you learn how to sink deeper in those uncomfortable positions for even longer stretches of time, which further improves your endurance.
Joint and Back Pain Relief
Sedentary lives often result in unwanted pain throughout your body. Your joints crack and pop, and your lower back seems to be in constant pain. The yoga practice stretches will relieve most of the pain in your body, beginning with the joints and the muscles around your spine.
7 Types of Yoga Workouts
Now let’s switch our focus to the most common types of yoga you will encounter in yoga studios or online. By practicing, you will identify which one works best for you, depending on the areas of your body and mind that you want to target.
Vinyasa Yoga is a type of yoga workout that implies getting into a position, keeping that position for a while, then transitioning to the next one. Because of the nature of the movements, this evolution is also known as the “flow.” Unlike other yoga types, Vinyasa flows can be created in multiple combinations, which is why this style appeals to people who enjoy the variety.
One of the essential aspects of Vinyasa is the breath, which connects each move to the next one. During these movements, the body will begin to heat up, so Vinyasa yoga has a strong cardiovascular element. It’s not unusual to be drenched in sweat by the end of the exercise, depending on the level of difficulty.
Here is a 30-minute Vinyasa flow you can practice:
If you’ve ever thought of yoga, you were probably thinking of Hatha Yoga. That’s because this style is the most recognizable and mainstream of all practices. Much like Vinyasa yoga, the practice involves body, mind, and breath working together during sessions of 30 to 90 minutes. Often, meditation is also a part of the practice.
The difference between Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa is in the pacing of the movements. Vinyasa is practiced at a faster pace, and therefore it requires a lot more breath control than Hatha Yoga.
In Hatha, postures are held for longer periods, which allows for more stretching. If you want to summarize the differences, Hatha Yoga is a stretching and flexibility yoga workout, while Vinyasa is a cardiovascular workout. To get the full benefit of both, it’s a good idea to alternate these two practices throughout your week.
Ashtanga Yoga translates as “eight-limbed yoga”—a reference to the eight limbs from Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. Unlike Vinyasa and Hatha, Ashtanga Yoga implies the same sequence of the same poses done in a precise order. It’s a lot more challenging than both previous yoga types because of the fast-paced connection between poses.
On the other hand, the fact that the moves and their order are always the same, Ashtanga Yoga can be learned easier.
Below is an example of an Ashtanga Yoga practice.
Power Yoga is a more modern addition to the yoga practice. It started by taking the strict poses and order of the Ashtanga Yoga and giving them more variety. The result resembles Ashtanga Yoga but also Vinyasa. Some even refer to Power Yoga as a more intensified version of Vinyasa.
It’s not unusual to find this type of yoga workout at your local gym. That’s because this method incorporates a lot of athletic poses present in Hatha and has the same cardiovascular effects of Vinyasa.
Find below an intermediate Power Yoga flow:
Bikram Choudhury created Bikram Yoga, and unlike all the other types of yoga, it requires a heated room—usually between 95- and 104-degrees Fahrenheit. The heat helps to loosen the muscles and promotes detoxification through sweat. This type of yoga is difficult to practice at home due to the specific heating requirement and must be conducted in a specially designed studio.
Yin Yoga focuses on stretching, especially of joints and connective tissue. The practice involves stretching positions that you must hold for long periods. Practicing this kind of stillness while stretching prepares the body for being in uncomfortable positions for long periods.
Alternating Yin Yoga with other yoga types that focus on strength building and balance, such as Ashtanga, is a great way to work on your body and prevent injuries.
Many times, Yin yoga requires some props such as yoga blocks, but here is a Yin Yoga sample practice without any props:
As the name suggests, Restorative Yoga is designed to rest and relax the body after bouts of intense exercise. This type of yoga involves maintaining relaxing positions for long periods.
Here is a 30-minute restorative yoga practice, once again, with no props:
How to Combine Yoga with Strength Training
Depending on where you are in your life and the areas that you are working on, there are many ways in which yoga can become a companion to your existing programs.
Whether you are a runner, a weightlifter, or a cardio-enthusiast, you can easily add yoga to your routines as a complementary tool. It doesn’t matter where you are with your existing workouts; you can always add yoga as a supplementary layer.
When you focus on muscle lengthening, stretching, and joint expansion, you are not only reversing the effects of the more strenuous exercise, but you are improving its results, too.
On the website Inner Fire, Kenzi Morley gives an example of two sample training routines that combine both strength training, cardio, and yoga practice:
Sample Yoga Workout Training Plan 1
- Monday: 20 mins weight training—lower body, 20 mins HIIT cardio, 20 min yoga flow
- Tuesday: 20 mins weight training—upper body, 20 mins steady-state cardio, 20 min yoga flow
- Wednesday: 1-hour yoga flow
- Thursday: 20 mins weight training—lower body, 20 mins HIIT cardio, 20 min yoga flow
- Friday: 20 mins weight training—upper body, 20 mins steady-state cardio, 20 min yoga flow
- Saturday: Stay active by going for a walk, playing with your kids, or doing any activity you love!
- Sunday: Rest
Sample Yoga Workout Training Plan 2
- Monday: 1-hour total bodyweight training
- Tuesday: 30-60 min run or other forms of cardio
- Wednesday: 1-hour yoga flow
- Thursday: Total bodyweight training
- Friday: 30-60 min run or other forms of cardio
- Saturday: Stay active by going for a walk, playing with your kids, or doing any activity you love!
- Sunday: Rest
With the video links I provided above, you can craft such a program for yourself at zero cost. Of course, you can join a gym and use a yoga studio, but my point is that you can start integrating yoga workouts into your exercise today with little to no investment.
Practice Yoga to Improve Your Overall Strength
People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years in different forms all over the world. Its benefits have been studied in modern times through scientific research and analysis. The results are clear: yoga works, and the yoga benefits are undeniable.
Whether you practice yoga exclusively or combine it with other types of exercises, it will help reinvigorate your body and mind. When practiced consistently, yoga will help improve many aspects of your wellness.
If you haven’t tried yoga yet, I highly recommend you give it a shot. I was just like you about ten years ago. Since then, I’ve turned myself into a believer, and I’ve been practicing it ever since.
Other Yoga and Strength Training Resources
- 38 Health Benefits of Yoga
- 13 Benefits of Yoga That Are Supported by Science
- Yoga – Benefits Beyond the Mat
- Top 10 Health Benefits of Yoga
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- Have you tried yoga? If so, what was your experience?
- What are the first things that come to your mind when you think about yoga workouts?
- Was there any yoga pose that you tried and were never able to complete?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!