Yoga: What is all the fuss about? Will it really help you reach your fitness goals – even if those goals include losing weight or building muscle?
While we can’t promise it will solve all your problems, yoga is absolutely a style of exercise that has benefits for pretty much everyone. The best part is, you can do yoga at home – no gym required!
The yoga many of us practice today comes in many different forms and styles, all evolved from an ancient spiritual practice that originated in India.
Centr’s yoga expert Tahl instructs a dynamic style called Vinyasa. Also known as ‘flow yoga,’ ‘dynamic yoga’ or ‘Vinyasa flow,’ this style gets you moving to deliver a genuine cardio workout while strengthening your muscles, increasing your lean muscle definition, burning calories and improving flexibility.
Still not convinced that you could benefit from introducing yoga to your routine? Let’s break down how yoga can help you to reach your fitness goals.
Think yoga is all stretching and gentle breaths? Think again. Unlike Bikram or 'hot yoga,' the sweat you work up from Vinyasa is down to cardio, not extended periods in a heated-up room. Vinyasa actually engages your body like a standard cardio workout – especially if it’s one of Tahl’s workouts.
“The Vinyasa yoga I teach has a dynamic focus,” she says. “It's quite strong and I can incorporate a lot of my fitness workouts within what I do in yoga practice.”
Weight loss is all about maintaining a caloric deficit, and yoga can certainly be an effective tool for burning energy to achieve that deficit.
The asanas (yoga poses) in Vinyasa are very fluid, unlike the more static yoga styles such as Ayengar. The movements are coordinated with your breath, bringing your entire body and mind in sync.
Looking for something backed by science? How about the fact that when Harvard Medical School looked into studies of yoga they found that it can relieve anxiety and depression much in the way meditation or time spent with friends can. Apparently, yoga can ”modulate stress response systems” – which in turn decreases your physiological response to these stresses (e.g. reducing heart rate and slowing breathing). Did somebody say ‘om’?
Yoga is for everybody – including Chris Hemsworth’s trainer Luke Zocchi.
Unlike more slow-paced and seated styles, such as yin and restorative yoga, the dynamic movements of Vinyasa have additional physical benefits as a workout. Your core and hips get a particularly good workout during a Vinyasa class with Tahl, but your glutes and arms are also well taken care of. Turns out it’s pretty hard to hold yourself in those shapes for extended periods of time without feeling the burn!
Don’t want to give up the squat rack for the yoga mat? The good news is you don’t have to choose. Yoga can be a fantastic complementary training style for people who lift weights. Try scheduling a yoga session for one of your active rest days to start feeling the benefits that a better mind-body connection and improved mobility can have on your weight training.
Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes (yet.) You don’t have to be flexible to start yoga as a beginner. However, yoga is a time-honored way to improve your flexibility by increasing mobility in stiff joints and ligaments.
If you’re interested in seriously improving your flexibility, you should try to complete at least two sessions per week. A progressive routine, like the one found in our 4-week yoga and Pilates program Centr Align, is the best way to start seeing flexibility gains, fast.
A regular yoga practice can help to relieve some of the pain that often accompanies modern life. If you suffer from recurring pain points like a sore lower back or sensitive knees, yoga might be the perfect low-impact way to strengthen supporting muscles and alleviate pain.
With that being said, you should always see a doctor or physical therapist before beginning any new exercise program. This is particularly important if your pain is acute.
Can’t wait to hit the mat? Give these beginner yoga moves a try.
Tahl uses this classic pose often in her Vinyasa flows, and for good reason. Downward-facing dog will strengthen your whole body while stretching and lengthening your hamstrings, calves and back.
To find the position, get into a high plank with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Push up through your hands and feet, bending at the hips and pushing your butt towards the ceiling. Keep your head hanging and your shoulders pointing down and take a few deep breaths in this position.
Feel free to keep your legs bent, like Tahl on the right in the image above, if that is more comfortable in your body.
Warrior II is a power pose that is great for strengthening your core, glutes and inner thighs as well as honing your concentration.
Begin standing with your feet together. Take a large step to the side with your left foot. Turn your right foot outwards and gently bend your right knee. Twist your torso to the right side and raise your arms so they are parallel to the ground. Look forward over your right arm, and pause here for a few deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Half splits (Ardha hanumanasana)
This is a terrific movement for stretching out tense muscles and is particularly good if you spend a lot of time on your feet.
Begin in a low lunge position before gently lowering your back knee to the ground. Then, sit back and straighten your front leg, keeping your heel planted on the ground and pointing your front toes up. Place your hands by the sides of your body and sink low into the stretch. Use some blocks (or books!) like Sylvia in the image above if you’re having difficulty holding the position comfortable.
Finally ready to feel the full-body benefits of yoga? Start your practice with Tahl by visiting Centr.com/join-us.
For classic yoga with a modern twist, Elsa Pataky turns to one woman: Tahl Rinsky. Born in New York and raised in Israel, Tahl is a Yoga Alliance ERYT200 and RYT500 certified instructor, and co-owner of Creature Yoga in Byron Bay. Her dynamic Vinyasa style of yoga balances flexibility and sweat, flow and strength, focus and stillness to better connect body, breath and mind.
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