Yoga is the ultimate workout for the whole body

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I have always viewed Yoga as a ‘softer’ approach to fitness and HIIT workouts, in favour of jumping rather than slow movements, after all when you’ve little time. You want quick, efficient and fat-burning workouts.

But when I was challenged with physical health issues, I found that my Yoga teacher training has fallen in line with my recovery journey, and I am not just on route to recovery but Yoga is transforming my health and fitness for life.

First of all, Yoga itself is more than merely just gentle stretching, as there are so many different styles and practices to suit all times of the day, schedule and to achieve optimal results whilst having a longer lasting effect than a lot of trendy cardio based workouts which often leave us with injuries, not to mention, adding stress on the body by boosting cortisol which can cause weight gain and muscle loss.

Finding the right Yoga Class for you

I knew there were different names of Yoga from Hatha, Ashtanga and Vinyasa to “hot yoga” and “power yoga.”

But within those principles are a range of variations subtly down to the teacher and trends in the industry and world. Kriya and Yin Yoga, for example, almost ‘go against’ the Western timetables which typically fuel off high adrenaline ‘yang’ energy HIIT workouts. Whereas ‘yin’ is a more gentle, slower energy.

Sometimes traditional yoga styles have simply been renamed or branded to suit a Western audience hence some of the variations.

I think such classes can act as a great hybrid approach to this integral workout, making it more accessible to people like me who have been led to believe that I need to “go hard or go home.”

The biggest lesson I have learned from all classes as well as the other healing techniques I have learned from Reiki to Qi Gong… is to listen to your body.

How to listen to your own body to follow the best routine:

Shackled by my own self-inflicted power hours, when I enquired with my healing professor at Beyond Healing about what ‘routine’ works best, his core principle and challenge which he set me was harder than I thought.

“Just listen to your body,” he replied after I had completed my Reiki course and needed to go on a 21 day detox. I am learning Qi Gong which compliments my Yoga and years of bellydance.

As I do have a ‘power’ yoga,’ “yang” Kundalini style energy, I initially searched for short classes and workshops to get it “all done,” having been born into this mindset and led to believe this is most effective.

I quickly learned however I was neglecting the core of Yoga which is meditation ie active consciousness within and again this isn’t an easy practice. Focused breath-work aka ‘pranayama’ is proven to boost immunity, aid digestion and allows us powerful pauses in the day so we don’t over-indulge or alternatively, over-exert ourselves.

There are also various forms of meditation from ‘mantras’ aka chanting via certain word or phrase which can be the seed of quietening the mind to body scanning and progressive muscle relaxation.

I found this particularly good for increasing my restful periods as we all know how important rest is for recovery and training our muscles.

Also, if you have trouble sleeping, you could try out Yoga Nidra which is all done lying down in ‘savasana,’ corpse pose.

The more  I researched the more I felt inclined to try out a 60 minute class which is long for me yet I quickly realised how powerful yoga is and how it is far from simply “resting.”

I used to think I was too busy to stop or slow down, let alone take time for still meditation but Yoga ‘the stillness of mind and body’ has helped me begin to build a core like no other, you only need to try fast-flowing Sun Salutations consecutively or holding a headstand mid air to realise that. Just google dragon pose which is a variation of Lizard pose hip opening but you are suspended in the air.

After all, we need a state of full consciousness to be able to ‘rest’ into inverted poses such as the headstand whichstimulate our blood supply into our endocrine glands, which help improve your body’s overall functionality.

Inversions also increase upper body strength and stamina. Arm, shoulder and back muscles work hard to keep the pressure off of your head and require the ultimate focus and core stability and balance.

Balancing poses such as dancer pose which is similar to a t-balance are a great way to quieten the mind as is the grounding effect of the tree pose.

Yoga may at first glance appear as “just people chanting ‘Om,’” but even Om (aum) is a mantra which is scientifically proven to have a profound impact on the mind and body. Stilling our mind, distressing us and stimulating our digestive system as w ell as a natural way to detoxify us.

Such stillness facilitates optimal movement from Asana to asana (move to move).

For example, in most Yoga classes grounding moves will be used in the opening phase such as Tadasana (Mountain pose) which alone just looks like standing grounded. But if you engage all the right muscles and breath work then this is much more powerful and beneficial to your total fitness.

The power of Yoga Sequencing

My Journey to Yoga is like that of a beginner’s class sequence for ‘Hatha Yoga’ which is one of the most popular Yoga styles taught in gyms today.

We go from preparation to the hardest part which is grounding and stillness for me, lying down for a long period and engaging or relaxing the right muscles is harder than you think.

Only then can we go into preparing the body for movement.

The class then closes on more breath-work, meditation and relaxation which connects us to the core of Yoga again.

  • Preparation: Preparing for the class with the right equipment and environment if possible.
  • Relaxation / Grounding: Practicing meditation whilst lying or seated. Ideally lying for beginner’s and come into seated for mobility. This helps to warm up the mind and takes us from the clutter of the world and into the class and present. This gives us power and also aids us to listen to our bodies rather than surviving off adrenaline as I had previously done/
  • Mobility: To begin to warm up our joints for the practice ahead.
  • Pulse Raising: Sun salutations helps incorporate all of the above and works on getting our flow into working our mind and body.
  • Main Phase: At least 7 main asanas/postures that incorporate a Preparation pose into the main pose then a counter pose. This flow ensures we are getting the full workout by guiding us through the correct techniques.
  • Closing Phase (Pranayama, Meditation and consciousness): This reminds us of the heart of Yoga and if necessary reconnects us with this statue of consciousness.

Here are some of the Yogic benefits I have discovered recently

Mind – Improves focus, reduces stress and enables a powerful workout

Body – Complements resistance training. E.g. shoulder opening exercises and stretches.

Life – Not to live off adrenaline and anxiety but to try rest when needed

Work – If we use a yogic mind to approach all work then we work smarter and feel more energised through rest.

So many of us get trapped in the external world of excess and situations out of our control, that we feel unmotivated to exercise, breathe deeply and even when practicing Yoga more people are skipping the meditation part of the practice.

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