When you think yoga, you think stretching, right? Or perhaps contortionist poses worthy of the circus. Well, you can stretch any old time, and frankly, you’re just not very flexible. So, no, you’re not going to yoga with me.
This is the typical conversation I have with my friends and family, and even my students at the senior center. I am determined to set them, and everyone else, straight about yoga.
First, there isn’t just one yoga style. In other words, yoga isn’t just for athletes and gumbies and chicks. Men do yoga. Injured people do yoga. Seniors, exercise beginners and really inflexible people (i.e., me) do yoga.
If Jane Fonda can do yoga at 74, you can do it too.
Second, yes, yoga is the go-to activity for improving balance and range of motion, but there’s more to it than that. Much more. My yoga teacher’s toned arms, shoulders, core, back, legs and glutes are proof. She looks amazing!
There’s a yoga style for every fitness objective: cardio, strength training, stretching, balance, six-pack-sculpting, detoxing, de-stressing.
Here are some of the main types, as I understand them:
- Hatha: A basic yoga class that moves slowly, allowing you to learn the movements, focus on posture and get the most out of deep, gentle stretches. During the final, resting moments of class, you may fall asleep. (Speaking from experience.)
- Ashtanga: A fast-paced class that cycles through a set of movements repeatedly, with jump-throughs from floor poses to standing poses and back. I’ve found that it’s a great way to get your heart rate up AND sharpen your coordination skills. Think burpees, but a little more graceful.
- Vinyasa: Also called flow yoga, this form is fast-paced like Ashtanga, though with a bit more variety. I believe it’s considered an all-around good fitness pick.
- Yogalates: Founded by an adorable Australian lady, this style adds strength training to the mix with weights, resistance bands and foam rollers. Expect to work your core.
- Aerial: This is my current favorite, and it’s practiced primarily with the support of a hammock. It’s a total body workout that can be as rigorous or as gentle as you choose, and one of the best benefits is being able to effortlessly do inversions, which are good for circulation and the spine. The swing also makes it easier to do certain poses if you are injured or inflexible.
- Iyengar: A style that incorporates props, such as folded blankets and blocks, to help the less flexible access yoga poses.
- Bikram: Also called hot yoga, it adds a 100-degree room to the yoga workout. Warm muscles tend to be more flexible, and less prone to injury, upping everyone’s gumby factor, and it’s a good way to sweat out your toxins. (It’s the only one on this list I haven’t tried… I’m scared!)
The Desk Job Blues
There’s a study circulating about how we can add 2 years to our lives by sitting for less than 3 hours a day.
Sounds nice… but how many of us can whittle our daily chair time down to 3 hours? For some people, that’s just the commute to work!
We can, however, reverse some sitting-time damage with exercises like yoga. It’s a great antidote for the gamut of desk job complaints:
- tight hip flexors
- sore lumbar spine
- flabby bum
- shoulders hunched up to ears
- achy wrists and forearms
- tight neck and trapezius muscles
- pillowy tummy
- muffin top
I finally got sick of all of the above side effects of being stuck in a chair all day, and I signed up for aerial yoga, which is good for me because I’m not flexible and I have weak wrists. I’m easily the most stiff and inflexible person in the class (despite being the youngest!). But after just 3 classes, one each week for 3 weeks, I can already see a huge difference, so I’m sticking with it.
Now that you can pick the perfect style for your goals, do you think you’ll try yoga (or do you already)? If so, which style?