Today I was just about to start my class and it was freezing in the room. I was teaching body conditioning so I knew it was not going to be cold for long. As people came in to set up their spot, they all were commenting on the temperature of the room. I assured them that it would only get warmer so not to worry. One woman looked at me and said, “ooh I like it cold. I come to another class this is right after a yoga class and it is terribly hot in here it makes things so much more difficult, I like it cooler. ” “Besides, how much body heat can be generated by yoga any ways?” “It’s just stretching, she says.” Having begun my own yoga journey I was quick to defend that form of exercise. I said, “you’d be surprised how warm it can get doing yoga especially if you are doing a flowing vinyasa yoga. I mean don’t get me wrong there are gentler yoga classes but I have a funny feeling the class your walking into after that one is not gentle yoga.” She looked at me skeptically but I assumed she took my word for it because she did not question it.
Interestingly this is not an uncommon statement to doing yoga. Yoga is looked at by people who do not practice as not difficult, just stretching and not requiring the same amount of stamina that running takes or weight lifting uses. However, this is a huge misconception. In fact, yoga takes just as much, if not more effort that running or strength training. I am not trying to say that one is more beneficial than another I just want to make sure that I give credit where credit is due. So you might ask how is this possible?
Well lets start simple. Close your eyes and sit in your chair or lay on the floor still & silent. I mean so silent that you can’t even hear the voices in your head making a peep. Stay there…stay there…don’t move a muscle. Okay, open your eyes, how long were you able to do that for? Be honest. Now say that for however long you were able to do that for, was it easy? For most people the answer to that is going to be NO! If that was easy then okay, I get it, you tuned into your inner zen and that’s great. Let’s make it a little more difficult. Now I want you to step into Warrior I (lunge into right front foot and place left back foot on floor toes forward, hips forward, arms over head) and hold it. Keep your mind focused only on your breath and on the pose. If you are holding it right then you should be feeling this in your arms, your abs, your chest, your thighs and your shins. Is your mind shifting to your shaking arms? Can you feel your inner thighs shake? Keep your mind still focus on your breath. Harder, right? Yeah I know it.
You see you do not have to pump endless reps to be strong and sturdy. I thought I was strong, I thought my core was solid. But when my teacher asked us to do a hand stand, my arms, my legs, and core were everywhere but centered. All the endless crunches I had done, shoulder presses and Biceps curls, I might as well have not done them at all. I was sweating and I hadn’t even been up there for a minute. Who turned up the heat in the room? It hit me like a ton of bricks and all I did was a little bit of yoga!
So what I am trying to say is that yoga is not just a bunch of fluffy stretching exercises that don’t require thought or energy as the woman in my class had eluded to. In fact yoga actually requires a lot of energy, patience, strength and stamina! Which in my opinion as a personal trainer who promotes strength training and being fit as part of a healthy lifestyle, yoga fits right in!
Written By Julie S.