Running feels like a workout. Squats; lunges; push-ups; lifting weights. Those feel like work outs. Calorie burning, sweat inducing, hard-work work outs. Often times we only feel like we’re exercising when we feel the physical pain on our body. This concept of exercise could not be more wrong. While, yes, difficult sweaty workouts do burn calories and do push our bodies to the max, there are other ways to reach our goals. There are other ways to exercise.
Did you know that doing slow, focused exercises can actually be more beneficial than hard cardio? Slowing down and taking time to work each muscle can help tone the body and keep you in tune with your heart, mind, and physical self. This is why we hold poses in yoga. Exercises such as yoga can help you in many ways, and we’re here to explain the benefits of taking time to slow your workout down.
1. Tone muscles
While cardio and traditional body weight exercises help to strengthen large muscle groups, yoga can help target smaller, less used muscle groups, improving your physique in a more noticeable way. Not only will yoga grow your muscles, but it will elongate and sharpen them, giving you the chiseled look you’re after.
Yoga tones your muscles by first requiring balance. Holding each pose in yoga takes strength, whether you feel your muscles being engaged at the time or not. Your core, legs, and back are most likely being used for balance during each and every yoga pose.
Holding poses in yoga engages your muscles for long periods of time, building strength without repetitive movements
2. Improve form
Yoga is an excellent exercise for improving form. Many poses in yoga duplicate movements done during sports and other work outs, but because you are moving slower, yoga gives you time to perfect these movements. Push-up, squat, and lunge type movements can actually be done correctly, keeping you mindful of your body how it moves.
Because yoga puts such emphasis on connecting your body to your mind, it can help make you aware of when your movements feel wrong or right. Yoga can also help you know what parts of your body may be weak or easily strained, so you can fix this and prevent injury in the future.
3. Stretch the body
Many exercises meant for building muscles also tend to tighten and shorten them. If you do not stretch, this tightening can cause aches, pains, and soreness. Yoga, however, is meant for stretching and elongating muscles. Yoga builds muscles at the same time that it provides you with a full body stretch, leaving you feeling relieved and open afterwards.
Consistently practicing yoga improves flexibility, making other exercises easier and helping your muscles grow overall. Holding poses for an extended amount of time stretches and loosens the body, eliminating tightness and improving everyday movements.
4. Strengthen the mind
Often we do not make it as far through our work outs as we plan to. If we wanted to run five miles, we ran four. If we wanted to lift three sets, we gave in at two and a half. It is easy to allow our minds to convince our bodies they’ve had enough. Yoga can help with this.
As we hold poses in yoga, we are strengthening our muscles as well as our mind. We teach our mind that our body can be pushed farther, and we learn ways to not give up. By connecting the mind to the body, yoga builds mental strength and perseverance that can help us in other aspects of our life.