A “workout” is not strictly limited to running and lifting weights. Anything that gets your body moving and makes you breathe a little harder counts—bonus points if it involves something called a Bird of Paradise. BikiniBOD helps with whatever type of exercise best suits you, and that includes yoga. Many people believe that since you’re not sprinting your way through a class or heaving a large metal object over your head, yoga provides no real advantage as part of a fitness plan. In reality, those people could probably benefit from yoga the most.
Helping with flexibility, improving breathing techniques, strengthening the core, and revealing the body’s overall ability to move in surprising ways are just a few of the immediate benefits of unrolling a mat and seeing what Warrior 1 is all about.
Giving the practice a try for the first time? The following four tips will help you realize that, yes, an hour of ohm can actually help transform your body, and, yes, a pose dedicated solely to laying on your back and reflecting on how great you are is as awesome as it sounds.
Pat yourself on the back for stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Be prepared to be a little discombobulated as you learn how to move your body in a different way, but keep an open mind and at the very least, have some fun!
Whether you decide to take your first class at a gym, yoga studio, or even just a rec center, start with something entry level. A beginner’s class will introduce you to the basic poses and terminology, and you’ll have the added reassurance that the majority of the other attendees are newbies as well. Solidarity, sister!
Even if you already consider yourself to be a pretty substantial athlete, when it comes to yoga, form and alignment are everything. Congratulations on being able to do infinite squat lunges; now hold that lunge, twist your torso over to one side, wrap one arm behind your back and one arm beneath your lunged leg, and stay there for 10, 9, 8… Humbling, huh?
No matter where you are on your fitness journey, there’s always a fresh challenge to tackle. Paying attention to proper form will help you to acquire these new skills that much sooner.
Above all else, allow yourself the time to learn. You will not be popping up into a forearm stand at your second class; it’s just not realistic. Many poses, from the very basic to the wrapped-and-twisted, can take a year or more to master. As with all other aspects of your better body plan, push a little more every day and improvement will come in due time.
While it’s true that what you wear to work out in ultimately doesn’t affect the type of results you achieve, there’s something to be said for going into Downward Facing Dog without worrying about your pants being see-through. How are you supposed to concentrate on nailing each pose if you’re constantly self-conscious about whether or not you’re flashing the row behind you? A high quality yoga pant, capri or short will provide plenty of range of motion without revealing the goods. Clothing with a jersey knit/nylon/spandex blend will keep things stretchy without showing off too many of your assets at once.
Five bucks says that reading the phrase, “Take a deep breath,” will cause you to do so. Five more bucks says that was the first true lung-filling breath you’ve taken all day. Before we steal all your money, consider the connection between body movement and breath and how it is one of the (if not THE) most important aspects of the practice of yoga.
There is never a point during any sequence of poses that you should not be relishing in the moment and taking deep, drawn out breaths as you connect one movement to another. While yoga is physically taxing, it is unique in that it combines physically taxing activity with a wholly relaxing experience.
Becoming more aware of your breath will benefit you both on and off the mat. More engaged lung function helps blood pump more efficiently throughout the body, helping to shoo out the toxins, leaving you feeling more energized during the day and resting better at night.
Runners are used to employing distinct breathing techniques, but yoga introduces this in an entirely different way, making both activities mutually beneficial to one another. If nothing else, you’ll be able to win all breath-holding contests in the foreseeable future, so there really isn’t a downside any way you slice it. Just remember: whether you’re starting today or are a full-on yogi ten years from now, breathing will always be the tool you need to advance in your practice.
If you see Bendy Wendy effortlessly crouch and coil into her Bound Revolved Squatting Toe Balance, and you give it a try only to feel like your spine might snap and your shoulder could dislocate, uncurl and try something simpler. If the instructor is one of those who counts super slow for their own sadistic pleasure while your thigh is coincidentally on fire in a lunge, there’s no shame in straightening your leg for a second or two to briefly cool the flames and then reassume the position.
The point is, if something isn’t working for you, modify it. Yoga is like everyone’s favorite build-your-own-burrito restaurant: make changes as you go and as your tastes—aka abilities—change.
If something just isn’t working for you, you are more than welcome to do a variation (a good instructor will advise at least three different versions of one pose) and then try something new next time around. Yoga is completely customizable, which is ultimately what makes it so much fun and rewarding as you stick with it and learn what your body can really do.
Put away the heart rate monitor and unlace your sneakers, because you have a new workout to add to your schedule, and while it may seem like you’re taking it down a notch, with consistent practice you’ll find that yoga is just as transformative as any other form of exercise. When you try out a class, take note of how introspective the routine is. Instead of focusing on a problem or getting through one more mile, yoga requires you to keep track of nothing but one thought at a time, one moment at a time. Even when those thoughts shift to your grocery list and whether or not you turned off your straightener this morning, at least they’re coming from within!
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