Yoga has become more and more popular in the US over the last several years, and is a great way to keep in shape. For those looking to tone muscles and keep fit, yoga toning can be a great option.
Don't you have to be able to twist yourself into a pretzel shape to do yoga? Many people have this misconception about this ancient Eastern art, but it's not at all true. Granted, many advanced yoga poses do seem to require almost superhuman flexibility. However, the beginning practitioner, or someone who's interested in the physical fitness aspects over the spiritual aspects of the art, can find much in yoga practice that is practical and helpful to overall strength, health and, yes, flexibility.
The demands of yoga poses naturally lead to increasing muscle tone and overall fitness. A good beginning yoga class will offer options to modify poses to fit your individual level of fitness. This will keep you from overextending and pulling muscles, and will help you build your abilities gradually. Many runners, known for tight hamstrings, use yoga postures to increase flexibility in this area.
Another misconception about yoga is that it is not an aerobic activity, or that it always involves standing still in certain poses for long periods of time. In fact, there are several approaches to yoga practice, and some are very active and aerobic. Even those moves that do involve holding poses are a great workout! Focusing on the form of those poses increase strength and muscle tone, due to the challenging nature of maintaining the body in the proper position. Yoga also offers a certain amount of resistance training, though the resistance is generally provided by your own body rather than by weights or an elastic strap.
Types of Yoga
Hatha yoga is the most familiar yoga practice. Hatha yoga does focus largely on exact form and stationary poses. However, even hatha yoga makes use of vinyasas, sequences of movement that lead from one pose to another. While you're not likely to work up much of a sweat at a hatha class, you'll definitely feel it the next day.
For those concerned with aerobic activity, weight loss and muscle building, ashtanga yoga, popularly known as power yoga, is a great choice. Power yoga makes extensive use of vinyasas, so when you're in a power yoga class, you're constantly moving. A typical power yoga sequence features graceful movement through a sequence of poses, with some time spent in each pose, but not as much as is typical for a hatha yoga class. In a power yoga class, you will work up a sweat, build muscle, tone your body, and increase overall indurance.
Yoga seems to be underrated by many physical fitness experts who overlook the potential for strong aerobic activity and the very real effects of muscle building and toning. Increase in flexibility is also highly valuable to prevent muscle pulls and other injury in a body that is used to a traditional exercise regime such as running. Overall, yoga provides a wide range of benefits helpful to anyone seeking to increase overall health or decrease overall weight.