What do you think of when you hear the word “workout”?
My mind immediately goes to running and that stitch that I get in my side after 10 minutes that never really goes away. Or doing weights at a gym and not knowing if my form is good. But what if there was another, less miserable way to get your workout in?
I’m on a personal mission to find as many of these more-enjoyable workouts as I can. So this month, I turned my focus to yoga — a practice many of us already partake in and enjoy — to once and for all decide “is yoga a workout?”
First Things First: What Kind of Yoga?
There are are lot of different styles of yoga that you can try, each with their own goals and movements. For the purposes of deciding “is yoga a workout,” we’ll be talking about yoga as a whole. But obviously, some types of yoga are more strenuous and intense than other, and if you’re curious which style you should take, I’ll give you a quick run-down of some (but definitely not all!) of your options.
Ashtanga: This style of yoga follows a set pattern of asanas (body postures) that flow into one another. It’s challenging, and you’ll be sweating at the end of it.
Bikram: These classes are often called hot yoga, though not all hot yoga is Bikram yoga. Bikram has specific poses and breathing exercises that are followed.
Hatha: Technically, Hatha is an umbrella term in yoga, but when you see this as a class option, it’s generally going to be a slower, more beginner-friendly class focused on basic poses.
Iyengar: Focuses on bodily alignment and precise movements using props. It’s slower than some other yoga styles, but takes a lot of concentration to get the perfect posture and hold it.
Kundalini: Combines poses, breath and sound (think deep hums or chants). It’s focused on the flow of energy and breathing techniques with fast-moving postures that will work your core.
Restorative: Can often involve props, and each pose can be held up to 20 minutes. This leads to better flexibility and stress relief. (Note: most yoga styles can be well-suited to props, depending on your level of flexibility.)
Vinyasa: An athletic form of yoga where you should go in prepared to sweat. The movements are meant to flow into one another and should be coordinated with your breathing.
Yin: Slow-paced and full of seated postures that you hold for longer stretches of time. Can be a more relaxing and meditative practice.
What If I Can’t Touch My Toes?
You are not alone! I know that it can seem daunting to go into a yoga studio when you assume that everyone is going to be able to touch their toes or balance on their hands — and look good doing it.
BUT that is not the case. Sure, some people will be able to do those things, but you don’t have to be able to do them in order to feel good after your class. No one is judging you, and most instructors are going to be ready to offer substitutions if a pose doesn’t feel right.
So go forth. Try it out. And be pleasantly surprised when you notice yourself getting more flexible.
Do I Need Equipment?
You mentioned props…
I did mention props! But don’t let that scare you off. Many yoga classes won’t involve props at all, and even then, the studio is probably going to provide them for you. These can be blocks to help make reaching the floor easier, or a strap to make stretching easier, or a bolster to help align you better in certain poses.
Of course, you can’t forget the yoga mat. Again, most studios have ones you can borrow, but yoga mats are something that everyone should have if you’re going to go to classes, and most are very affordable.
Is Yoga a Workout?
Most definitely. Obviously, some classes are more of a workout than others. But overall, even if you don’t end up out of breath, or sweating, or sore the next day, increasing your flexibility is something that should be counted as a “workout.” I end up out of breath more often than not, and I can see a huge improvement in my balance and flexibility when I go regularly.
So what’s stopping you? Check out local yoga classes and see for yourself!
Hannah is a Chicago based writer that spends a lot of time trying to find her next “thing”, whether it’s a new hobby, a new routine or workout, or a new cat. She lives with her two orange tabbies and partner who, despite his laid back demeanor, has shut down the idea of a third cat.