“How are you so strong? You must do something else besides yoga!”
This phrase is as common to me as is “Do you have a dog named Toto?” when I tell them I’m originally from Kansas. I’d like to laugh and say people are clever, but these sayings are old and have no foundation in truth.
Can you be incredibly strong thanks to yoga alone? Yes!
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Here’s the thing that the mainstream world doesn’t understand about yoga: All yoga doesn’t revolve around gentle stretches, chants, and seated meditation. There’s a general misconception that yoga will make you flexible and limber but not fit and strong, when in fact yoga is the perfect way to balance out your strength with your flexibility.
Have you ever stepped into a power yoga class? You’ll be dripping sweat within minutes. Have you watched an ashtangi yogi flow through his or her series with the ease of a feather? It’s not enough to do a difficult arm balance—it must be lowered into from an inversion. Practice 90 minutes of vinyasa flow—it will make burpees feel like a vacation. A ‘vinyasa’ is a common small sequence of postures used to link poses and keep the student’s fire building; imagine doing planks and pushups over and over and over again.
All of these styles of yoga, plus even more, are incredibly powerful approaches to the yoga practice. They all use movement in connection with breath, focus, and balance.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had phenomenal athletes come into my class who are at the top of their sport—but need a child’s pose 10 minutes into the class. It doesn’t mean they lack the strength—it’s simply a new form of awareness and way of moving their bodies.
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The word yoga itself translates to “to yoke.” One who practices yoga forms the perfect union of strength and flexibility. It’s yin and yang—absolute balance. A good teacher will sequence a class so that it pushes his or her students to their physical edge just enough before they counter the pose with something elongating and soothing. Before you know it, you’ve had a full class full of muscle toning and lengthening work resulting in—you got it—balance.
Of course, I’m not saying that your other forms of exercise, like lifting or running, should be chucked. Just understand that yoga isn’t a day off from working out. You can use yoga as a way to balance out your regular routines, but the yoga practice will 100-percent count as your daily activity to sweat and take care of your body.
Moral of the story: Like anything, you’ll have to fully dedicate yourself to the practice and show up on a regular basis, but yes: Yoga will make you fit, strong, limber, and—the major bonus—emotionally and spiritually improved.
Also: You probably don’t want to meet an angry yogi in a dark alley by yourself.
Get thee to a yoga class!
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