When people think of yoga, images of people sitting in cross-legged positions, chanting and floating come to mind.
Well, yoga is not a physical workout. Yoga is more than that.
Yoga increases strength, stamina and flexibility.
Yoga increases strength
- Unlike heavy weightlifting, yoga builds functional strength which could be useful in our daily lives. In a traditional Ashtanga Yoga practice, yogis typically hold a posture (Sanskrit term: asana) for at least 5 breaths, whereas in Hatha and Iyengar Yoga, yogis could stay in an asana for 2-5 minutes. Staying long in a posture requires isometric contraction, which works the deep muscles of the body. Sometimes, I think that staying in a pose for so long is more difficult than performing high repetitions of weight lifting because you need to stay focused and maintain balance while staying in the pose steadily and comfortably, with all the dripping sweat on your face. It’s tough!
Yoga increases flexibility
- While weightlifting applies the 2 major types of muscular contractions, concentric and eccentric contractions, yoga implements isometric contraction. Concentric contraction shortens the muscle while working it whereas an isometric contraction occurs when a muscle is generating a force without any change in its overall length. Too much of weight lifting / concentric and eccentric contraction will reduce your range of motion, if there is no flexibility programs incorporated into your workout. Hence, flexibility is reduced.
- Yoga is a great way to reduce the risks of injury. This is because in yoga, there is dynamic and static stretching. Sometimes, depending on individuals, facilitated stretching is incorporated too. When yoga practitioners are in an asana, the muscles and surrounding tissues are lengthened which help in providing more room for blood flow. Oxygen in the blood will then help muscles to heal and grow faster than you think. I think this is also the reason why we could practise our asanas in the Yoga Teacher Training 200hrs, 5 days in a row without any injuries. Try that with weightlifting. 🙂
Yoga builds stamina
- As the yogi’s body is capable of generating a faster flow of blood / oxygen to the muscles which are working, stamina is increased. In Ashtanga yoga, a.k.a Raja Yoga or 8 limbs of yoga, posture (Sanskirt term: asana) is only one element of the 8 limbs. There are also meditation (Sanskrit term: dhyana), concentration (Sanskrit term: dharana) and breathe (Sanskrit term: prana). By implementing concentration, meditation and deep breathing, yogis can improve their technique of breathing and perform any strenuous activities effortlessly with deep breathing.
- I am pleased to know that yoga has helped me in increasing my stamina in different levels such as physical, physiological and mental and that is why yoga is beyond a physical workout. I can now run and swim longer without heavy panting. Also, Master Paalu had mentioned that he has not been sick for many years because of yoga! Now, that is great news for people with low immunity like myself.
You may be wondering what the 8 limbs of yoga are. Back in the olden days, Sage Patanjali’s came up with Yoga Sutra, a structural framework for yoga practice which consisted of 8 holistic paths for spiritual aspirants (Sanskirt term: sadhaka). With the 8 limbs of yoga, particularly Yama & Niyama, I am constantly reminded that yoga is a way of life which promotes peace, self-love, oneness, contentment, purity of thoughts, self-discovery, selflessness and acknowledging of the great Divine.
Yoga is not just a physical workout. In fact, yoga is a union between the body, mind and spirit. In the words of the late B.K.S Iyengar, “Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life”.
Celine (200hr April – May 2017)