When you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson working out, what image comes to mind? Chances are, you picture these men, with biceps the size of your face, benching a midsize Chevy truck. Maybe you imagine them squatting a small house or cranking out 100 pull-ups in under a minute. Whatever you thought of, we highly doubt it was yoga.
But at Steel Fitness Riverport, we want to change your conception of yoga as merely a stretching class. Instead, we believe yoga is an asset to any fitness routine. Dedicating even one day a week to yoga can make you stronger, more focused, and, of course, more flexible. Consider the specific ways that yoga can enhance your workout routine, and then drop into a class at your local gym in Bethlehem to give it a chance.
Our Pulse X Schedule for group fitness classes at Steel Fitness Riverport offers multiple yoga classes for a reason. Stop by today and supplement your fitness routine with yoga group fitness classes.
Yoga Builds Strength
While it is typically called “chaturanga” or “your vinyasa flow,” yoga class involves push-ups — a lot of them, we might add. Unlike push-ups you might already have included in your gym routine, yoga push-ups primarily build forearm strength while they also tone your deltoids and pectoralis muscles. Going through these forearm chaturanga push-ups at a sequenced pace also helps you to prioritize good form in your push-ups. Finally, when it comes to push-ups, you can always add as many as you want. If you feel like you aren’t getting a good enough strength workout in your yoga class, add a double push-up or try a one-legged variation of the forearm push-up.
Yoga poses also encourage engagement from every single muscle in your body. Whereas a more traditional workout might isolate legs, abs, or arms depending on the day, a yoga practice gives you a full-body workout by design. Take chair pose, a foundational yoga posture, for instance. Chair pose works your biceps, quadriceps, abductors, glutes, hamstrings . . . and we could continue through practically every muscle in the human body. When you commit to proper engagement throughout your body during a yoga pose, you will experience how challenging yoga can truly be. You will leave feeling sore in muscles you didn’t even think you worked out, simply because you practice full-body engagement.
Bandhas for Nuanced Strength
If you have a fitness routine already and go to your local gym even a few times a week, you have probably already developed strength. Yoga, though, teaches you to build strength in areas of your body that you would have never thought to engage. While bulging biceps or six-pack abs are “showy” muscles that you can flex, your internal core muscles are actually more important to overall health.
In yoga, the “bandhas” refer to energy locks in your body. In other words, bandhas are areas of your body that you can engage and disengage strategically to either encourage strength or relaxation. Your three main bandhas are the mula bandha (a few inches below your navel), your uddiyana bandha (by your core), and your jalandhara bandha (by your throat). If these seem like foreign concepts, that just further shows why you should try out yoga. You’d be amazed to see how engaging your core (uddiyana bandha) in a specific way can help you add more weight to the squat rack, do more sit-ups in a minute, or even do one-armed push-ups.
Yoga and Lung Capacity
Remember your last core workout, maybe it was sit-ups or a plank, where you forgot to breathe the entire time? You ended the sequence feeling winded, light-headed, and generally weak because you were not giving your muscles any Oxygen. Yoga classes force you to consider your breath as an active component of your fitness routine. By moving through postures on inhales and exhales, you build breath awareness and experience the correlation between breath and power. Additionally, yoga encourages you to maximize your inhales and exhales by focusing on breathing from your diaphragm all the way up to your throat. This means you are taking in more air and activating all organs of your respiratory system. If you engage in any cardiovascular activity such as running or swimming, take a yoga class at Steel Fitness Riverport and just see how much it enhances your favorite workout.
Yoga Builds Balance
Even if you have the most intelligent fitness routine, chances are you have tendencies that get your body out of balance. Whether you spend more time on your right side as you stretch, compensate for a heavy squat by putting more weight into your dominant leg, or even just stand with weight to one side of your body, you are upsetting your body’s equilibrium. It is nearly impossible to be fully balanced because daily activities send us askew every day, but yoga and its focus on both sides can really help to reset your body’s balance.
When is the last time you included balancing exercises in your general fitness routine? Nearly all yoga classes include a balancing series, but here’s the secret: balancing postures are really just core workouts disguised by being on one leg. To balance on one leg requires incredible core engagement and stability, which means you are also working out as you enhance your brain’s vestibular system (balance). Balancing postures are tough, and they will require you to engage all parts of your body and brain in order to be successful. To ramp up your fitness routine, take a yoga class at your local gym and see how your body responds.
Mental Focus and Resilience
In yoga, it’s called “drishti,” but in a fitness gym world it’s really just focus. Balancing postures in yoga require you to set your gaze on an un-moving point, quiet your mind, and maintain full-body engagement. Otherwise, you’ll fall out of the pose. The mental energy that balancing requires easily translates into your workout routine. That time you thought you couldn’t do one more rep; that other time when you hurt yourself because you lost your focus; and, yes, even that moment when you tripped on your jump rope. Developing balance and body awareness through yoga is an incredible way to bring it to the rest of your fitness routine. Try a class at Steel Fitness Riverport, your local gym in Bethlehem, and bring balance to your workout routine.
Yoga Builds Flexibility
We know this is probably the first benefit you associate with yoga, but have you thought about why flexibility is a benefit to your fitness routine in the first place? After all, you can just cool down and stretch after your workout, so why go to a yoga class for the stretching?
The difference is that we usually hold yoga stretches for much longer, which promotes the stretching of fascia (the body’s connective tissue). Think of fascia like a gel between our body’s tendons and ligaments. When the fascia gets warm, it becomes more liquid and helps to lubricate your body’s muscle system. When the fascia cools down, it gets more solid and tends to get stuck. Repeated exercises, postures, and routines can also “stick” the fascia in place, leading to soreness and tightness. Yoga stretches get into the deep tissue of your muscle, encouraging the fascia to move freely and release from certain spots.
Twists and Internal Stretching
When is the last time you explicitly stretched your ascending and descending colon? That’s what we thought. Yoga poses allow us to give attention to areas of the body we didn’t even know needed our focus. When you engage in twists and cool down at the end of yoga classes, you focus on your digestive health and help to reduce inflammation in your colon. Not only does this promote general health, but it also helps to purify your body and restore for your next workout.
Steel Fitness Riverport offers yoga classes every week for those who want to enhance their fitness routine. The next time you’re at our local gym in Bethlehem, take a yoga class and see how it transforms your workout routine.