Yoga is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to exercise. It is fun and works wonders for all body types because it caters to a variety of people with different goals. Yoga can also be suitable for people with heart conditions, blood pressure issues, and also for those who cannot partake in harder exercises such as jump roping or weight lifting. In this article, we will address all aspects of yoga in detail such as the benefits of yoga, who is yoga suitable for, the different exercises that fall under the category of yoga, and the best yoga apps and equipment.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is not your typical exercise rather it is an intermingling of spiritual, physical, and mental aspects that come together to create this focused workout. It is considered to be an ancient practice and it is believed to have originated in India. It involves a wide variety of poses combined with meditation and breathing techniques to promote both physical and mental well-being. Regularly practicing yoga can promote strength, flexibility, endurance, and calmness. Over the years it has become a very popular form of exercise. It’s easier than most other forms of exercise, which means that just about anyone can do it.
Unlike other exercises, yoga works on a philosophy that focuses on aligning the body, the mind, and the spirit. There are six main branches of yoga and each branch focuses on a different set of values and characteristics.
- Raja Yoga – Raja Yoga includes meditation and also strictly adheres to the disciplinary steps known as the eight limbs of yoga.
- Hatha Yoga – Hatha Yoga aims to prime the mind and the body.
- Karma Yoga – Karma yoga focuses on creating a future that is free of negativity and selfishness.
- Jnana Yoga – Jnana yoga is concerned with wisdom and the development of the intellect through study.
- Tantra Yoga– Tantra Yoga focuses on ritualistic yoga including ceremonies and consummation of relationships.
- Bhakti yoga– Bhakti Yoga aims to provide a positive way to channel emotions; practice and cultivate tolerance and acceptance within oneself.
Pros of Yoga Training
- Yoga is the best form of exercise if you are looking to improve your flexibility. People are hesitant to try yoga because they are anxious about not being flexible enough, but the more you practice yoga the more flexible you get.
- Yoga is a great way to improve your strength so you can carry your body weight comfortably, without straining any body part. The more you incorporate yoga into your daily routine, the stronger your body will get.
- Bad posture has become increasingly common in modern society as people often neglect their health due to hectic schedules. Therefore, yoga is great for fixing your bad posture since many positions in yoga require you to align your spine with the body. If you continue practicing yoga, keeping your back straight will become an unconscious habit.
- Yoga is often therapeutic and it can also serve as meditation because yoga tends to make you focus on your present and encourages the racing thoughts to slowly ebb away which helps you calm down.
- Yoga can help tone your body because it builds strength and burns fat at the same time.
- Yoga can help keep your heart healthy by lowering stress levels and preventing excessive cortisol from forming.
- Yoga can also help with chronic pain; the more you practice yoga the more your pains and aches will recede.
- Yoga also improves balance and sleep quality.
Cons of Yoga Training
- Certified yoga gyms and personal yoga trainers can be pretty expensive. If you are lucky you might be able to find good apps or YouTube videos but personalized yoga training can be pretty expensive.
- Yoga is a low-risk exercise but even then there is a slight chance of injury, especially if you don’t know how to correctly strike a pose.
- Yoga is very slow-paced which means that you will not be able to get results immediately. This might discourage some people while encouraging others to overwork their bodies.
- Having limited knowledge and experience is risky when you practice yoga. You might accidentally twist and hurt parts of your body involved in yoga such as the wrists, neck, and shoulders. So you have to either practice yoga with a trained professional or gather enough information about the poses before committing to the exercise.
How is Yoga Different?
In typical exercise, the goal is to work up the muscles and create stress and fatigue, which causes you to lose weight and gain muscle mass. In yoga, however, the person focuses on creating steady postures. The movements are slower and more controlled and the breathing is often synchronized with the postures.
Yoga helps the muscles develop evenly over the bones which increases flexibility while typical exercises usually focus on increasing muscle mass; therefore, the muscles shrink and their flexibility decreases.
When a person practices yoga, the body remains relaxed and there is little to no pressure on the lungs. When you exercise, the body is in constant motion which requires more oxygen. The lungs have to work much harder to keep up with the body. In short, yoga itself is fundamentally different from typical exercises because even though other exercises can make you feel better, they don’t necessarily focus on getting in touch with your inner self, while yoga does.
Who is Yoga Suitable For?
Yoga is diverse so that people of all ages and body types can enjoy it. Yoga is especially good for you if you have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. It is also suitable for people who are looking to exercise but simultaneously want to focus on meditation, in addition to people who want to get toned and build a strong posture. It builds flexibility and reduces joint pain.
In general, yoga is a balance between physical and mental exercise and because there is so much variety in poses and combination of those poses, yoga can be adapted to fit all genders and ages.
Who Might Not Like Yoga?
There can be a lot of reasons for thinking that yoga might not be suitable for you. However, in technicality, some medical conditions make it very hard and dangerous for you to practice yoga. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart problems then you will need to consult a doctor to ask if it is safe for you.
Yoga is about promoting holistic wellness which means that if your only purpose is to lose weight or following the latest trends of lean body figures; yoga might not be for you. This is because, to practice yoga in its true essence, you have to focus on all three aspects: physical, mental, and spiritual. Some people also find it hard to understand yoga poses and their benefits, and it requires a lot of patience to understand how yoga works. Yoga works your body slowly but yields long-term results; therefore you might not like it if you are looking for a quick physical change.
An alternative to yoga is ballet. Contrary to what people think, it is not just a profession rather it is a popular form of exercise, especially among those who are fascinated with ballet but were unable to learn it during childhood.
Another alternative is contemporary dance since it brings the same sort of spiritual freedom that is usually associated with yoga. You can improvise and create your moves, which makes it even more entertaining and a more fulfilling exercise.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also has similar belief structures to yoga and while it may not seem plausible that martial arts could be related to a calming exercise such as yoga, people often find learning how to defend themselves comforting. Plus learning any sort of martial arts is guaranteed to bring you into shape.
Why Choose Yoga?
Yoga is one of the best ways to keep in shape because it works not on just a physical level but also targets mental and spiritual health, which only a few other exercises can help to achieve. If you still need reasons to start yoga, here are some scientifically proven ones that might change your mind for the better.
- Yoga is shown to have a positive effect on depression and one research even concluded that there was a significant reduction in the anxiety experienced by women who struggle with anxiety disorders. (Javnbakht, 2009)
- Yoga also fosters psychological well-being as well as helps in weight loss. (Braun, 2012)
- Yoga is also known to help patients who have Type Two Diabetes, which is why many doctors suggest that their patients practice yoga to regulate their diabetes. (Aljasir, 2008)
Yoga Tips That Will Make It Easier For You to Get Started
Starting a new exercise and take it up as a hobby is not always easy. Therefore having some useful tips and tricks to guide you through the process of learning makes it much easier to pick up the hobby. This is especially true when it is something as focus-demanding as yoga.
- While you can easily find videos about yoga online, they will never be able to teach you holistic yoga as you won’t have hands-on help to fix your posture. So if you truly want to practice yoga, then you might need to hire an experienced yoga teacher who knows what they are doing.
- Appropriate yoga attire is also important, so opt for clothes that you feel comfortable and motivated in.
- Invest in a good-quality yoga mat. When doing yoga, you put your hands and knees on the ground; hence you are at risk of hurting them, since nothing is cushioning your points of pressure.
- You have to understand that yoga poses might not come to you easy, so even if you are unable to get the poses right in the beginning, don’t lose hope and keep at it until you can fully master a pose.
- Yoga is a personal journey, so avoid comparing your situation with someone else, all bodies and experiences are different.
- Be patient and go slow. Consistency is key so keep practicing.
- Start from your foundation. A strong foundation is a key to getting all the poses in yoga perfected.
- Finally, breathe. The flow of your breathing is one of the most fundamental parts of yoga so breathe slowly and with purpose, and in line with your movements.
Yoga Poses for Beginners
As a beginner, the Child’s Pose is the most classic so it is super easy to learn. It is considered a resting and calming pose and stretches your lower back, your hips, thighs, knees, and relaxes your spine, neck, and shoulders. Downward Facing Dog is another classic, and even though it is a simple pose, it strengthens the arms, back, and shoulders. It is great at relieving back pain, and if you feel too much pressure on your wrists then you can do the move on your elbows, or you can use blocks to raise your hands.
Plank is another beginner-friendly pose, it is a little difficult to maintain for longer than thirty seconds. But once you start doing it regularly, you will be able to do it for however long you want. Planks help with building strength in the shoulders, legs, arms, and core.
Yoga Poses for Intermediate Level
The Eagle is a great pose for people who are at the intermediate level because it requires you to have a really good balance since you will be using one leg as the base. It stretches the upper back, thighs, hips, and shoulders.
Half-Moon requires you to maintain your balance because you will use one of your arms and legs as a base and extend the other hand and leg towards the sky. This will strengthen the spine, glutes, thighs, ankles, and abs and will stretch your shoulders, hamstrings, and back.
Upwards Facing Dog improves your posture and opens up your chest, shoulders, and lungs while strengthening your spine, wrists, and arms. This is an energizing pose that also helps release a lot of endorphins, which reduces depression.
Yoga Poses for Advanced Level
The Row Pose is one of the hardest to do simply because it requires not only to put all of your body weight on your arms but also requires you to balance your whole body in the air. This pose strengthens all of your upper body, your core, and helps with digestion.
The Split is the most commonly known pose even outside of yoga, but it also requires a lot of effort and flexibility. This pose strengthens your hamstrings, groin muscles, and quads, and stretches them. It increases flexibility in the hips and stretches the lower back muscles as well.
Scorpion Handstand is a modification of the traditional handstand and it stretches your upper body and builds core strength. It also builds strength in your upper body and stabilizes it while improving balance and coordination.
What Surface is the Best for Yoga?
Hardwood floors are considered the best for practicing yoga because they are even, sturdy and even if you fall, you will not injure yourself as much as you would on a tiled or concrete floor. To make the surface even more yoga-friendly, place a yoga mat on top of the hardwood floors before you start.
What Results Can You Expect From Yoga?
Yoga is so loved because it has a variety of benefits and a diversity of postures. If you practice yoga for a long time then you will get considerably more flexible and have a better range of motion. Research has proven that doing yoga just for six weeks is more than enough to improve the flexibility of the hamstrings and spine. (Thomson, 2017).
It can relieve your joint pain while strengthening your whole body and toning it. It can benefit people who struggle to maintain heart health and can also help manage Type Two Diabetes. Yoga also is great for relaxation and helps with insomnia.
Keeping the above in mind, it is easy to see that yoga has a lot of health benefits which is why a lot of people gravitate towards it as a form of exercise. It also functions as meditation so it aids in lowering depression and anxiety.
Best Yoga Apps
Working out at home has become a necessity since all the gyms are closed because of the global pandemic, COVID-19. However, the gyms being unavailable should not result in a compromise in your workout routine or your health. In the last two years, yoga apps have evolved and because there are so many choices on the market, it might be hard for you to find one that is suited to your taste.
When you hire a professional trainer, they could charge you a hefty fee, however, you can get some of the best yoga apps starting from only $10 or use the free apps if you prefer.
The apps are created for the convenience of the user and since they are on your phone, you can exercise anywhere. So, let’s look at some of the best yoga apps on the market so you are truly able to understand the diversity of these apps.
1. ALO Moves
The ALO Moves app is especially unique and is without a doubt one of the best yoga apps on the market. It offers yoga-based workouts and other exercises that focus on wellness and mindfulness. Workouts such as HIIT, Strength, Pilates, Barre, and skills training are also available on this app.
The main focus of the app is meditation and working out and there are over 2,500 classes available and divided into different categories. You can find out the duration of each workout as well as the difficulty level and intensity. This app is also sought after because almost all the workouts can be done using a simple yoga mat.
The workouts can range anywhere from nine minutes to one and a half hours, so you can use the filter option to find the workout suited for you. The workouts usually include warm-up exercises and best of all; you can save your favorite workouts offline and access them anywhere.
The only downside is that the ALO moves app is pretty pricy for a workout app and costs about $20 per month and $199 a year. However, the ALO Moves app is worth trying out and if you are still curious, you can visit our website to go through the full review.
ROMWOD is another well-known app that focuses on a specific type of yoga called Yin Yang Yoga, derived from traditional Chinese yoga which has various poses that increase flexibility and mobility. What makes the app famous is the unique Yin Yang Yoga, are the celebrity trainers such as Annie Oakley, and the level of personalization you can attain with this app.
The app doesn’t have different levels but almost all the exercises fall into the beginner or intermediate level. The only problem is that if you are looking for something other than strengthening your body, increasing flexibility and mobility, then this app isn’t suited for you.
ROMWOOD focuses on these three elements as the goals its users need to achieve. Most of the exercises use a yoga mat but additional equipment such as medicine balls and blocks might be needed for a particular exercise.
The app costs about $13.95 for personal use and $24.95 to stream from a gym. It does have a seven-day free trial so you can use that to see if you will like this app before investing for the whole month. If you want a detailed overview of this app then visit our website.
3. Asana Rebel
Asana Rebel truly embraces all aspects of yoga and helps you make lifestyle changes instead of only exclusively focus on exercise. The app also gives you fun quizzes to answer and share various nutritious hacks throughout the day. Instead of focusing solely on building muscle, the app also focuses on toning your body and making you feel good after a workout.
The app offers a small percentage of its feature for free so you can truly take your time exploring the app to see if it is for you. If you want to upgrade to the better version, you can either pay $37.99 for a quarterly subscription or $58.99 for a yearly subscription.
Each workout is twenty minutes long and paired with their incredible food plan and recipes, it leaves you feeling healthy and happy. Visit our website to explore the full Asana Rebel review in detail.
The Headspace app was created by Andy Puddicombe who ran a meditation clinic and resultantly, the app heavily focuses on meditation. When you log into the app you can choose different things you want to focus on with this app, such as managing anxiety, increasing sleep, betterment of focus, and being more active.
While this app isn’t directly related to yoga, it is still worth mentioning because meditation is a huge part of yoga and it can calm you after an intense day or a tough yoga session. The workouts that are included in the app are all yoga-based but there is also a small collection of exercises usually ranging from five to ten minutes.
You get a ten-day free trial to use this app and the subscription costs about $12.95 a month and $95.88 a year. Visit our website to read the full Headspace review.
Best Yoga Equipment
When you start yoga, you need to invest in quality gear especially if you don’t want to use someone else’s mat or if you are exercising at home. The primary item that you will need to start yoga is a yoga mat which comes in a variety of materials. The most common is the non-slip yoga mats which are slip-resistant and help you hold your poses for a longer period and with ease.
There are also natural rubber mats that are great for the environment because they are made from eco-friendly materials and have anti-slip tendencies while providing excellent cushioning.
The next mat we recommend is made of plastic elastomer which is eco-friendly, repels water and moisture, and is non-slip. Cotton and hemp yoga mats are made of all-natural materials and are considered soft. They absorb moisture and ensure that it won’t slip during your practice. They are super easy to clean and can also be thrown in the wash for a deep clean.
Yoga mats can be found in all price ranges starting from $10 and going higher. Choosing a yoga mat depends on what materials and types of mats you find the most comfortable. But there are some things you might want to consider before settling on a mat.
- The thickness of your yoga mat is crucial because if the mat is too thin you might hurt your knees, elbows, or hands.
- The material must be right for you. Yoga mats are made using multiple different materials so finding the right one is not hard.
- The texture of your mat depends completely on you. Some people find it hard to relax and focus on a mat with bumpy texture so choose accordingly.
- The mat being slip-resistant is another important factor because it helps you hold your poses for longer and provides support.
- The price range of your mat needs to be affordable because you do not know if it is right for you unless you use it. Plus, when you are just starting a new exercise, it is best to buy an inexpensive one first to see if you will stick with the exercise long-term or not.
We all know how hard it is to find products that you like especially when there is so much variety available. That is why we have compiled a list of some of the best products we have found related to yoga.
1. Gaiam Essentials Yoga Blocks
These yoga blocks are great for beginners because most beginners don’t have the same flexibility as advanced yoga practitioners and that makes it difficult for them to go into certain poses. So, these blocks provide stability and balance which help in improving alignment.
The blocks are constructed with foam and are non-slip so you can put your full weight on them without the fear that they won’t be able to hold you. If they get dirty, you only need to spot clean them. They have a 4.8/5 rating on Amazon and retail for $15.80.
The only complaint people have is that they are a little too soft and a little different from the ones you find in the gym. However, some people love the softness of the blocks because they have enough give and don’t risk injuries. Moreover, Gaiam has also developed Yoga Studio App for yoga practice with a free trial available.
2. Ozaiic Yoga Socks
Ozaiic yoga socks are made of cotton with non-slip silicone grips on the sole. Since they are non-slip, you can hold all your poses without feeling the constricting grasp of a sneaker. They are extremely comfortable and have a rating of 4.6/5 on Amazon. Almost all of the customers adored the socks and the only reported problem was concerning the sizing, which can be easily fixed by consulting a sizing chart.
3. Amazon Basics ½-Inch Yoga Mat
This thick mat is made using NBR foam and is both lightweight and durable. It has a rating of 4.6/5 on Amazon and retails for about $21.49. Customers had quite a bit to say about this mat. Some adored the mat and how thick it was, while others found that the mat had a very strong odor that was hard to get rid of.
Some customers also complained that it wasn’t slip-resistant at all which is unusual since yoga mats are typically equipped with a layer that makes it easier to stay in a pose. It didn’t have this specific layer, which made it hard for them to remain in one pose for long. The mat does have other raving reviews so do your research before deciding if you want to invest in this one.
4. Lemedy Women Padded Sports Bra
To be honest, it is really hard to work out without proper clothes and padding especially around the chest area (specifically for women), which is why a sports bra is best when you are working out. This sports bra comes equipped with removable pads and is suited for any kind of workout especially yoga.
It is comfortable and lightweight and is made with a moisture-wicking power fabric which is 87% nylon and 13% spandex. It has a rating of 4.5/5 on Amazon and most people adore it and gave quite positive reviews. However, some people found that the material was not up to par so do more research until you’re fully convinced to invest in this product or not.
5. Healthyoga Yoga Pants
Just like bras, leggings are equally important when working out. It is much easier to work out in fitted clothing rather than loose clothing because loose clothing risks a higher chance that you might slip, catch your arm or knee in the clothing, and fall. Healthyoga pants are high-waisted leggings made of 75% polyester and 25% spandex.
The material is soft and stretchy which is ideal because you will be performing various yoga poses, transitioning from one to another, which require your clothes to have some give. It has a moisture-wicking fabric and has a four-way stretch. The best thing about these is that the leggings have pockets so you always have a place to put some cash, your phone, or anything you need. These leggings are most suited for people with big bellies, as these contain it and help you move freely.
Another benefit is that no matter how much you sweat, the leggings will not become see-through. It has a 4.6/5 rating on Amazon and there is nothing but raving reviews for these yoga pants, which makes them a must-have.
Final Words on Yoga Training
As a beginner, you might find it hard to get started with yoga because it is different from traditional exercises. Therefore, we compiled some tips that can make your yoga practice much easier and pleasant.
- The most important part is how you dress because your clothes will affect how well you can hold your poses and how comfortable you are. Ideally, the clothes should be fitted but they shouldn’t be too tight and should have enough stretch so that you can maneuver easily.
- Yoga makes you sweat a lot, so it is imperative to stay hydrated. Once you start moving into different poses, the chances are that you might get cramps if you aren’t having enough fluids.
- Choosing a yoga mat depends on what your preference is. So choose a thickness and material that you feel satisfied with. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on yoga equipment and since all you really need is a mat, you can get away with spending a little bit more on it.
- Stop making comparisons. Yoga is not the same for everyone because we all have different bodies and journeys so it will do you no good to compare yourself with other people.
- Take a deep breath because meditation and grounding yourself are some of the key goals of yoga. Focusing on your breathing will help you let go of negative feelings, especially those about yourself, as it helps bring the focus back to inner peace rather than physical appearances and comparisons.
- You have to try things you are nervous about. If you feel that a certain pose is too hard because you don’t feel ready for it, you have to give it a try. Yoga is a journey and no journey is without fear.
- That said, we would also like to point out that while you should try new things, you should also listen to your body and if you feel pain or find it very hard to go into a certain pose then take a break. Yoga is practiced to calm your body, mind, and spirit so there is no point in exercising if you are stressed.
- Practice often because consistency is key to achieving all great things.
- End all of your yoga practices with a Shavasana, which is a relaxation-inducing pose. You should take your time to cool down and relax. Stay on your back for about fifteen minutes and slowly get up by rolling on your side, then sitting up and then standing and resuming the rest of your day.
When you first start, it is very common to feel disoriented because yoga is hard to navigate through, especially if you don’t have a yoga teacher. With the pandemic, it has become even harder to practice yoga because you have to do it virtually. Fortunately, the apps have also evolved and have supplemented the gym experience. It is significantly cheaper than going to a yoga class in addition to being convenient.
But choosing an app depends entirely on you and what your end goals are because no matter how good the app is if it doesn’t line with your goals then there is no point in investing in one. You have to figure out how different apps will work for you and which one is most to your liking. This applies to other elements we have discussed in this article such as clothes, mats, cubes, etc.
We are well aware that you will find yoga hard to start simply because there is so much information online with apps, instructors, different kinds of poses, and types of yoga. With these many options, choosing can become pretty tricky. Use this article as a guide and proceed to explore the wonderful and life-changing world of yoga.
Aljasir, B. (2008). Yoga Practice for the Management of Type II Diabetes Mellitus in Adults: A Systematic Review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Braun, T. (2012). Psychological Well-Being, Health Behaviors, and Weight Loss Among Participants in a Residential, Kripalu Yoga-Based Weight Loss Program. Int J Yoga Therap, 9-22.
Javnbakht, M. (2009). Effects of yoga on depression and anxiety of women. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 102-104.
Thomson, K. (2017, May 23). 19 Lower-Body Stretches for When Your Legs and Butt Are Sore AF. Retrieved from Greatist: https://greatist.com/fitness/stretching-exercises-lower-body-stretches