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5 Ways Yoga Can Change the Way You Work Out

by Abby Singson

We’ve heard over and over again how yoga can help achieve inner peace.

And that’s great. But when you start seeing changes in your physical body, you’ll realize that yoga doesn’t only do wonders for the soul—it’s also a highly physical practice. After your first class, yes, expect a calmer mind and a fresh perspective on life, but be ready for some soreness to match.

Even then, I still recommend yoga to anyone who is just starting out on the journey towards a healthier lifestyle. It's kind of a ‘starter course to fitness’, not because it’s seen as a gentler workout but because it teaches you the very basic values needed for a sustainable fitness journey both inside and out.

There’s nothing like a healthy mindset motivating the body to move towards greater things. B. K. S. Iyengar, one of the first yoga teachers to bring the practice to the Western world, once said “The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life."

In my experience, yoga has significantly changed the way I exercise. My chosen workouts for the day are more purposeful, and sets are done with more mindfulness of the active muscles. If you’re out there thinking of starting a yoga practice, here are 5 ways it can change the way you work out:

1. You get creative with your workouts

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Yoga teaches us simplicity. A good workout can come from just you and a mat! You can even go barefoot if you wish. But which class should you start with?

Try HIIT Yoga. This class incorporates High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that alternates between keeping the heart rate up through 30-second sets of doing as many reps as you can and recovery with a gentle yoga sequence. HIIT is one of the most effective ways of losing weight without having to stay in the gym for hours. It’s quick, fun, and a good complement to the steady and strengthening pace that a yoga flow offers. Think of it as being able to do doing cardio and strength training all in one hour.

Even after a year of doing yoga, HIIT Yoga never fails to work my body big time. Bea Gomez-Dey, the teacher responsible for bringing HIIT Yoga to Filipinos, describes the practice as a “chill day at the gym, but like yoga on steroids.” She also created the HIIT Yoga sequences to boost one’s metabolism and allow you to eat more!

2. You understand exercises better

Photo by Aion Bato

Because of my yoga practice, I’ve stopped rushing my sets at the gym. I do very simple exercises but all are done mindfully and with full attention to which muscles I should be working and why. There’s a bit of research involved here but I generally abide by two rules: listen to the body and take care of the joints.

As you immerse yourself in your yoga practice, you learn that it helps to move through physical movements as if you’re in slow motion. You understand that using momentum actually decreases the work on your muscles, and therefore decreases the effectivity of the exercise.

All our lives we’ve been taught that the more sets or reps that you do, the stronger you are. There’s some truth to that but yoga reminds us again and again to come into every rep mindfully. We want to finish a set with our fullest strength and not just so we can get it over with. Listen to your own body so you know when to push harder or pull back. Know that everyone’s bodies are different.

3. You embrace your body’s current strengths

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There’s a thing we call a ’comfortable edge’. When holding a pose, challenge yourself to go deeper until you find a point where you come face-to-face with your limit while feeling stable and at ease. Embrace the shake. Your muscles are working and you are preparing your body for deeper, stronger poses.

My first ever yoga class was Yin Yoga. It’s chill because instead of resisting poses, you surrender to them. It’s less strengthening and more stretching, creating spaces in points that are usually contracted during a long day at work. If you want to work on flexibility without breaking much of a sweat, you go to a Yin class.

Though relaxed, Yin Yoga challenges your limits. The simple action of reaching your toes makes you wonder if you can take it deeper after feeling that lengthening stretch at the back of your legs. Each pose is held for 3 to 5 minutes and as you release, you bring fresh nutrients, oxygen, and blood to the areas you worked on.

4. You stop thinking that you need to look a certain way to practice

I hate having to look left and right before starting my sets at the gym. I think the biggest thing I got from yoga is being able to veer away from the idea that you have to look a certain way to practice. You don’t need a slim figure or the flexibility of a gymnast to start. You are enough as you are now. Every single person is working on something.

Vinyasa Yoga classes encourage you to focus on your own growth. These classes involve going through a sequence of yoga poses, guided by that one thing that will always be there for us—our breath. And because the length of breath varies per person, you get to listen to your body more and appreciate the pace you are in today.

5. You see your progress with patience and humility

Photo by Aion Bato

Lastly, you’ll find that your yoga community will inspire you to see your progress with patience. Do expect that your energy levels will differ every class and that’s okay. Work with the body you have now, not the one yesterday or tomorrow.

At the start of the class, your teacher will encourage you to offer an intention. Use this intention—whether it’s to trust your body no matter what happens, or to find peace in the process—to guide every pose. Even if you don’t do a pretzel-like pose as perfectly as you wanted, at least you stayed true to your motivation. Just showing up on your mat is already enough! Don’t be afraid to be a beginner.

Doing yoga daily really changed how I saw my own strength and limitations. I highly advise anyone trying yoga out for the first time to just keep doing it and explore new classes! Your body’s stronger than you think.

Photo by Aion Bato

Looking back at all the studios I’ve been to, a great studio for a variety of yoga and fitness classes is Beyond Yoga! They have Ashtanga, Vinyasa, HIIT Yoga, Yin Yoga, and even Aerial Yoga. Enjoy two weeks of unlimited yoga, AntiGravity®, and fitness classes at Beyond Yoga for only ₱89 per day with this exclusive offer or check out their other offers on Deal Grocer. See you on the mat!

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About Abby
Abby is a Manila-based photographer and writer enjoying her early twenties taking photos of her casual adventures and trying new yoga poses. She graduated with a Communication degree focusing on multimedia production so she can fulfill her childhood dream of shooting food and travel for magazines. Clothed with a passionate soul, she writes about anything she can overshare on.

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