Can Yoga Sculpt Your Body?
As a personal trainer and yoga teacher I often get asked this question: Can yoga really sculpt my body? The answer is yes. Yoga is a totally viable form of exercise.
Dr. Dean Ornish’s famous studies found that the relaxation you receive from practicing yoga and meditation are just as important for the prevention of heart disease as the fitness benefits of cardio. I started doing yoga because I wanted the yoga booty. Ultimately what keeps me going, over a decade later, is the sense of inner peace I feel after each and every class. You can’t mimic this same feeling after lifting weights for an hour. In our fast-paced world, this is the mass appeal of yoga.
Yoga lets you sculpt, tone, and mold your body using your body weight, instead of using weights to increase your muscle mass. This builds leaner muscles, with more natural tone and definition. Bone is living and is continually being absorbed and renewed. Weight-bearing exercise, like balancing on one leg in tree pose (vrksasana), puts healthy stress on your bones. This causes new bone to be laid down in the stressed areas, thus strengthening your bones and helping to prevent osteoporosis. Also, yoga moves your joints through a full range of motion. This helps in the prevention of osteoarthritis. As we become older, balance and coordination become a concern. Yoga helps us to keep our freedom into old age.
To really get a workout you need to up the intensity by practicing a more vigorous style of yoga like power vinyasa. You could also try holding postures for a longer period of time, or moving through the same postures several times.
Ultimately, yoga increases your body awareness and helps you to feel more comfortable in your own skin. When you feel good about yourself, you radiate that out into the world.
Yoga teaches us mindfulness. When we are mindful, we make better lifestyle choices. We eat healthier and drink more water. Overall, we are happier, kinder people. As your yoga practice evolves, so will you. Allow it to be an exciting journey into the deepest layers of yourself.
Try different styles of yoga to challenge your muscles in new ways. Keep your routine exciting and fun to prevent boredom.
3 Ways to Cultivate and Keep a Home Yoga Practice
Starting a home practice can be a daunting task. When I talk to students about starting a home practice, the same topics keep coming up: They don’t have the space or the time, they’ve tried but can’t stick with it or when they try, they don’t end up doing the type of practice they would like to. A home practice can teach you to follow your intuition and how to listen to your body. It will teach you to make time for yourself and it will allow you to reap the benefits daily practice can bring.
Below are my top three tips for starting and keeping, a home practice:
1. Keep a journal, calendar, or both.
Why? It keeps you accountable. By writing on your calendar that you are practicing that night, you’ll motivate yourself to practice so as to avoid staring at your missed commitment the following day. A missed practice can be a big kick in the pants.
I keep my journal on a shelf in my home practice space. When I was working on incorporating consistent practice into my life, having the journal there always got me to go to my practice area, even if I had told myself I didn’t have time, or was too tired to practice. No matter what, I could always convince myself that I had time to jot down what I was feeling in my journal. After a few instances of writing but not practicing, it started to feel ridiculous to be there and not practice. One new habit fed the other.
I have both a calendar and a health journal. I check my practice off on my calendar when I’ve completed it, and I write in the journal even if I don’t do a practice. Both keep me accountable and motivated.
2. Release your expectations. All of them.
Don’t worry about having the “perfect” space to practice. Don’t worry about how much time you were able to spend on your practice on any given day, and definitely don’t worry about the kind of practice you decide to do. Find a spot that’s big enough to roll out your mat and start there. If it helps, you can set up a special space where you can keep your yoga stuff. Try setting up an alter, but don’t let an imagined need for such a space keep you from starting your practice today. All you need is one space that is big enough to lay out a yoga mat. Period.
One of the issues I faced when I was starting my home practice was making the time. It seemed like a rare occasion when I had enough time to do what I would consider to be a practice; however, once I got serious about starting a home practice, this was one of the first beliefs that I had to let go off. Some nights I come to the mat exhausted and my practice is savasana, and only savasana. Whether you practice one pose or fifty, it doesn’t matter. I don’t judge and I don’t talk down to myself as though it wasn’t enough. I don’t wish I’d done “more.” I come to the mat with the time I have and I do what works for me on that day.
This goes for the type of practice too. When I started my home practice, I had this idea in my head that my mornings would be set aside for restorative and that I would rock a vinyasa flow in the evenings. I soon learned that I had to let go of what I thought I should be doing and just do what my body told me to do. If that meant doing restorative, I did restorative. If I felt energized, I did a flow. The same rules as above apply.
Don’t judge it, and don’t think it doesn’t count just because it didn’t meet an expectation you had set out for yourself. If you do, you’ll risk getting caught up in the downward spiral of feeling like you aren’t “really” doing a home practice, and once you’re there, it’s very easy to continue with those thoughts and eventually decide that your excuses and downfalls are more powerful than your wish to practice at home. This is where a lot of us end up. Don’t give up on yourself. Persevere through these thoughts.