7 Ways That Yoga Will Improve Your Overall Fitness

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We all have that one avid yogi friend who basically embodies the word zen. Maybe you are that friend, or maybe you’re the friend who scoffs at their organic juice cleanses and doesn’t see the point in skipping a HIIT workout for an evening of mindfulness and meditation (spoiler alert: there is definitely a point). But with the rise in popularity of yoga as the trendy health hype in recent years, the fact that the practice has been around for practically forever often gets forgotten in the mix. And with boutique studios popping up left and right, it’s easy to feel like yoga is just one of those niche corners of fitness that has its specific clientele. But if you think that yoga just isn’t for you – maybe you’d rather hit the weight room in the gym or just stick to spin class – you might want to start embracing the reality: that yoga is for everyone. And even if you’re not wild about the idea of making yoga your primary form of exercise, you’d be amiss to ignore all of the ways that yoga can play into your usual routine, and improve your all-around fitness in the process. Get ready to hop on board the yogi train after reading the seven ways doing yoga will help you get a better workout, both on and off the mat.

It improves your balance.

Ever heard of pro athletes incorporating ballet or gymnastics into their training routine to improve balance? Well, it’s a thing, and yoga will have the same effect. Balance may not seem like an important part of your workout, but it helps when it comes to keeping your body in the correct posture for any form of exercise. Nailing some of those precarious yoga poses will come in handy the next time you want to stay centered during a round of squats.

It makes you stronger.

When you think of yoga, the slow, gentle flow that comes to mind may not seem like the biggest calorie-burner, but it makes up for its lack of cardio with some serious muscle building and toning. Slowly switching and holding positions can engage your whole body, working and strengthening all our muscles at once as you focus on maintaining control over your body throughout the practice. And over time, that building of muscle helps boost your calorie burn long after your workout is over, so the lack of intensity doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of burn. Plus, lifting free weights might seem a lot easier after you’ve been lifting your entire body weight.

It teaches controlled breathing.

The whole practice of yoga is basically revolved around controlling your breathing. While shifting your body into different shapes and poses (some significantly harder than others), it’s important to coordinate your breathing with your movements. For the most part, staying in tune with our breath is something you probably don’t think about a lot throughout the day, and certainly not during your workout. But by helping you better connect with your breath, you’ll find that yoga will help you improve how mindful you are of your breathing regardless of what you’re doing. So the next time your cranking out the cardio, for example, you’ll find that paying closer attention and trying different techniques can help you finish your workout without slyly trying to hide the fact that you’re literally gasping for breath in the middle of the gym.

It improves you flexibility.

Just like balance, flexibility is important with any type of exercise. Not only does yoga make you more flexible, it also gets you used to the habit of stretching before and after your workouts, which is really important to avoid sore, stiff muscles after the fact. And let’s be honest: wouldn’t you be much more inclined to stretch before hopping on the treadmill if you could actually touch your toes?

It’s not competitive.

Okay, we know a lot of workouts aren’t technically competitive, but don’t tell us you’ve never looked over at whoever was next to you at the gym and tried not to notice that they were lifting heavier weights than you or climbing floors faster than you on the StairMaster. But with yoga, the practice really is all about focusing on yourself, so that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. This healthy mindset will teach you how to focus solely on your own workout outside of yoga, too, which makes for less self-conscious, more effective gym time.

It teaches mind-body awareness.

Mind-body awareness is probably one of the most important skills to master when it comes to any workout, not just yoga. Even if you don’t believe in the whole mindfulness aspect of yoga and holistic living, creating this connection can help you. It’s pretty much just about listening to your what your body is telling you and basing your actions off that. For example, if you’re feeling stressed or in a funk, hit the gym and get those endorphins, but if you’re feeling tired and totally burnt out, tell yourself it’s okay to skip a workout that day so that you can give your mind and body a moment to relax. 

It can give you a cardio workout, too.

Sure, yoga is more about muscle toning in a lot of cases than squeezing in that cardio, but that only really goes for traditional forms of yoga. There are tons of different types of yoga, many of which have popped up more recently thanks the practice’s burgeoning popularity and take a more fast-paced approach to the exercise (think hip hop yoga or power yoga, for example). If you’re into cardio, but looking to switch up the routine and try something new, a high-intensity yoga class could be the perfect way to do that. And on the flip side, if you’re a yoga fiend and could care less about cardio, it’s good to know that there are ways to sneak in some cardio through yoga.