When starting any yoga practice, one common question that gets asked is, “Is yoga a good workout?” The great news is that yes, yoga can be a fantastic workout, as it’s a versatile practice that provides a wide range of both physical and mental benefits.
While certain styles of yoga definitely provide an excellent workout, there are also more gentle and calming styles that can act as a more complementary piece of an exercise regimen and whole-health strategy.
Want to learn more about whether yoga is a good workout? Let’s dive into eight reasons why yoga offers a great opportunity for exercise, along with five tips for getting the most out of your yoga practice.
8 reasons why yoga is a good workout
Yoga can be a great addition to your exercise routine for a variety of reasons, including its ability to:
Improve your strength
Increase your flexibility
Improve your breathing mechanics
Improve your balance and coordination
Go easy on your joints as a low-impact workout
Improve your body awareness
Help you sweat it off
Be a safe and sustainable practice for life
Let’s dig in more on the benefits of yoga below:
1. Yoga can improve your strength
Many yoga poses involve supporting your body weight in challenging positions for extended periods of time. There are also a number of challenging transitions between poses that use your body weight as resistance, such as the chaturanga push-up or high lunge pulses. These poses and moves can help build your strength and leave you feeling more capable within your own body.
2. Yoga can increase your flexibility
Moving through various ranges of motion and holding deep stretches are integral parts of any yoga practice. You may find that when you start practicing yoga, you can’t quite reach your toes in a folded post or twist as deeply as the person next to you. By working with proper alignment and practicing over time, you can expect to get more flexible — a great feeling!
3. Yoga can improve your breathing mechanics
One aspect of fitness that is perhaps underrated is the ability to breathe during physical activity. Yoga encourages a deep, controlled breath even while holding difficult poses. Proper breathing mechanics developed through a regular yoga practice can help you maximize your performance in other types of aerobic exercise.
4. Yoga improves your balance and coordination
Because yoga emphasizes moving through postures in a controlled and intentional way, it helps you understand how different parts of your body act in coordination. In particular, the balancing postures — think tree pose or half-moon — demand a lot of focus and coordination. Certain poses are asymmetrical but repeated on both sides, which also helps to correct imbalances.
Related blog: What Is the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates?
5. Yoga is low-impact
Because you are only ever using your own body weight as resistance, the level of strain is pretty tightly controlled in yoga. A good yoga class will not only stretch your muscles but also strengthen them, meaning you may be less prone to injury from overuse. Movements in yoga are more deliberate and controlled compared to some other workout styles that may result in more jarring impact on the bones and joints.
6. Yoga can improve body awareness
The whole endeavor of yoga is basically to notice your body. You practice deliberately bringing your attention to specific areas of the body, feelings within the body, and the sensations of moving your body through space and into different shapes. Improved body awareness is helpful not only for everyday life, but for practically any physical activity you could imagine.
7. Yoga can be a great way to sweat it off
There are few better ways to reliably work up a sweat and feel wrung out (in a good way!) after a workout than yoga. This is especially true in heated classes, though you might want to hold off on those until you’ve taken a few regular yoga classes. There’s something about working up a sweat that leaves you feeling so accomplished.
8. Yoga is a safe and sustainable practice for life
Let’s face it: Some workouts leave us feeling burnt out. It might be fun sometimes to push ourselves to the absolute limit and spike our heart rate, but over time, these high-intensity and high-impact workouts can take a toll on the body.
When you practice yoga, you are encouraged to challenge yourself but also to take care of yourself. There is a balance of effort and ease that makes yoga appropriate for any level of energy you might have that day.
Yoga is challenging, but you will undoubtedly improve if you just keep practicing. Improving at yoga is deeply rewarding and will keep you coming back.
5 tips for getting the most out of your yoga practice
If you’re looking for ways to maximize your yoga workouts, here are five tips that will help you get the most out of your yoga practice, including:
Notice when judgements arise
Steady your gaze and smooth out your breath
Take yoga seriously (but not too seriously!)
Let’s dig in:
1. Be consistent
To borrow the most cliche yoga teacher phrase, “The hardest pose in yoga is showing up.”
But it’s true! So much progress can be made simply by consistently showing up to practice. Aim to practice yoga two to three times a week (we recommend putting it on your calendar to stay on track).
Prioritizing time for yoga is really prioritizing yourself — it’s a chance to slow down and check in, and you’ll leave feeling better.
2. Notice when judgements arise
Yoga, in part, is meant to frustrate you. You may be asked to hold poses for longer than you would like. You will certainly lose your balance and fall out of poses. You might compare yourself unfairly to the person next to you folded like a pretzel or in a lotus handstand.
Life will get in the way of your consistent practice, and when you next show up, you may judge yourself if you can’t get into the same shapes you used to. It is all part of the process. Just notice when these judgements arise, acknowledge them kindly, and try to return to the simple act of filling your body with breath. It really doesn’t matter what the pose looks like. What matters is showing up and being present in your body.
If there’s one cue or action to take in every single yoga pose, it’s to expand out in every direction. For instance, in warrior two, you can press your feet down into the floor, lift up through the crown of the skull, lengthen the inner line of the front leg forward, and stretch the arms as far apart as you can.
Every pose, even the static ones like tadasana (mountain pose) demands that you stretch outward into the boundaries of your physical body and beyond. Always try to take up more space.
4. Steady your gaze and smooth out your breath
In yoga, we call our gaze point the Drishti, and steadying the gaze has a tremendous stabilizing and calming quality that can infuse any pose with steadiness. The same thing applies to the breath. Try to apply a smooth and even breath while in every pose, especially the more challenging ones.
5. Take yoga seriously (but not too seriously!)
There should be an element of joy in your yoga practice. Yoga philosophy posits that our natural state is one of joy, and that life tends to paint over this joy with layer after layer of narratives we tell ourselves.
By practicing yoga — the hard physical work, the meditative focus, and the deep rest — we can begin to peel back these layers and notice the joy of simply being. Approach your yoga practice with a lightheartedness and savor those moments of joy that arise on your mat.
Final thoughts: Is yoga a good workout?
Yoga is a great workout, but it is also so much more than a workout. The physical benefits include improvements in strength, flexibility, balance, and body awareness. A regular yoga practice can also build that mind-body connection and reduce stress, both of which are critical for overall wellness.
Because it is low-impact and sustainable, yoga is a smart choice for active recovery on days in between more intense workouts. Yoga is a lifelong practice that can be life-changing if you just continue to show up.
If you’re looking to incorporate yoga into your daily routine, be sure to check out Hydrow’s extensive library of yoga workouts on our app. Our yoga workouts are filmed in stunning locations around the world and are led by world-class Athletes who will help you take your yoga workout to the next level and motivate you to keep going.
Learn more about Hydrow today!