Why Everyone Needs to Stop Saying Yoga Doesn't Count as a Workout

Can you be incredibly strong thanks to yoga alone? Yes!

“How are you so strong? You must do something else besides yoga!” I hear it all the time. Though YES, I do other workouts besides yoga, I credit yoga with my being able to do amazing things in the weight room. Since I am used to being able to manipulate my own body weight, I can perform push ups,  pull ups (yes 10 unassisted pull ups), ass to grass squats, deep lunges, handstand push ups, as well as arm balances, splits and more. I would NOT be able to do any of this without my yoga practice.
Here’s the thing that the mainstream world doesn’t understand about yoga: All yoga doesn’t revolve around gentle stretches, chants, and seated meditation. There’s a general misconception that yoga will make you flexible and limber but not fit and strong, when in fact yoga is the perfect way to balance out your strength with your flexibility. Have you ever stepped into a power yoga class? You’ll be dripping sweat within minutes. Have you watched an ashtangi yogi flow through his or her series with the ease of a feather? It’s not enough to do a difficult arm balance—it must be lowered into from an inversion. Practice 90 minutes of vinyasa flow—it will make burpees feel like a vacation. SO true! I always hear people complain about burpees, and as yogi - I love them!  A ‘vinyasa’ is a common small sequence of postures used to link poses and keep the student’s fire building; imagine doing planks and push ups over and over and over again.
All of these styles of yoga, plus even more, are incredibly powerful approaches to the yoga practice. They all use movement in connection with breath, focus, and balance.
Power yoga incorporates push ups, planks, squats, lunges, arm balances, leg balances, handstands, back bends and more. It's a workout and a hard one at that.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had super fit athletes come into my class who are at the top of their game —but DIE in class. (Hello Cross Fitters and Marathoners who are dead 10 minutes into my class). It doesn’t mean they lack the strength—it’s simply a new form of awareness and way of moving their bodies.
The word yoga itself translates to "to yoke." One who practices yoga forms the perfect union of strength and flexibility. It’s yin and yang—absolute balance. A good teacher will sequence a class so that it pushes his or her students to their physical edge just enough before they counter the pose with something elongating and soothing. Before you know it, you’ve had a full class full of muscle toning and lengthening work resulting in—you got it—balance.
Of course, I'm not saying that other forms of exercise, like lifting or running, should be tossed out - not at all. Just understand that yoga isn’t a day off from working out (unless you are doing a restorative form of yoga). You can use yoga as a way to balance out your regular routines, but the yoga practice will 100-percent count as your daily activity to sweat and take care of your body. Like anything, you’ll have to fully dedicate yourself to the practice and show up on a regular basis, but yes: Yoga will make you fit, strong, limber, and—the major bonus—emotionally and spiritually improved.
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