Q. My wife wants us to get into yoga, but I’d prefer something more physical, any suggestions? —Marc W.
Yes, try yoga. Depending on which discipline you choose, yoga can relax your body, cleanse your mind, or kick your butt!
There are multiple forms of yoga, each designed for a slightly different purpose and outcome. It’s a buffet of choices – pick what works best for you. Yoga as exercise is a physical activity consisting mainly of postures, often connected by flowing sequences, sometimes accompanied by breathing exercises, and frequently ending with relaxation or meditation.
If you do a Google search, you’ll probably be shocked by the sheer number of yoga styles out there. However, most of the more popular variations usually teach one of the many types of Hatha yoga, which focuses mainly on different postures (asanas) along with proper breathing. The most popular yoga styles include Ashtanga, Power yoga, Iyengar, Bikram, Ananda, Kundalini and Hatha.
Since you’re looking for a more vigorous workout, I’ve narrowed your search down to three:
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, or power yoga, is energetic and synchronizes breath with movements. The individual poses (asanas) are linked by flowing movements (vinyasas) and participants are expected to memorize a sequence and to practice in the same room as others without being led by the teacher.
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga emphasizes certain main components, namely “Tristhana,” which means the three places of attention or action: breathing, posture, and looking within. These are considered core concepts for Ashtanga yoga practice, encompassing the three levels of purification: the body, nervous system, and the mind.
Ashtanga creates heat in the body to purge it of toxins. Expect Ashtanga to be hot, sweaty and physically demanding. This is best if you are used to a vigorous workout and is not intended for someone just starting out. Expect to move to upbeat music, sweat and burn some calories with this type of yoga.
Bikram yoga is a system of hot yoga. Classes consist of a fixed sequence of 26 postures, practiced in a room heated to 105° F with a humidity level of 40%, intended to replicate the climate of India. Studies have shown that Bikram Yoga can improve lower body strength, range of joint motion in both upper and lower body, and balance. If you ask me (and actually you did), as appealing as a hot, humid room full of other people sweating around me seems, I’m going to have to say No to Bikram. (That’s just my opinion and lots of others swear by hot yoga).
Hatha yoga extends well beyond being a sophisticated physical exercise system and integrates ideas of ethics, diet, cleansing, breathing exercises, meditation and a system for spiritual development. Hatha yoga postures come in numerous forms inspired by nature, such as harmonious flowing shapes of animals, birds or plants.
For a beginner these postures are uncomfortable, typically difficult, cause the body to shake, and are often unbearable to hold for extended periods of time. However, with repetition and persistence, as the muscle tone improves, your effort reduces and posture improves. According to Hatha yoga texts, each posture becomes perfect when the effort disappears, one no longer thinks about the posture and one’s body position, breathes normally, and is able to “dwell in one’s meditation.” You probably won’t leave a Hatha yoga class sweaty and tired, but you should end up feeling more relaxed and stretched out.
Based on what you asked, and presuming you’ve been cleared by your physician to try new exercise routines, it looks like any of the above could be a good initial choice for you. I say initial as it’s perfectly acceptable and quite common to try one form and then try another, and so on, until you find that Goldilocks routine that checks all of your boxes.
Hopefully the two of you will be on the same page as to the type of yoga you ultimately choose. Having a workout partner – especially if it’s your spouse – can yield additional quality time spent together. Just be on the alert in case she suggests Power Quilting!
Have a fitness question? Send them to me, Your Personal Trainer, at [email protected] and write ‘Ramona Sentinel’