We may have heard of HIIT yoga, OM Yoga Weights and Fitness Yoga used to describe classes and workshops before. What does this mean? Why is fitness becoming a big thing in the many different types of yoga on offer?
Have you ever been in a yoga class and your instructor holds you in plank (uttitha chaturanga dandasana) for so long that you feel like collapsing in a puddle on the mat? How about that inward groan as you lower down into chair (utkatasana) for the twentieth time before you’ve even reached halfway through? Do you experience shaky legs after your class?
Yoga, particularly the yang yoga styles such as Vinyasa and Ashtanga, develop your muscles as well as increase your flexibility. The number of times we go through a sun salutation vinyasa between other poses develops muscles in our upper body (thank you Plank, Chaturanga, Up Dog!), and the lower body muscles get a good work out too, think quadriceps and glutes in any standing poses, especially balances.
The science behind muscle strength and conditioning is all about repetition: high reps and low weights builds muscular endurance; whilst low reps and high weights build muscle and cardiovascular endurance. Fitness classes and individual programs at the gym use this tried and tested formula in many different variations, why? Because it works. When you work your muscles enough to a point of fatigue, this is when the deep muscle fibers start to build strength.
That isn’t to say that yoga doesn’t work. You could argue that a typical vinyasa class has many “reps” included. The number of times we take a vinyasa could very well be classed as “reps”. And the number of bodies that have been completely transformed by a regular practice is testament to it working.
So why mix the two, and how will it help improve my yoga practice? Muscles have a tendency to get used to activity; what started as a hard exercise and left muscles aching, over time gets easier and easier and the muscles don’t feel the same ache anymore. Muscles respond to progressive activity, i.e. increasing the weight or number of reps. Muscles also respond to changing activities entirely as different muscles are used or used in a different way.
By including yoga reps (a circuit of 4 flows, each flow repeated 8-32 times and each circuit repeated twice), we are targeting particular muscles and working them to a point of fatigue, thus working into the deep muscle fibers and building strength. Each flow in the circuit is designed to target a group or a specific set of muscles, and get your cardiovascular system working too. So you get a really great opportunity to combine fitness with yoga, and have some fun at the same time!
Join me this Autumn for a light-hearted and accessible approach to Yoga and fitness with my workshops!