Updated: Jan 21
When you first think or hear of someone trying yoga, what is your first thought?
Do you think it sounds hard? Or maybe easy? Do you wonder if it’s a good workout? Or are you sceptical and think that it's not real exercise?
There are always sceptics and those who will doubt the benefits of yoga. There will always be preconceptions about what yoga is and isn't.
It always amazes me that people think yoga is just "fancy stretching" or that it's not "real exercise". What's more, this is often said by people who haven't even tried yoga before.
If you're a yogi, your first thought will undoubtedly been a positive one.
In our latest myth busting blog, we're going to explore how yoga is much more than just stretching.
The Common Misconception
Now, first things first, there is stretching involved in yoga, you can't get away from that.
Lots of the poses you have in yoga are commonly used, most of the time unknowingly, by sports teams and athletes during warm ups.
It can be hard for some people to understand the difference between yoga and the stretches done before or after a run for example.
Yoga isn’t just stretching. It successfully combines alignment, strength, and balance. It can force you to move and engage muscles that aren't often used or "that you didn't even know were there"
Essentially yoga focuses on strength training and flexibility. While it can be intense, it’s not as overwhelming as some other types of exercise.
Simple stretching of the limbs or particular muscles does not require the same level of attention, focus and breathing that yoga poses require.
Furthermore, if we look at this from an anatomy standpoint, what's really going on when you stretch one muscle is that you're actually flexing another.
This relationship is known as "extensors and flexors." When the extensor muscle relaxes, the flexor muscle strengthens.
When you look into the different poses in routines, you can see these are set up to give you a full body workout.
Each pose flows into another in a very physiological way, toning and shaping your muscles.
If we look at the plank, a fundamental ab toning exercise, some yoga poses work in the same way.
By flexing your abs to keep your body straight and in-balance, you are putting them under tension.
This activation will tone and build your abs. How long can you hold a plank for? If you've tried you know how it can burn!
Holding a Warrior III pose is just as difficult and again engages various muscles throughout your body.
Now I'm not saying you’re going to bulk up and gain massive muscles from just doing yoga on its own. However, you can develop strength and build functional muscles. This helps to improve your balance, flexibility posture and more.
Once you master a specific yoga pose and your balance is really good, then you are no longer taxing yourself.
In order to get true strength training results, you have to continuously tax your body. Which is why it's always worth considering switching things up and trying a different type of yoga.
Yoga is also used by athletes to help switch things up and improve their respective games.
It Does Burn Calories
How many calories you burn is affected by many factors? Such as, the style of yoga you're doing, the level at which the class is being taught, the length of the class and your own level of intensity.
A study from Harvard Health found that a 30 min Hatha yoga classed burned 149 calories for a 155lb person.
A 2014 Colorado State University study found that women burned an average of 330 calories and men 460 calories per 90-minute Bikram class.
Other estimates put Bikram yoga's calorie burn closer to 493 per hour -- or just over 700 calories per 90-minute class.
Simple stretching would not do this for you.
It’s about cantering and connecting with yourself.
The biggest difference between yoga and stretching is down to your breathing and your mind.
When you stretch before a run, you are just going through the motions, so you don't injure yourself.
There's no calmness, no inward focus. Just hold for 10 seconds and repeat until you're good to go.
Yoga requires a focus on breathing and centring yourself.
It's not just hurry up and get it done, it focuses on slowing down and creating calmness.
This is where the there are many reported benefits of yoga come form, and where just stretching will never come close.
In addition to flexibility, one of yoga's key benefits is its ability to increase your awareness of your body.
"Yes, yoga is the art of stretching--but as you go deeper into practicing yoga, your perception or awareness of your body increases and changes. You become more aware of the space your body occupies and develop a greater sense of the body's position."
This is called proprioception," says Timothy B. McCall, M.D., medical director of the Yoga Journal
So, as you can see, yoga is way more than just simply stretching. As a sceptic you may still not be convinced. The only way is to really see for yourself and try your first class.
As a yogi, you would have hopefully been nodding your head in agreement to everything in this article!