What Yoga Taught Me About Exercise

Yoga is quite possibly one of the best things for your body. It’s good for mindfulness, flexibility, and stress management, just to name a few off of this extensive list from Yoga Journal. The old practice surprisingly popular with athletes and models, because yoga is about more than bending your body like a pretzel and saying “Om.” The awareness and kindness that’s central to yoga both have a very strong place in the rest of your exercise routine. Here’s my top 5 things that yoga taught me about exercise.

1.     “Be Where You Are”

This common yoga phrase may sound silly at first. Of course I’m where I am, where else would I be? You might also hear things like “if it’s within your practice,” or “wherever your practice is today” at a yoga class. It means accepting what your capabilities are in this moment, and not worrying about how far you still have to go. When you buy into the idea that it’s okay to be where you are, you start seeing it come up in other parts of the gym. It’s okay to be lifting 3lb weights or jogging on the treadmill, just be where you are.

2.     Your Body Deserves to be Honored

Hand in hand with “Be Where You Are,” yoga has a great deal to do with respecting your body. There are some routines, such as CrossFit, that focus on pushing your body’s limits to get stronger. Yoga’s not about that life. It’s about listening to what your body is trying to tell you, and respecting its boundaries. More importantly, you may not be happy with your body. It may not look the way you want, or you might have a condition that causes you discomfort or pain. Even so, your body deserves to be honored. That’s really critical while working out.

3.     Progress isn’t Always Linear  

For me, it’s all the balancing. I think there’s something wrong with my inner ear because even Tree Pose has defeated me from time to time. It’s something I’m constantly working on, and some days I’m getting really close to nailing a balancing move. Other days, I’m further away than I was before. What gives? It’s actually completely normal. Progress doesn’t just move in one direction, it goes up and it goes down. There are good days and bad days. One thing that has consistently improved, however, is how much I pay attention to all the parts of yoga every time I practice. Yoga is beautifully complex, and that means sometimes knowing more about it makes poses harder over time, not easier. Don’t beat yourself up, you’re doing great.

4.     A Short Workout Beats No Workout

Let’s face it, no one really has time to be working out. I don’t, you probably don’t, and it’s tough to make the time. It’s also hard for me to get to yoga class sometimes, and that’s where YouTube and Yoga with Adriane comes in This lovable yoga master has videos for literally anything you want out of your work out. That includes quick 10 minute videos, sometimes even less. Getting one of those in at night when I’ve had a crazy day makes a world of difference. Same goes for your gym routine, if you only squeeze in 10 minutes on the elliptical that’s better than not doing anything at all. It’s also super easy to get out of the habit of doing things, especially things that are seriously hard. Putting in a short workout is always better than nothing.

5.     There is no Judgment

Again, this is admittedly really hard, but it’s important. When you’re trying to do a complex yoga pose that involves bending in a way that you didn’t even know humans were able to bend, are you looking at your neighbor critiquing their form? No! You’re trying to figure out how on earth humans are able to bend this way. In all seriousness, you’re probably more concerned with your own practice than whether the person next to you is doing it wrong. In the gym, most people are way too focused on their own workouts to be worried about yours. It’s easy to feel self-conscious but you need to make that space one where you don’t feel judged or criticized.

The same applies for inside your own head, this is a judgment free zone. Look at that we’re back to #1 again! Yoga’s all about connectedness and awareness, so try to bring some of that into the gym today.