Is Yoga Workout/Fitness? ~Benefits of Yoga
I used to believe yoga is the cure for everything.
Backache? Yoga. Hangover? Yoga. Bad breakup? Yoga. Feeling floppy? Yoga.
Then one day, I was invited to go to a fitness studio. I had a feeling similar to watching someone eat a frog leg. I was most disgusted by the idea of “bootcamp.” The image of it was everything I stand up against: you don’t need to go to the gym to feel fit and healthy. Nonetheless, convinced by my friend, I went reluctantly. Their bootcamp class was 6am in the morning. I am an early riser but I’m not known to move my body that early, let alone jumping jacks. I’d like to wake up, make my tea, sit and meditate, breathe then read. Asana (yoga posture) practice comes long after that.
After the 45min workout (workout….yikes), I walked home with the familiar feeling, similar to when I finish a yoga practice. I had much more energy and felt more whole. Getting up for a 6am workout was still extremely hard for me and I felt often annoyed but somehow, I kept going. Then one day, when I was practicing at home, I suddenly felt my feet lifting off at the same time as I piked up in my headstand. I hadn’t been able to pike up for so long and in that moment, I did! The feeling was incredible. I felt scared and excited at the same time. In fact, so much so, I remember coming out of the pose more quickly than I normally did. After a few breaths of rest and trying to calm down, I piked up again.
But I didn’t feel exhilarated because I was able to do the poses I couldn’t do before. My deep satisfaction came more from the increased body awareness in my yoga practice. I felt muscles I hadn’t felt during yoga practice. I could press into my backfoot even more in Warrior poses because I was hyper aware of some new found tiny muscles in around my calves and ankles. My slightly sore abdominals let me know that my breath could be freed even more. I was taller in my meditation practice and my back didn’t ache. I feel more aware in every corner of my body, which meant I had more tools for my concentration, or dharana in my moving meditation practice.
The most popular form of yoga practice and one I, too, practice has the intention to move our body to find equilibrium between mind and soul. When I practice with my newly found body awareness, I feel more. And the more I feel, the more inwards I turn. And the more inwards I turn, the more whole I become and the more chances of finding Samadhi or bliss or stillness.
I still try to work out because I notice how my body changes every day, especially after pregnancy (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to get rid of those bye-bye floppy triceps). And I still practice yoga but I do both for very different reasons.
Yoga is a part of me now. It’s when I come home to my own self, to breathe and reflect. To stop and move consciously. I don’t practice yoga to have a “yoga body.” I practice to find my foundation, my ground. To find stillness in my own chaos.
Yoga cannot replace your workout because it was never meant to be a workout. You want to get rid of your floopy arms? Don’t google a thousand ways to do it right. Just get on the floor and do 20 or 30 pushups. Then sit down, notice your heart rate, slightly shaky arms and a little warmed up body, then breathe. Return to your stillness, because that’s the whole point. To find stillness within our chaos.