It is a common misconception that yoga is simply good for calming down or stretching. Although this statement is half true, it is not the whole story. Yes, practicing yoga will help you relax your mind and calm your body, but certain techniques and exercises will provide a solid workout if you do them correctly and for long enough.
There is still a stigma associated with yoga that it is something that women do to relax. There is so much wrong with this notion! Men and women both practice yoga in extremely large numbers because the health benefits have become so well-known in the past couple of decades. Not every practitioner of yoga is doing it simply for the calming effect, many are also hardcore fanatics because of the muscle growth and cardio workouts it can provide.
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Killer Yoga Exercises That are Also Great Workouts
Yoga is not just for calming down. In fact, many of these exercises and poses will tire you out! Yoga can be a powerful form of resistance training using only your body and time. Do not underestimate how beneficial these exercises can be for your workout.
Tadasana the Mountain Pose
This yoga pose is a beginner pose but it has powerful benefits and when done correctly will help you get some cardio and aid in building muscle strength as well. Its main benefit is for improving the alignment of your spine, improving balance as well as helping to fix posture issues.
The other benefits you will experience with this pose include:
- Strengthening your legs
- Improving body awareness
- Calming the mind
How to Do it
First, you need to make sure you are standing correctly. This means placing your feet a comfortable distance apart (8-10 inches) and spreading your toes out. Make sure your feet are firmly planted flat on the ground.
- Engage the upper leg muscles moving them up making your knees go up
- Move your thighs in, widening the area of your sitting bones
- Don’t worry about making your back straight, let it be how it naturally wants to be
- Flex your stomach muscles slightly, and make sure your shoulders are laying back
- Lift your shoulders up toward your head in a shrugging motion and do a circular motion so you feel your shoulder blades opening-up
- Elongate your neck while your chin remains close to parallel with the ground.
- Maintain this position for some time. Usually about ten slow deliberate breaths.
- Relax, and repeat.
The Forward Standing Fold
This pose will require you to have some range of motion in your lower back, as it needs you to place your face as close to your shins as possible. The forward fold is also called Uttanasana and it will stretch your core, as well as your legs and hamstrings. This can be one of the most calming poses in yoga, once you get used to doing it and have achieved the necessary flexibility to do it right.
How to do It
- Stand up straight and place your hands on your hips
- Breathe out and begin to bend forward making sure to bend at the hips instead of the waist
- As you bend forward stretch out your chest lengthening your spine and opening up your core area
- Keep your knees straight and place your hands on the floor in front of your toes
- Raise your butt toward the sky and plant your heels flat on the ground
- Breathe deep, when you exhale each time try to stretch your back and open up the chest
- Do not lift your head, instead let it naturally relax and hang down
- Stay in this pose for about one minute at a time
This pose appears to be you just sitting on the ground with your legs out in front of you, and essentially it is, but there is much more going on in your body while you are doing it. If done correctly it will strengthen your core and triceps as well as elongating your hamstring which increases flexibility in the legs and the lower back. If you are focused on your core, you may want to consider some exercise ball workouts as well.
How to Do it
- First, sit on the ground placing your legs in front of you with the back of your calves on the floor
- Move your weight to the front of your butt so you feel the weight on the high part of the back of your thighs and front of sitting bones
- Flex your thighs and press them against the ground, moving them toward each other while flexing your ankles at the same time
- Stretch your back and chest up toward the sky, making your torso form a ‘T’ with the floor
- Maintain this position for at least one minute, breathing deliberately and completely exhaling
Downward Facing Dog
This is most likely the most well-known yoga pose. The downward dog will stretch your legs and hamstrings and make your arms back and legs much stronger with practice over time. It will also increase blood flow to your head and brain while strengthening the unseen muscles in your core. If you hold this position for long enough it can be an intense workout.
How to Do it
- Place your hands and knees on the ground with your hands underneath your shoulders
- Push your hips up toward the ceiling while opening your fingers and improving balance
- Rotate the upper part of your arms opening up the upper chest in the collar bone area
- Do not lift your head, instead let it naturally droop with your neck relaxed
- Flex your legs, taking some of the weight off your arms
- Rotate your upper legs in toward the groin pushing your sitting bones up to the ceiling while pushing your heels into the ground
- Make sure your hands and feet are a good distance apart
- Breathe out and bend at the knees coming back to your hands and knees
The twisting chair is a pose that is done while standing up. This position will benefit the thighs, hips, and butt muscles by strengthening them over time. Performing the twisting chair will also greatly improve your balance because you are bending your knees with your head down and twisting, which will feel odd at first. This is also called the revolving chair pose sometimes, just know if you hear that term it means the same thing as twisting chair.
In addition to your butt, hips, and thighs this pose will strengthen your core, specifically your lower back muscles. When you are twisting you are adding resistance because gravity wants to pull your torso directly down.
How to Do it
- Start off in the mountain pose with your feet close together
- Take a deep breath in and lift your arms up above your head
- Breathe out and bend at the knees attempting to bring your thighs even with the floor
- Bring your arms down putting your hands together as if praying, then bring them into your chest area
- As you breathe out again turn your core to the right in a twisting motion moving your left elbow to the outside of the leg on the right
- Move your hip back making your hips back to normal
- Push your arm on the left against your leg and move your right shoulder moving your chest to the right
- Look up toward the ceiling
- Lower your hips a little stretching out your back when you breathe in
- Hold the pose for about a minute, as you go back to the starting position breathe in again
- Repeat this again focusing on turning your body to the left this time
This pose will strengthen the legs and help you improve your balance while standing upright. If you hold the pose for an extended time, you will feel the burn in your legs and feet. For more intense balance workouts check out the best balance boards!
How to Do It
- Standing up straight, bend your right knee and raise the foot up placing it against the other thigh
- Maintain that your foot is pointing forward, this pose does not want you twisting
- Move the right knee further back to which helps to make the hip rotation easier
- Lift both arms up pointing to the ceiling
- Press your palms together
- Hold this pose for a while, up to ten slow breaths
- Repeat for more benefit
The boat pose will strengthen your core, it is a little like a sit-up where you are using your abdomen to lift your legs. It also helps improve strength in your hips. Like almost all yoga poses the boat pose is especially good at improving your balance. This involves sitting flat on the ground and lifting up your legs so if you have a weak or injured lower back, it is not recommended to try this yet.
How to Do It
- Start off sitting down with your knees bent making sure your feet are flat, not lifted at the heel
- Raise your feet up keeping your knees bent in the beginning, move your calves parallel to the ground
- Point your legs out straight at about a 45-degree angle
- Move your shoulders back and make your arms straight
- Stay in this position for at least five slow breaths