How to Do Yoga Just for the Exercise

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Here's the situation: your spouse/co-worker/neighbor/yurt-dwelling aunt is always going on about how great you would feel if you'd just try yoga. And you suspect that they might be right; it would probably help with your back pain/flexibility/insomnia/sex-drive/stress levels. But you can't quite get past that feeling deep inside that you are just not a yoga person. Or maybe you could be if not for the chanting.

And the incense. And the possibility of people touching you. And the general aura of touchiness and feeliness.

But what is a "yoga person," anyway? Yoga has changed a lot since it got a reputation for being synonymous with a hippie lifestyle. Starting in the mid-1990s, many styles began to emerge that did away with some of the more overt trappings of the counter-culture. Yes, yoga became mainstream. There has since some backlash, evidenced by the emergence of new styles that emphasize spirituality, but it's still pretty easy to find yoga classes that eschew chanting, complicated pranayama, and philosophical sermonizing in favor of just the asanas, ma'am. Here's where to look.

Where to Find a Yoga Class

  • One of the best places to get started is at your gym or YMCA. Though quality can vary, a fitness-based approach is favored in most gym settings, for obvious reasons. Ask friends for recommendations to help you find a good teacher.
  • Power yoga was one of the first to concentrate on the physical side of yoga, as teachers looked for a way to make Ashtanga yoga more accessible. As the name suggests, expect a strong workout with lots of flowing movement.
  • Hot yoga is also often very focused on the physical, but you have to be ready to sweat since these classes take place in rooms heated to 90-plus degrees.
  • Core Power Yoga is another style that provides a vigorous workout.
  • Flow yoga can go almost any way, depending on the teacher. If you're looking at a class at a yoga studio, I always suggest reading the teacher bios that quite often appear on the studio website. These should give you a good idea of the teacher's background and focus.

    As you may have surmised, if you want to take a yoga class that is focused on fitness, you're probably going to be in for a workout. Finding classes in this vein that offer a gentler approach to yoga is a little more challenging. You may want to opt for stretching classes instead.

    Yoga for Exercise at Home

    Yoga classes are best for beginners because you can get feedback on your poses and ask questions. If you want to try doing yoga at home, there are videos available that offer fitness-based yoga. Here are a few that I've reviewed:
  • P90X Yoga: You have to purchase the whole P90X system to get the yoga workout, but it offers a nice at-home routine.
  • DDP Yoga: This is workout based on yoga developed by former pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. It was originally called Yoga for Regular Guys, so if that's your demographic, check it out.
  • Yoga for Athletes is a power yoga session with Kimberly Fowler, who operates several YAS (Yoga and Spinning) health clubs in California. Her slogan is "No Chanting. No Granola. No Sanskrit.” Enough said.

    Is Yoga Good Exercise?

    Whether yoga is good exercise depends on the definition of exercise (and of good, but let's not get too crazy). It also depends on the kind of yoga you are doing. Merriam-Webster, our go-to source for these kinds of things, says exercise is "bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness." Yoga certainly fits that bill and more. Yoga can stretch you into a more flexible person if you do it consistently. You will also get stronger muscles and bones since yoga is weight-bearing in nature. However, research has cast doubt on yoga's efficacy in improving cardiovascular fitness and contributing to weight loss.

    Merriam-Webster doesn't get into the quality of life and mental benefits of exercising, but yoga has you covered there too. It really makes you feel better. I have to admit that when I started yoga, I came at it from the physical side too. It took a few years, but nowadays I willingly chant and do partner yoga, things that would have made me very uncomfortable at one point. You may not want to go there, and that's ok since there is definitely room at the table for the full range of approaches, but I have found that yoga can help you do things you never thought would be possible. You have been warned.