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Can yoga tone my body?

Every blog I write is inspired by those I practise yoga with and the questions I receive, the questions that I ask, and the questions I hear others asking. This one is for all of you who are still deciding what the healthy mix of weight training and yoga is for your body.

I don't lift weights, and I never have. I can count the number of times I've been to a gym on one hand, for the simple reason that I don't enjoy this form of exercise. This has forced me to explore other avenues to achieve the same results that I would be after if you saw me bench pressing (and yes I had to Google that).

Enter yoga. Yoga is about absolute control of the movement, the breath and the mind. When you combine all three together, it's a force to be reckoned with. A strong force. You want muscle definition? Try and hold a Chaturanga Dandasana for more than 10 seconds, elbows in against the torso (no chicken wings), spine lengthening in one straight line, hips in line with shoulders, tailbone tucking under slightly to maintain core engagement, and super strong legs, and then tell me how you feel. And that's before you lift up into an Upward Facing Dog, still actively working every muscle in the body, and than back into a Downward Facing Dog. But you can't rush it! One breath, one movement, squeezing every bit of muscle-toning goodness out of every pose. Think of how long your arms have been engaged, energetically pushing down into the earth, and the fun is far from over. You still have another 58 minutes of the class to go. Beads of sweat are dripping off you, and you're hardly moving. Instead, you are flowing slowly, succinctly, safely and super focused on how every muscle is reacting in every pose. Even your finger pads are pressing actively into the mat to engage your forearm muscles and take pressure from the wrists.

My argument is why work my body parts separately at the gym, when I can do it all at once with yoga? For me, I just don't think there's any amount of lifting weights that's going to make my arms as strong as holding up my own body weight in yoga. Think Firefly Pose, Eight-Angle Pose, Peacock Pose. Every pose is core-centric, not to mention the requirements of your abdominal muscles as you flow from one pose into the next.

Food for thought. Studies reveal that beginners at the gym who practised Hatha Yoga for eight weeks, could do more sit ups and push ups because of increased muscle mass, compared to those who did no prior workouts. Just saying.

For a well-toned body, make sure you keep your workouts challenging. Start with a beginners class like our 30-minute Yoga Fundamentals class on the Activ Life Online Studio (all filmed in the picturesque Cayman Islands) to get your body used to the asanas. But make sure that as your strength and flexibility increases, you start practicing more complex and advanced asanas to keep your muscles challenged. Make the most of your workout by increasing the pace at which you do each pose, or hold every pose for longer and do more reps. You can also add more asanas to each yoga session, try new variations of a pose, as well as other forms of yoga to tone your muscles even further.

The class styles are endless, the locations you can practise yoga are endless (have you experienced the magic at our Sunset House classes), the feelings you can experience at the end of a class are endless. Finally, the variety is endless. If I'm going to spend time toning and strengthening my body, I want to have fun doing it at the same time. Yoga can offer that.

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