So perhaps you’re thinking about trying yoga or maybe you’ve given it a go a few times and you’re thinking about taking it up again. Yoga is an amazing way to ease yourself into the world of fitness or supplement your existing fitness regimen without overexerting yourself.
But is it really right for you? And if it is, where do you start? We’ve got you covered, with all the benefits of yoga practice and great advice on whether you should opt for the gym or the specialist studio.
The benefits of yoga
Yoga is a great way to reduce stress thanks to the practice of mindful meditation and controlled breathing. Certain poses calm the central nervous system, particularly forward bends and inversions like with Child’s Pose and it’s soothing effects on the adrenal glands. Remember, mindfulness is not a switch you can flick, the benefits come from regular practice, so it’s totally ok if this is you in class (it’s most of us too!).
Regular practice keeps the body supple and flexible by strengthening muscles, joints, and ligaments and increasing your range of motion. This helps with the myriad of aches and pains that come from stiff muscles or muscle twinges. While most of us will sadly never be bendy goddesses like Tarin Calmeyer, we will be able to tie our shoes with greater ease, and that’s something.
Helps You Listen To Your Body
In modern, fast-paced life, we’re often taught to push ourselves harder and disregard our bodies when they show signs of fatigue. Women particularly seem to put the demands of work, partners, and children ahead of their own with self-care only fitting in when the rare opportunity arises. Not only are yoga classes a perfect way to carve out an hour of your week just for yourself, the practice itself teaches you to more effectively listen to your body with compassion for your own needs.
Builds Core Strength
Yoga and pilates classes are the perfect way to build core strength in a way that’s gentle, but still effectively builds lean muscle mass without adding bulk. Developing core strength is a great foundation for fitness as it helps you start with the right posture, helps prevent injuries, and even helps protect your inner organs and central nervous system.
As part of developing core-strength, yoga also helps improve your posture, which just on a superficial level, straight up makes you look great with the straight back and shoulders accentuating your waist and lengthening your neck. Opening up your posture also help you breathe better…
Teaches Proper Breathing
So you’d think that because you’re well, still alive, your breathing was just fine right? Think again! In the yoga-world, control of breathing is referred to as Pranayama and it is central to the practice. There are several ways in which it is done, but essentially yoga teaches you to control your breathing, which is an invaluable tool for navigating everyday life – if you can breathe well, you can live well. There are fantastic resources on this online, but this article by huffingtonpost.com is a good place to start if you’d like to find out more.
We’re not just talking life balance or making time for yourself here, we’re also talking about that magic thing that keeps you upright. Some of us naturally have more of it than others, but if you’re one of those prone-to-fall-down kinds of people (we’re with you, there is no shame!) then yoga can definitely help. If you can master a toe stand, heels on a cobbled path will be a piece of cake!
Helps Improve Sleep Quality
According to a study by Harvard Health, over 55% of people who did yoga found that it helped them get better sleep. And despite appearances, it’s not just because everyone brings nap mats to class. It’s great if you suffer from insomnia or you’re trying to get your circadian rhythms back on track from having nursing kids or, you know partying all night, either or, life is about choices. Yoga is great for sleep largely because of how it helps regulate stress.
The Pros and Cons of Gym vs a Specialist Studio
So now that you know why you should do yoga, how do you decide where to do yoga? To answer that question, you’ll have to ask yourself a few more. What is your goal? Are you looking a for an overall wellness or fitness experience or a spiritual or cultural one? Think of gym as your local Woolies and a yoga studio as a specialist artisanal pop-up shop where you can buy handmade organic, vegan, gluten-free hot chocolate. Let us explain…
At The Gym
- Membership fees are generally a lot cheaper at a gym.
- You tend to get more bang for your buck at a gym with access to several different kinds of classes, a large variety of equipment and facilities, allowing you to work on several different aspects of your fitness journey in one space and for one fee.
- There will probably be fewer classes to choose from, but there will be similar, pilates and stretch classes.
- You will be able to supplement your yoga practice with exercises to strengthen certain muscle groups as needed.
- The gym offers a less intimidating environment, especially if you’re a beginner. The classes tend to consist of people from all walks of life with varying levels of experience with yoga practice. Not everyone at the gym yoga class near you is going to be a super yogi.
- Most major gyms must adhere to cleanliness standard. You’re probably less likely to run into a nasty little surprise at the gym than you are at an independently owned studio.
- Highly-trained instructors – there’s a common misconception that the instructors aren’t as experienced as those at a studio. This is definitely not the case at Viva Gym, with the the yoga instructors at our Sunningdale club in Cape Town, Flowing Nomads, being experts in their field, having taught yoga all over South Africa and as far afield as China.
- Sometimes the overall environment is not 100% tranquil. There are other, high-energy classes going on, there are guys doing the heavy-lifting grunts at the weight rack.
- That lekker doef-doef music getting everyone of the gym floor PUMPED, might be heard in your cocoon of zen.
- The classes aren’t always going to be at the perfect time for you, so you might have to do a bit of scheduling.
A Specialist Studio
- You’ll probably find the timetables more convenient – yoga studios tend to have more classes in a day so you could choose to go at almost any time during the day as opposed to a gym which probably only has one or two classes a day.
- You can get quite specific with various different disciplines of yoga, from Hatha for the basics to the more dynamic Vinyasa and super-detail focussed Iyengar.
- It’s quite a vibe. There tends to be more of an ambiance or even esoteric feel at a studio. The studio is specifically created to be and zen space with incense, fancy teas, bamboo floors and dim lighting or candles.
- The community’s more focused on yoga specifically, and less so on overall fitness.
- There’s less diversity as there tends to be a yoga studio “type”. Think designer gear, disposable income, and a competitive attitude.
- Studios tend to be small, independently-owned businesses and they might have to cut corners in certain ways to keep costs down. How often is the floor disinfected? If there an abundance of fresh drinking water? Will you have to fill your bottle in the bathroom?
There’s definitely a lot to consider when picking the right fitness solution for you. If you’re keen on giving gym yoga a try, be sure to check out the yoga classes near you at your local Viva Gym here. If you still want a bit of help choosing the right group training solution for you, we have an amazing class finder tool, where you answer a few quick questions about your fitness goals and fitness level and we give you a tailor-made list of the perfect classes for you! Check it out here.