Is Yoga Supposed to Kick Your Butt?

Fitness: HappinessMind & Body,

By: // March 18, 2014

High intensity interval training is sure to make you sweaty, exhausted and feeling worked over, but is yoga supposed to kick your butt?

I love to teach high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes. You could say I’m a tad addicted to the adrenaline rush I get when I complete a class all sweaty and feeling totally worked over. Whew! But I also teach yoga. It’s quite a contrast to my other workouts, and that contrast is a good thing. The essence of yoga is to relax, rejuvenate, recharge, release and refresh. I love all that, but I must admit it doesn’t come as naturally to me as the adrenaline rush of my hard-core workouts. I’ve had to teach myself to just let go and appreciate the mission of yoga. Still, sometimes that mission seems to get jumbled in the fitness/yoga world. I’ve heard people say, “That yoga class is SO HARD. It kicks my butt.” I have to wonder: is yoga supposed to kick your butt?

I’m not sure if there’s a right answer to that. I do believe that trying new poses and stretching yourself (no pun intended) to new challenges in yoga is good. But in a “yoga” way, not in a “this workout is going to kill me” way.

I don’t look at my students before a yoga class and think, “this class is going to kick everyone’s butt today.” (Full disclosure: I do have those thoughts before teaching my HIIT classes!)

Related: 12 Yoga Poses to Alleviate Back Pain

With yoga, the intention is different. We are there to shift our energy and find inner peace. That doesn’t mean the class is just gentle stretching. We build power and heat doing Down-Dog flows. We discover our strength in Warrior and Plank. We challenge ourselves with balancing and other advanced poses. But all that’s done with a mindfulness toward inner peace, a sense of stability and a deeper connection with oneself. No one feels “beat up” after class.

There are lots of ways to approach being physically active. Sometimes what your body needs most is a hard workout. Other times, it needs a different sort of challenge—one that involves mindfully sitting, lying or standing still for more than a few seconds at a time!

Here are some tips to help you get relaxed yet focused and appreciate the benefits of yoga:

Use Your Breath

Use your breath to get the most out of your yoga class--and life.

Whether you’re doing yoga on your mat or sitting at your desk, deep yogic breathing can calm you. We all should take two to five minutes each day to focus on breathing deeply: in and out through the nose using your diaphragm. Breathing is the most vital action we take in our lives yet it is also the most unconscious action that we take. For this reason, yoga is a great vehicle for practicing awareness of breath and can help you bring a deeper consciousness to it. Your breath is the bridge between mind, body and soul.

Work On Balance and Stability

Having a good sense of balance means more than being able to stand on one foot. Try a few balance poses like tree pose, dancer pose and if you really want a challenge, crow pose. These poses are about creating and improving physical, mental, and emotional stability. Finding your center and being able to remain steady while balancing will improve your focus, relieve stress, and help you to deal with difficult situations. You’ll learn to approach life with a sense of awareness and calmness, which is the heart of yoga. (Don’t forget there are ways to modify most balance poses and you should feel comfortable to ease into them and work up towards the more advanced poses.)

Work On Flexibility

People often tell me, “ Oh, I can’t go to yoga, I’m too inflexible.” But, isn’t that the idea of this whole thing? Yoga will help improve your flexibility while also making over your mind. I tell all my students, men and women alike, that there is no such thing as a perfect pose. Being “super stretchy” doesn’t make you better at yoga. And there are no “winners” in a yoga class, it’s about your own personal journey. So drop the competition of who is more flexible and focus on the benefits of lengthening your own muscles, improving your range of motion, and rejuvenating your body.

Relish The Relaxation

The last part of yoga practice often focuses on slowing down and getting deeper into your poses. In the last few minutes of practice, there’s savasana (final relaxation), where you lie perfectly still and allow yourself to just “be” in the moment (no fidgeting). This final relaxation can be an incredibly restorative time; so don’t be tempted to skip it! You can let go of negative thoughts and gain mental clarity. Savasana is a known stress reducer and has even been said to reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) in your body.

So enjoy yoga for what it can be—a workout that improves both your physical and mental health. P.S. Check out why yoga is good for MEN too!

READ THIS NEXT: How To Use Yoga To Detox


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Christina on November 4, 2014 at 10:40 AMReply

Very timely article :). I'm feeling afraid to take a day off from running. I don't know why but I'm feeling obsessive about it. I've struggled to get to this point and maybe I'm adraid one day off will lead to two days offi and then a week and then I won't be a runner anymore. I'm going to skip my run intentionally next Tuesday to go to my local yoga class for beginners. Thank you for trying to spread sanity :)

    Chris Freytag on November 4, 2014 at 1:42 PMReply

    That's good! I always encourage a variety of workouts! Why don't you commit to a certain number of running days so you can put your fears to rest? Like: I commit to running three times per week. That way you can miss a day and not view it like you are skipping, it's all part of your plan! And YES to yoga, it's so good for mind and body!

margot on February 25, 2013 at 1:59 PMReply

I have been doing ashtanga yoga for two months four days a week with my daughter and I have never been in such good shape! I sweat more than I ever did in all my spinning/zumba/pilates classes. I hate to do weights and it has helped me to build upper body strength. never thought I would be so loving yoga..

Kyle on February 23, 2013 at 9:35 PMReply

I do agree with the statement when you said "breathing is the most vital action we take in our lives". Breathing is also part and parcel with Vipassana meditation

Carmen Sanchez on February 20, 2013 at 2:50 PMReply

Hi Chris- What are your thoughts on Bikram? Thanks!

    Chris Freytag on February 20, 2013 at 3:56 PMReply

    Bikram is loved by many! It's not my favorite form of yoga for a few reasons. I love the heat but don't love: The lights in the room on. No music. The same 13 poses in a row every class!! That is too repetitious for me and I love music. Plus, I feel like a few of the poses are very advanced and not appropriated for beginners ... but to my knowledge, no modifications are typically recommended.

Evik James on February 19, 2013 at 7:34 AMReply

You clearly define the difference between yoga and high intensity training. I enjoyed your article. Thanks!

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