Many times over the last few years I have written out an “ideal” weekly workout routine. They’re usually quite aspirational, assuming that I have limitless motivation and discipline, and little to disrupt my routine. Or, they’ll be a bit of a fantasy, based on the studios I’d attend if only I lived in the correct city with sufficient budget. Despite the fact that I do not train every day of the week -far from it! -each of these plans attempts to fit in more workouts than there are days of the week. There’s a few reasons for this: my commitment to a yoga practice, the array of exciting classes and training methods out there, plus the desire to be a “proper” part of a fitness community. Let me explain: whenever I head to a new studio, I almost always feel a sense of disconnect from the amount of people in the class who clearly are regulars and know one another. You don’t get that sense of community from being a fickle customer. Because of this, I want to be going to a studio as often as possible to get involved!
I feel like yoga can get this even more than other training methods. You have the Ashtanga lineage that recommends a near-daily practice (learn more about that from international Ashtanga teacher Kino MacGregor here). Then there is the buzz that many studios generate, not to mention the financial incentive to practice often when paying for an unlimited pass.
Like with pretty much all divisive questions, the answer is: it depends. The way I see it, there is a sort of hierarchy decisions to consider. We can argue left and right about the correct way to train, but at the end of the day the key thing is to move, and that’s right at the top of hierarchy. If the choice is between not moving at all and doing yoga, then yoga is a brilliant choice. It doesn’t matter all that much what you are doing, so long as you are moving in some form. Note: obviously there are exceptions and sometimes being on the sofa is what is best for you. Here I’m assuming you have x amount of time in which you could exercise and that that is a healthy decision for you.
If you are enjoying your yoga practice and movement, then you might want to take it a bit further. The next level on the hierarchy is to split what your training method is actually focusing on. I like to group this into cardiovascular training, strength/resistance work and then flexibility/mobility. Most training methods will encompass more than one of these to varying degrees. For example, yoga is primarily focused on increasing flexibility, but also includes resistance training due to the body weight exercises used. A power class may even improve cardiovascular fitness. By breaking down simply “exercising” into just three categories, you can identify what you might not already be doing. You’ll often see yogis going bouldering as it really tests your strength, plus involves upper body pulling motion that yoga doesn’t offer. Running, circuits or a higher intensity class are great ways to increase cardiovascular fitness. So here, to tick off mobility, strength and cardio you might do yoga, bouldering and running.
Building on the hierarchy again, you have skill-specific training. If you are training for a marathon, you’ll obviously need to focus on cardiovascular training, with mobility work, strength sessions as a support. Yoga here might take a backstage supporting role, with some more gentle yoga options.
For me personally, I feel healthiest mentally and physically when yoga is a part of my training plan. If yoga is your heart and soul and you cannot imagine doing anything else, then I’d encourage you to try different styles so that you still move your body in different ways.
Disclaimer: this article is designed for general guidance and suggestion. If you have an injury or specific goal then you will need more specific advice that may disregard this article entirely. Although this piece looks at the role of yoga in a physical way, it is a practice originating from a spiritual purpose, which again may impact the role that yoga plays in your life!