Today, millions of people do yoga as a form of exercise.
It’s a phenomenal practice with many benefits — a great way to work out both your body and mind. Instead of exercising with weights or on the treadmill, yoga allows you to build your body naturally.
Yoga is an excellent exercise for those advancing in age, as well, since it’s gentle on bones and joints and stimulating for the mind. If you’re aging and worried that you aren’t doing enough for your health, yoga can benefit you in many ways.
Its positive health benefits can maybe even lower your life insurance rates.
But is yoga right for you? If you’re just beginning to think about getting shape for the first time (or getting back into shape), is practicing yoga the best fit for you and your goals?
Here are a few yoga pros and cons to consider.
Overall, yoga is one of the best workouts your body can possibly get, and you’ll find it engages and calms your mind, as well. However, practicing yoga at a studio can be expensive and it can be quite challenging to master without lots of dedicated practice.
One of the biggest pros or benefits of yoga is that your body will feel fantastic! You’ll limber up, improve mobility, and develop core strength. However, one of the biggest cons or drawbacks is that you’ll quickly hit a ceiling in terms of how much muscle you can add doing yoga — you might want to choose strength training for a more “jacked” physique.
Let’s dive in a little deeper.
Pros of Practicing Yoga
If you’re starting from ground zero, any kind of exercise is better than none at all.
You’ve got to get up and start moving your body, period!
But you have a lot of choices. You could take up running, weight lifting, kickboxing, or barre, for example.
Yoga features all of the same benefits as most of those disciplines, but has a few special benefits of its own.
1. Stress Relief
Many people consider stress relief to be the number one benefit of yoga.
Psychology Today cites doctors who claim that over 80% of medical visits are caused by stress. With this in mind, yoga does things for your psyche that no other form of exercise can match.
The reason it relieves stress so well is the combination of vigorous training, physical exhaustion, and mental reflection.
Most yoga sessions involve peaceful silence or calm music that encourage people to look inward, reflect, and find a more peaceful state of mind.
And if you stick with yoga long enough, you’re bound to become a skilled meditator.
(I shouldn’t need to tell you about the benefits of regular meditation, but you can read all about them on Healthline.)
2. Physical Fitness and Weight Loss
OK, OK, so yoga is great for your mind. But are the workouts any good?
If you’ve never tried it before, you might think it looks easy. It’s stretching in a dark room with calm music, how hard can that be?!
Well, I’d encourage you to give it a shot. You’ll be in for a rude awakening.
Yoga comes in lots of different shapes and sizes. Sure, there is gentle, restorative yoga, that focuses on deep stretching and stillness (like Yin yoga).
But there are also brutal, vigorous power yoga classes (like Bikram), that challenge every muscle in your body in ways you never imagined.
If you stick with your yoga practice and give it a good effort, you’ll develop excellent core strength, stability, power, and flexibility. You’ll probably greatly improve your mobility and surprise yourself with how strong these seemingly-simple moves can make you over time.
Not to mention, you’ll burn a great deal of calories during yoga (especially sweat-dripping hot yoga classes), which makes it great for slimming down to a healthier bodyweight.
3. Physical “Therapy”
Yoga exercises the brain by helping you strengthen your mind-body connection and encouraging introspective reflection.
But you’ll also find yoga classes are often “themed” and can teach you a lot about yourself and the world.
Yoga isn’t just about posing and stretching. Teachers often challenge their students mindsets, encourage gratitude, promote healthier self-talk, and more.
If you’ve got serious baggage, yoga isn’t a replacement for therapy, but it can really have a large positive impact on your mental health if you open yourself up to it.
You’ll feel great after almost any workout when you’re physically exhausted, but yoga, more than anything else, will change the way you see and think about the world.
4. Time Efficient
Let’s be realistic–we all could use more time in a day.
Exercising, eating healthy, and watching your health just adds more things to the list.
Yoga is a time-efficient way to get a workout, if you want it to be. Lots of studio classes are just 45 minutes or so, and you can even do yoga at home (using an app or following along on YouTube).
Lots of yogis like to start the day with a quick 15-minute sequence, or break up their afternoon with a short flow.
However, you can also immerse yourself in yoga classes if you’d like a more powerful experience, with 90 minute classes that completely engage your entire mind, body, and spirit.
5. Core Strength
Almost every single yoga move or pose will challenge your core (abs, obliques, spinal erectors, and more).
You’ll need to stabilize yourself in a variety of difficult positions, mastering not only your breath work, but your core strength.
Simply put, if you stick with your practice long enough and master some of the more challenging yoga poses, you’ll develop a rock hard core.
That could mean visible abs if you have a low enough body fat percentage.
Or it could just mean a really tight core made of steel that helps you feel fantastic each and every day. A solid core is key to avoiding a lot of injuries and aches and pains as we get older.
Cons of Practicing Yoga
There aren’t too many drawbacks to practicing yoga, and I’d recommend almost everyone try it at least a few times!
But if you’re looking for something to commit to, and you really want to get in shape but don’t know where to start, it’s possible there are better choices for you than yoga.
Here are some reasons it might not be a good fit for everyone:
Yoga is expensive. Period.
Memberships at a reputable studio can cost you up to 100 bucks a month, compared to less than half of that cost to join a gym.
You may also need a lot of gear and accessories, like yoga pants and tops, a yoga mat, blocks, towels, and more. Of course, most studios will provide mats and blocks, but if you get serious about the practice you’ll soon want your own.
You can do yoga from home for free, of course, but learning yourself compared to learning from a licensed, schooled instructor makes an enormous difference.
2. Not the Best Muscle Builder
Yoga is amazing for the lean, athletic look.
If you practice regularly and control your diet, you’ll probably be really happy with your results! It can help you stay slim and develop a little bit of muscle on your arms, shoulders, and legs… not to mention outrageous core strength and abs.
However, if you have loftier goals for building muscle, you may need to look beyond yoga and consider lifting weights.
Yoga won’t give you bulging biceps or 3D shoulders unless you’re supplementing with progressive overload in the gym.
3. Finding Qualified Instructors
When starting yoga, you won’t know what you’re doing right away.
There is an enormous learning curve, and there are not many ways around it.
You most likely will need to learn from a qualified instructor. The problem is not everybody is qualified. There are plenty of instructors who claim to be certified and are not.
(Becoming a yoga teacher is a nebulous and sometimes subjective practice. There are many schools and training programs that produce wonderful teachers, and others that are pure cash grabs.)
You may need to try a few different studios and teachers to find the best fit for you, which can take some time and might discourage you if you don’t find a fit right away.
4. Can Cause Injuries
It’s a bit of a catch-22.
Yoga is great at preventing injuries by improving your core strength and flexibility.
But if you’re not careful, it can also cause injuries.
Make sure you learn from an instructor who can correct your form, and never push yourself farther than your body can handle.
When you do too much too fast in yoga, you can pull muscles or develop musculoskeletal pain from bending at strange or awkward angles.
However, if most people take things slow and avoid overreaching, yoga is pretty safe.
Yoga deserves all the attention it has been receiving in recent years.
It trains your body physically by building stamina, flexibility, and strength. It also prepares your body mentally and spiritually, unlike any other form of exercise.
The pairing of physical and mental activity is something yoga possesses better than any other way of getting in shape.
For those reasons, yoga is a great choice for almost anyone looking to start their fitness journey, but it’s not the only option out there.
Check out my workout reviews to see what I think about spin classes, boot camps, Orangetheory, and more!
Ethan Lichtenberg is a writer for EffortlessInsurance.com and other top car insurance comparison sites. He enjoys reading Fredrik Backman and sneaking off to the beach every chance he gets.