by Heidi Kristoffer for SHAPE.com
Heidi Kristoffer doing yogaBy nature, I am not a comparer. Everything has its plusses and minuses in my book (except, of course, yoga which is all plusses!). So, while I am not anti-gym, I do think that yoga kicks the gym's derrière on every level, and you can kick your own (butt, that is) in yoga, literally, if you feel like it!
People are always curious as to "what else I do" to "work out" other than yoga. The answer? Nothing! Yoga is everything my body needs to function at it's absolute best. Here's why:
It's efficient! Why would I waste so much time at the gym working each part of my body separately when I can connect all of the dots and do it all at once with yoga? No amount of lifting weights is going to make my arms as strong as holding up my own body weight in yoga. Also, practically everything you do in yoga is engaging your core, from core-centric poses to moving from pose to pose, using your core to stabilize your body. And in different inversions and arm balances, yoga allows you to raise your heartbeat, strengthen your muscles, and lengthen them out all at once. How's that for efficiency?
It can count as cardio. All you have to do is try a few sun salutations or any flow at a good, steady pace, matching your breath to your movement. Or, if you are a bit more adventurous, try some Kundalini kriyas (like the Kundalini frogs in the step-by-step breakdown of shoulder press pose.)
Yoga is not a competitive sport! I prefer yoga to the gym as I steer clear of anything that involves pitting myself against others. Isn't there enough competition in work and in life in general? While some people thrive on trying to be the fastest in spin class or trying to run longer than the woman on the treadmill next to them, in yoga it doesn't matter what any one else is doing. There is no comparing or competing because there is only you.
It saves money. In fact, yoga doesn't have to cost a penny. All you need to practice is you. You can wear any clothes that allow you to move, and you don't even need a yoga mat : grass and carpet work just fine. If you want some inspiration, there are plenty of great, inexpensive yoga DVDs or free online videos.
You can do it anywhere. With no equipment necessary, it doesn't matter if you are at home, at your office, on the road-or even in the streets of NYC , as in the SHAPE Yoga Anywhere videos. So long as you have the desire, you can strike a few poses.
Yoga will help you lose weight. Practicing yoga changes your mind: It changes the way you approach life, your body, and eating. Yoga shows you how to appreciate your body for all of the amazing things that it can do for you and points you in the direction of wanting to fill your body with the best possible fuel rather than processed junk food. And changing your mind about your body and the foods you feed it will be a much more effective weight-loss tool than burning a bunch of calories in an aggressive kick-boxing class and then mindlessly plowing through equal or more calories later that day.
Hello, variety. Yoga can be different every single day, if you want it to be. Want a challenge? Throw some arm balances and inversions into your practice. Need to focus? Try a few balance poses sequentially on the same foot. Or if you're seeking relaxation, hang out in pigeon , a few seated forward folds, and a restorative backbend.
No injuries. In yoga, you learn to unite your body and mind. This allows you to move with ease and pay attention to how your body is feeling at all times, so you move in a way that feels good for you and not one that puts you in places your body doesn't want to be. The result? An injury-free, strong, healthy, whole you.
RELATED: The Sexy Back Workout
In all fairness, I realize that this is a pretty one-sided argument (okay, a totally one-sided argument). But, for those who ask, "What else you need other than yoga?" I say: If you are going to chose one over the other, chose the one that saves you time, saves you money, makes you feel great, and helps you lose weight.
So you know why we think yoga beats the gym--what do you guys think? Are you team yoga or team treadmill? Sound off in the comments below!