Yoga Journal Experts: Comparing the Approach to Exercise Training Vs. Yoga Practice
By Cyndi Lee, courtesy of Yoga Journal.
I do a variety of exercise, including yoga and weight training. I've heard that you are not supposed to train the same part of your body every day because you are supposed to let the muscles rest. Does that mean I can't do the same yoga sequence daily?
Cyndi Lee's reply:
There are several distinctions between weight training, walking, and yoga. In weight training and walking, you focus on a specific area of the body. Strength-training technique teaches us to work to what is called "failure," which means you do a certain number of sets with a specific number of repetitions until you can't go any longer. This method for building strength creates big muscles because it develops muscle mass away from the bone. In yoga, the muscles are drawn onto the bones evenly, front, back, and side, in order to support the skeleton.
In yoga you work the entire body in harmony in every single pose. The aim is to create a balance of skin, muscles, and bone so that our energy, breath, and fluids can flow without obstruction. Of course, this may not be your immediate experience because certain body parts are stronger than others. Instead you may feel more effort or get tired in areas that are not as strong. That's just part of the process of gaining equal strength and awareness throughout the entire body.
Another thing that sets yoga apart: In some workout regimes, you can tell if you are not doing an exercise correctly because you don't "feel" anything. In yoga if you don't feel anything, it may mean that you are in complete balance and as a result, your physical sensations are harmonious.
When you do feel one area more intensely than another, you may notice that your mind fixates on that spot. If this happens, it can serve as a wake-up call to bring the attention back to the breath and let go of the effort throughout the body. When you experience equanimity of body, the mind starts to come to stillness and experience equanimity as well.
I think it's fine to do yoga every day. Each asana works every part of the body in some way. There shouldn't be an area of the body that reaches total fatigue in a practice session. Though you can choose to focus your practice on a specific part of the body, a complete sequence practiced with a holistic approach should keep you in balance.
Cyndi Lee is the founder of OM yoga center in New York City. She is a longtime practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism and has been teaching yoga for over 20 years. Cyndi is the author of OM Yoga: A Guide to Daily Practice (Chronicle Books) and the upcoming Yoga Body, Buddha Mind (Riverhead Books). For more information, visit www.omyoga.com.
Please consult your physician before starting this or any exercise program.