Yoga for Yoga Haters

Do you love exercising? Do you find that sweaty boot camp and boxing classes are your stress outlet? If high-intensity workouts are your jam, you may think you don’t like yoga (you’re all yang and little yin).

According to Marlynn Wei, M.D., a psychiatrist, yoga teacher and co-author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Yoga, “There’s a notion that to do yoga, you have to be able to sit still or be flexible. But the teaching of yoga is less about poses and mantras and more about body awareness and emotional and physical release and recovery.” To reap the psychological and physical benefits of yoga, you should commit to practicing one or two times a week for 8 to 12 weeks, explains Wei.

There are several ways to make yoga work for you if you’re not a “yoga person.” First, think about yoga as a form of active recovery that allows you to rebound better and be stronger in all your other fitness challenges. Second, apply the qualities that you love about other forms of physical activity to your yoga practice: try vinyasa-style classes, which offer speed and a higher calorie burn, or find yoga classes that feature music you like to keep you engaged during the practice.

Here are some more ways to make yoga work for you:

Your First Thought: “I’m not spiritual or Zen.”

Rethink it: Don’t force it. “Yoga is meditative by nature, so if you’re doing yoga or even just yoga breathing, you’re already being spiritual, so to speak,” says Wei. “If you don’t like mantras and yoga talk, tune them out and focus on yourself.”

Your First Thought: “Yoga doesn’t feel like a real workout.”

Rethink it: Look for vinyasa or power yoga for more of a burn. Or take yoga out of the workout category and think of it as a mode of self-care or relaxation.

Your First Thought: “I’m not bendy enough.”

Rethink it: Do modifications, advises Wei. “There is no shame in it,” she says. “The power of accepting where your body and mind are at in that moment is the most empowering yoga principle of all.”

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