Why I Do Yoga in a Class

Yoga at Runyon Canyon with Yogi Donna Decoster

I had never workout at my own will until 2004 (I did have gym class in high school, but that’s another story), when I was first introduced to a proper structured workout with Power 90. And then, I moved on to traditional weight training, swimming, martial arts and outdoor activities. What I’m trying to say is that my idea of a real workout is a high intensity and strenuous movement activity. When I began with P90X few years ago, I was both surprised and dreaded that Yoga is incorporated in the workout schedule on a weekly basis. Just like in the mainstream society and the fitness community in general, I thought that Yoga is only for women, old people and tree huggers.

Initially, I thought of skipping Yoga and substitute it with another cardio routine. I actually did that my first few weeks of P90X. I finally got persuaded to do Yoga when I heard that Tony Horton does Yoga on regular basis and he credits his strength, agility and flexibility at his age due to the practice. On my 3rd week of P90X, I sucked it up and played the YogaX DVD. That was my first time of doing Yoga and I have to say that it wasn’t so bad. I was sweating profusely and more than when I was doing P90X Chest & Back. However, even after 2 rounds of P90X, I cannot say that I was disciplined with doing Yoga every week. One thing I realized with playing the Yoga DVD is that I could always press skip, pause or fast forward on certain moves that I do not like.

On my way hiking at Runyon Canyon Park in Hollywood, I stumbled on a free outdoor Yoga class at that park. I decided to join in and I felt great completing a very intense Yoga class. The difference doing it in a class is that when you’re doing Yoga with 20-30 other people, you’re more likely to do the routine properly. For me, I did not want to look bad, quitting doing Warrior 2 pose while 10 other girls were doing the pose nicely – I mean, hey, I’m the P90X Success Story, I have some reputation to maintain 😉 And furthermore, when I am in a Yoga class, I could never pause or walk out of the class, unlike the DVD.

If you’re struggling with YogaX, I’d highly recommend that you check out local Yoga classes in your neighborhood. However, I found out the hard way every Yoga class is different, and if you’re unlucky, you might just got yourself a teacher whose idea of working out is sleep-stretching.


Yoga & Muscles

Stretching elongates the connective tissue covering all muscles and muscle cells. When the connective tissue is stretched using the techniques of yoga the muscle underneath is ultimately given greater room to grow. Stretching also gives the muscle a greater shape, with more convolutions, so muscle separation improves as well. Stretching when combined with proper nutrition can even alter bone structures. Bone structure can change dramatically such as sternums being pushed out to clavicles increasing in length, thereby increasing the shoulder structure. Yoga stretching can be especially good for muscle groups that don’t respond well to regular weight training.

Yoga when done consistently can increase your strength. Regular stretching gives your muscles the ability to fire more efficiently without shutting down in response to stretched tendons. The golgi tendon organs (GTOs) are located in the tendons near the ends of the muscle fibers. Essentially these GTOs are stretch receptors, and they respond to changes in muscle or tendon length as a muscle or tendon is stretched, or when a muscle contracts powerfully.

In the weight room when you fail with a weight on a max rep, it isn’t just because of muscular fatigue: it’s because your GTOs fired and shut down your muscles. So how do you raise your GTO threshold? By stretching your muscles and ligaments regularly you can raise your GTO threshold, gaining a strength increase by as much as 15 to 20%. The higher your GTO threshold, the more intensity you can train with which leads to greater strength gains.