Tom Holland said "yoga won't make you skinny" on The Joy Behar Show. Well, that's easy to say if your mat is full of dust, Tom! I think yoga is one of the best core workouts and it keeps me from having to do crunches day after day. If you power up your yoga practice with a fast moving flow and a touch of strength training, you will indeed drop pounds. It all depends on your approach and intensity. So I'm going to say that Tom Holland is WRONG. Whether you're a fan or on the fence, check out my TOP 10 reasons to love yoga paired with stylish trends for summer.
TOP 10 MOST LOVABLE THINGS ABOUT YOGA AND FOR YOGA:
#1. Yoga is about listening first.
Beautiful poses and a smooth yoga flow don't happen overnight. But you'll get there, building up the courage for handstands and more by listening to your teacher's guidance, your breadth and your heart. You can even listen to your yoga mat! The Audio Yoga Mat from Gaiam ($39.98) talks or sings to you with a built-in speaker. Just attach your ipod and play an instructional workout that you can download for free HERE!
#2. Yoga embraces all people, even non-hemp-loving-vegans.
Individuality is sacred to yoga. Yes, every instructor or school of yoga has a philosophy to preach but that's just something they're sharing to enrich your life. You can take it or leave it. The consensus is that you should always make your practice your own, whether you deviate from a yoga sequence in class or wear something different than everybody else. Express your personality with a yoga bag that doesn't look like the rest. Vintage Modern Design bags by Jane Schneider have a front pocket for your yoga block. You don't see that everyday.
#3. Yoga is for sharing and there's always room for 1 more mat.
Yoga Vida, one of my favorite NYC-based yoga studios, doesn't mind asking people who have already laid out there mats to make more room for more incoming students during peak hours. Owner Mike Patton has openned up a 2nd Yoga Vida location (which is large, airy and sunlit) to accommodate the overflow even though he admits a 2nd studio is risky. He just doesn't like turning students away and at $10/class you can imagine Yoga Vida is a popular spot. Yoga can be pricey in NYC but not at Yoga Vida where a student ID gets you a $5 yoga class. 'Great prices, great instructors' is their shtick. My favorite instructor, Hilaria Thomas, has quite a story to tell. She was a competitive ballroom dancer who broke her hip from over-exercise and ended up in a wheelchair for months. She rebounded with a style of yoga instruction that focuses on knowing your body and its limits. She makes anatomical references during class and each week the focus is on a specific body part. Hilaria is famously known for her strenuous but totally-worth-it ab sequence (sit-ups, twists, grunting, etc). She'll easily win your yoga heart just like she won actor Alec Baldwin's. Listen to him gush about how he'd rather travel the world with her than do anything else. Hopefully Alec knows how to share!
#4. Yoga gives you strong arms.
The kind of arms that look like they've been worked out but still fit into your favorite going out tops. They're called "yoga arms" and they're deceiving because they can hold your body weight without looking bulky. It's amazing how a holding pose (like Warrior 1) with arms reaching to the sky can activate the muscles in your arms, even when you're holding them still. It's not easy and you definitely feel the burn. For strong yoga arms, I like the Voyage Wrap from Athleta ($59) and the Yogi Arms Hoodie ($57) from Sprigs (call 888.327.2241 to order). Whether you go short-sleeved or long, these stylish cover-ups are lightweight and easy to layer.
#5. Yoga brings balances to your life.
Sometimes the way it happens is magical and you can't explain it. In my case, I one day became less wobbly and more collected in heels. On a deeper level, I acquired the ability to make important things in my life play nice with each other and not quibble or compete for my time. It feels like life is on your side, whether things are perfect or not. To fully understand, embark on your own journey or read Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer. It's an inspiring yoga memoir and a fantastic summer read.
#6. Yoga keeps morphing.
Lots of people still think of yoga as a new-agey meditation gathering set to Sounds of the Rainforest music. But a lot has changed. For example, it's 2011 and Barrack Obama is President. Even though classical forms of yoga still thrive, news kinds have grown out of it significantly changing the yoga landscape. The list is endless and right now I'm loving YogaTone, created by Kristin McGee (who I adore). Her dvd isn't fancy by any means but it's legit by all means. It combines strength training with yoga and it's only 30-minutes long. All you need is a pair of light weights and a mat. I'm sticking my tongue out at Tom Holland right now because this is definitely a skinny girl workout.
#7. Yoga is like a good massage.
It's a 2 for 1. A workout and a massage at once! Whenever I'm feeling sore after a high-impact kickboxing class or brutal bootcamp beatdown, I make sure to do yoga the next day. Yoga relieves muscle tension and opens space up throughout your body, especially in tight zones like your shoulders. Just because you're stretching doesn't mean it isn't exercise or that you can't burn calories doing it. I think it's a misconception. I honestly sweat more in my favorite power yoga classes (non-heated) than I do in high-impact cardio classes. I like to apply Badger Sore Muscle Rub on my shoulders, back and calves before yoga class to help relieve any muscle pain I'm dealing with. It sounds weird but it really helps to get your muscles and joints extra warmed up. Badger Sore Muscle Rub has cayenne in it which is naturally anti-inflammatory. It also contains an organic ingredient list of ginger, cardamom, rosemary and lemongrass. You can buy it HERE on Amazon or for $7 at Organic Beauty Now.
#8. Yoga improves your sex life.
I'm going to keep this short, sweet and PG-13 since I know my mom will eventually read this. Here's what you can expect to improve: your flexibility, range and overall creativity. You'll flow in bed like you do on the mat. Give it a roll and catch your lover's attention in sexy yoga-wear by Margarita Activewear. The slash detailing is scandalously thought provoking! On a serious note, the slashes will keep you cool when things get hot...in yoga class, duh!
#9. Yoga reminds you to stick to what you stand for.
Let's be honest, sometimes we forget to adhere to the values we claim define us. It happens and that's OK. This is where yoga can have you back because the practice of yoga makes you more self-aware. You learn to shut out all the noise and let go of the chatter in your head. You find the inner voice that often struggles to be heard and you begin to catch yourself when you stray from what you believe in. Jewelry designer Jennifer Stock makes a beautiful collection of yoga-inspired jewelry that I wear as a constant reminder to always be me. Russell Simmons is also a fan (such a copycat, that Russell!). I discovered Jennifer at Jivamukti NYC and got to see her entire collection at once. Her dainty necklaces are quite stunning paired with yoga attire or a little black dress. And I'm pining after this OM Ring! If you'd like a custom design, email her here.
#10. Yoga is a dance.
It's not meant to be rigid and it's certainly not bootcamp. There is a flow and sequence to yoga that turns it into a dance, especially once you're comfortable with the poses. Yoga has actually made me more of dancer, improving my foot coordination and making my step lighter. The crossover between yoga and dance has inspired hybrid classes like BarWorks taught at YogaWorks Studios (located in NY and CA). Taught in NYC by professional ballet dancer Courtney Helena (jumping below), BarWorks combines ballet barre fitness with stretching/stability yoga poses like downward dog, plank and lunge twists. Barre fitness classes are everywhere these days but BarWorks does a beautiful job of preserving the pace, inner focus and zen nature of yoga, more so than the rest. The barres are detachable and everyone in class gets their own. You'll even use the barre as a free weight to work your arms. You won't leave this class dripping sweat (at all) but you'll walk out tighter than you walked in. Courtney's cool Yumiko dancer-wear might rub off on you too!
GET SKINNY YOGA GIVEAWAY:
I'm giving away a Vintage Modern Designs Yoga Bag. The designer, Jane Schneider is a yogi inspired by 60's and 70's textiles. If you can guess her favorite color, you win the bag! A winner will be picked on June 8th, 2011. Guess away and good luck!
Photos of Hilaria Thomas courtesy of photographer Dominic Neitz.