You do not have to join a gym or pump iron to obtain a toned body -- yoga is a wonderful exercise for toning your muscles without looking like a bodybuilder. Practicing yoga poses, or asanas, will give you a long, limber look while also improving your cardiovascular health and overall wellness. Weights and machines are not required to tone your body in yoga. In certain poses, however, you are lifting your own body weight.
Practicing Ashtanga, Power or Vinyasa, which are high-intensity yoga styles, may be your best choice if toning is the desired result. These styles are great for building strength, but less intense styles, such as Hatha or Iyengar, are excellent for first mastering the basic structure of poses so you can keep your body safe in the faster-paced classes. Yoga Journal cautions that while any style of yoga will help tone muscles, it may not necessarily help you to lose weight. A combination of high-powered styles for toning and more gentle and restorative styles for relaxing may be the perfect balance for you.
Gaiam Life explains that experts recommend strength training twice a week for healthy adults to build muscle, keep their metabolism running efficiently and prevent bone loss. You can increase muscle tone and definition through yoga because you are lifting your body weight in certain poses. Unlike weight training, though, you cannot add more resistance, so your results will be a leaner, long look rather than a bulked-up, unbalanced look. Yoga tones your muscles in a natural, healthy and functional way.
Among the many benefits of yoga as a toning exercise are efficiency, affordability and safety. Shape Magazine points out that yoga is a total-body routine, as opposed to a gym workout, which requires moving from machine to machine and working out each body part separately. Yoga can be practiced at home without any expensive equipment. If you feel more motivated in a group environment, many community centers offer affordable yoga classes. Finally, safety is always at the front of the mind in practicing yoga -- the motto is “No pain, no pain,” rather than the typical gym mantra of “No pain, no gain.”
While many die-hard yoga devotees may balk at using yoga simply to tone the body, there is no reason why toning cannot be one aspect. Yoga will help you to lose weight and tone your body along with bringing about a more relaxed and peaceful state of being. Even if you begin a yoga practice with just the physical benefits in mind, you are more than likely to experience the added benefits of developing a healthier attitude toward your diet and your overall well being.
Sheila Hageman is the author of "Stripping Down: A Memoir" and a blogger for The Huffington Post. Her writing has also appeared in several anthologies and magazines. Hageman received her M.F.A. from Hunter College, CUNY, where she also earned a B.A. in English.