How yoga benefits your walking routine (+poses for beginners)

Yoga is a great way to help walkers get more flexible, build strength, and feel amazing. You probably know that walking is a great way to burn calories and get healthier. Yoga is a great compliment to walking which incorporates stretches for flexibility as well as strength-building poses for stronger legs. Adding yoga to your walking program gives you a great physical activity you can do at home or anywhere that also helps you prevent injuries and soreness. Yoga also can complement walking’s mood-boosting effects by allowing you to focus on breathing and relaxation while you stretch.

That is why pairing yoga with your walking routine, it is the ultimate fitness combination to not only tone your body but also an essential way to stretch your muscles, alleviate pain, and improve your walking.

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Yoga Basics 101

Woman doing yoga on a mat at home
fizkes / Shutterstock

Yoga refers to a variety of exercises, breathing techniques and other practices that have been around for more than 5,000 years. In addition to building strength and flexibility, there is a mediation and breathing component to most yoga practices as well. While many forms of yoga have a spiritual component, there are tons of resources that are easily available on how to practice yoga purely for strength, flexibility, and breathing.

Yoga incorporates poses – static positions that either stretch your body or build strength – with dynamic movements that can build strength and flexibility as well as burning calories. It’s a full-body exercise, which according to WebMD can improve arm strength, core strength, leg strength and more!

One of the benefits of yoga is that it’s accessible to almost anyone, regardless of your age, weight or physical ability. Yoga is a great compliment to cardio exercise like walking in that you can do a relaxing stretching or yoga session at home after a walk or anytime. If you have preexisting injuries or health issues, you can modify most yoga techniques to make them great for any physical level. As you gain strength, flexibility, and experience, you can make your yoga practice as challenging or as relaxing as you want it to be. Yoga comes with many health benefits that can help you build a healthy lifestyle while working on your fitness level.

  • Improves the health of your muscles, joints, and organs.
  • Helps reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  • Improves your flexibility, strength, stamina, mobility, range of motion, and balance.
  • Helps with sleep issues.
  • Helps alleviate common aches like back pain or knee pain.

Putting stretching into a framework like yoga that has an instructor and set of moves (even if they’re on video) can make adding stretching, strength and flexibility exercises more interesting for many people.

Yoga and Walking – They Work Great Together

Women walking with yoga mats in the park
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Walking by itself is a great form of cardio exercise. Combining this low-impact cardio with a steady yoga practice is the perfect way to not only increase mental alertness, help your overall health, and also stretch and tone those stressed muscles. You can go for a calorie-burning walk outside, then relax and recharge with some light stretching or yoga at home.

A great way to initiate your yoga practice is to try some yoga poses before, after, or in the middle of your walk. Not only will you be reaping the health benefits of both, but it may give you the extra incentive to try a full-length yoga class.

Before any yoga or stretching routine, make sure you’re properly warmed up first. Try walking in place or doing some dynamic activities like jumping jacks to get your blood flowing. Here are some great at-home cardio activities to use as a warmup.

Once you’re warmed up, here are two basic yoga moves or poses to try. Of course, if you have an injury or health condition, make sure to consult with a doctor before doing any serious stretching routine (including yoga).

Forward Bend:

Woman doing forward bend yoga pose
fizkes / Shutterstock

This easy pose is great for beginners and helps to stretch those tight legs, hamstrings, and lower back.

Start by standing up straight. Take a big inhale and raise your arms. As you exhale, pull in your belly and bend forward, hinging from the hips. Place your hands or fingertips on the floor (or as close as you can) in front of your feet or next to your feet. Make sure your hips are over your heels as you press your heels into the floor. Keep your neck relaxed as you let it hang. Hold this pose for a few seconds and return to standing.

You shouldn’t feel pain while doing this stretch. If you can’t reach the floor, that’s ok! Don’t try to force yourself into a position, but instead let the weight of your body give you a slight, natural stretch.

Side Body Stretch:

Man doing side stretch during a jog
Mangostar / Shutterstock

This pose is ideal to do anytime or anywhere. It’s not only a great side stretch but also helps open up the side of your body.

Begin with your feet hip-width apart, and lift one arm over your head, with the elbow near your ear. From there, tilt your torso to the opposite side, while extending your arm in the same direction. Return back to start and repeat on the other side.

Resist the urge to do sharp side-to-side motions that can strain your core muscles. Instead, work your way gently into the position and open up your side until you feel a gentle stretch.

Yoga Class Tips (+Gear to Consider)

Men and women doing yoga class together
fizkes / Shutterstock

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, taking a yoga class is the best way to experience a true yoga exercise routine as well as learn how to do common yoga poses. Not only will it help you learn some basic yoga moves that you can do at home during or after your walking routine, but it can become a hobby that you will enjoy for many years to come. Before you head to your next yoga class, here are some yoga basics that will help make your class an amazing experience.

  • Clothes: Make sure you wear workout clothes that will allow you to move freely. You don’t need to buy a special, trendy yoga outfit, just make sure you put on some comfortable clothes that allow freedom of motion in your arms and legs. Keep in mind that certain poses may require you to bend and twist in various ways. Wearing compression shorts under sports shorts or leggings and a sports bra for women is usually a good idea so that you can move freely without worrying about coverage.
  • Yoga Mat: A yoga mat is an essential accessory to do yoga. It provides a padded surface so you’re not stretching and lying against a hard floor. Most yoga studios will provide you with all the essentials you need, including a yoga mat to use during class. You can try before you buy! At home, you can probably get by trying poses on a carpet when you’re new, but a cheap yoga mat will make your yoga routine much more enjoyable.
  • Practice Often: Yoga is a great workout that you can do every day. You don’t need to do long, intense sessions to maintain your flexibility. Doing a few yoga stretches after taking a walk, while also incorporating a yoga class or two a week is the ideal way to reap all the health benefits that yoga provides.
  • Go at Your Own Pace: Whether you’re in a yoga class or watching videos online, take things slowly at your own pace. You may see other people who are very flexible and can do some crazy poses, but they may have trained for years to get that flexible. Take things slow and you’ll notice your flexibility increase over time!
  • Keep Yourself Safe: Make sure you let your instructor know about any injuries or health conditions that you have before class. If you feel uncomfortable or painful in any position, stop and rest. Most yoga teachers will understand. If you find your instructor is pushing you to stretch beyond what you can do safely, it’s time to find a different yoga studio.
  • Use The Internet: If you’re hesitant to head straight to a yoga class, try going online first. Do You Yoga is a great site for yoga basics and beginner yoga tips. Additionally, YouTube is also a great tool to try out some beginner yoga sessions in the comfort of your home.

Why is Yoga (and Stretching in General) Good for Walkers?

Flexibility:

Man and woman stretching in park
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Getting more flexible, according to the Mayo Clinic, can help you decrease your risk of injury and increase athletic performance. Even if you’re not looking to become a professional athlete, flexibility can help you perform better during an intense walking workout. Walking up and down stairs or walking on hills or inclines is easier if you have more flexibility in your legs and hips. More flexibility also helps you avoid injuries from things like twisting or taking a bad step – both in walking and in your daily life. Even doing a low-impact exercise like walking, many things can happen that can twist you up. You can trip over a root, stop suddenly, or slip slightly on an icy surface. Added flexibility helps avoid falls or sprains when these things inevitably occur.

Having an added range of motion in your joints also ensures that your muscles can work in their strongest alignment. This allows you to walk longer without getting tired, and also helps you avoid both sudden slips and longer-term overuse injuries. If you’ve ever had an injury that caused a limp for a short time, you may have noticed that difficulty walking caused other parts of your body to get sore as well.

Strength:

Postal worker delivering packages
Dejan Dundjerski / Shutterstock

Stronger legs allow you to walk longer without getting tired. Building strength also helps keep your bones strong and can help prevent fractures. Increased upper body and lower body strength allow you to carry and lift things more easily, which can prevent unnecessary strain and injury in your daily life. Combined with added flexibility, strength training helps reduce your risk of injury when picking things up, twisting around, or walking over obstacles.

Final thoughts

Incorporating yoga positions into your fitness regimen is the ideal way to complement and enhance your walking workouts. You will discover that over time the more you practice yoga, the leaner, stronger, and faster you will become. It’s the ultimate routine to not only improve your walking but boost your overall sense of well-being!

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Sources:

7 Yoga Poses You Can Do on a Walk. (ND).By Kaisa Kapanen. DoYouYoga

YOGA FOR BEGINNERS. (ND).YogaBasics

Yoga Poses for Walkers. (2011) By Nicole Kwan. Prevention Magazine Online

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