7 Yoga Alternatives for a Limber and Fit Body

Even when you think yoga isn't right for you, you can still keep fit and achieve holistic wellness by trying out any of these yoga alternatives that are also mind-body exercises.

A group of young athletic women.

Mind-body exercises have to be one of the most popular and many sought-after forms of exercise since ancient times. The most common and trending types of these particular exercises are none other than yoga. We all are quite aware of why yoga has been brought to the front and why so many yoga studios have been popping up lately all over the world. The fact that yoga emphasizes so much on movement, posture, meditation, and a kind of spiritual awakening is the main reason why so many people are practicing this form of exercise.

However, as amazing and relaxing yoga sounds, it is not for everyone. It is definitely really popular, but not every person has truly been able to benefit from it. In actuality, not many people could consider yoga to be synonymous to the whole mind-body exercise phenomenon. For these people, the mind-body concept has a lot more to do with aspects like inner focus, attention to alignment, an emphasis on muscular movements, systematic breathing patterns and a belief in the “life energy”.

Yoga may have created quite a trend and hype in the world of fitness and general well-being, however, it is surely not meant for everyone.

If yoga hasn’t exactly been right up your alley either, there are numerous other alternatives that you can try that might even bring you bigger and better physical and mental benefits that yoga itself.

Qigong

Also known as chi chung and chi kung, Qigong is best described as a holistic form or system of exercises that blend together body movement and posture, meditation and breathing. It is composed of movements that help stretch the body, build a kind of awareness about how the body moves and also increases the movement of various fluids in the body such as lymph, blood and synovial.

Some key aspects of Qigong include deep rhythmic breathing, slow flowing movement, and peaceful meditation. It is considered to be one of the best ways to learn the art of balancing and cultivating ‘qi’ that means “life energy”. This form of exercise has its roots well-placed in philosophy, martial arts, and Chinese medicine.

Since Qigong has mainly come from the ancient Chinese culture, its popularity goes as far back as almost 4000 years ago. Over the years, a variety of different forms and practices of the traditional Qigong have been developed that help coordinate the mind, body, and breath. Some of its essential principals include intentional movement, visualization, awareness, rhythmic breathing, balance and counterbalance, and chanting.

The effectiveness of Qigong carries evidence from thousands of years ago when it helped so many people China by bettering their mental and physical health. For most people, one of the most important ways that Qigong benefitted them was a great relief from the prevention of chronic health problems. For many others, it led to personal development, significant mental clarity, and the creation of energy in their emotional and physical bodies.

There are three major types of Qigong, namely medical qigong, spiritual qigong, and martial qigong. Medical qigong is the most popular of all since it fosters self-healing. Spiritual qigong includes the use of mudras, prayers, mantras, and meditation, almost like in yoga classes, while martial qigong focuses on physical powers by demonstrating a variety of physical feats.

PilatesWomen doing pilates

While it is not exactly a form of mind-body exercise, it is often referred to as “yoga’s more athletic cousin”. The main focus and emphasis of Pilates are on enhancing the connection of the mind and body, reduce stress and tension by linking the breath with a lot of bodily movement. It is very similar to quit a few yoga poses in many ways that can vary in intensity and range from moderate to advanced levels.

This incredibly amazing physical fitness system was introduced by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Since then, it has gained significant popularity particularly in Western countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. It mainly resulted from his belief that our physical and mental health is deeply connected so he went on to integrate numerous western forms of exercise like Greco-Roman wrestling, gymnastics, and boxing.

The main aim of pilates is to enhance general well-being and fitness and also to strengthen the body in an even, consistent matter. Pilates is a great option for all those looking to maintain a good posture and to toughen up their pelvis and abdomen. But it is also an excellent way to increase flexibility in the body and tone the body with a major focus on the core.

The best part about pilates is that it is not restricted to specific parts of the body. While its exercises do primarily focus on the core and trunk, that doesn’t limit to just a single area of your body. You should know that the trunk of your body also covers your back, outer thighs, inner thighs, and the entire abdominal region. So, when doing Pilates, you can expect a full body workout that isn’t very rigorous or intense. Also, there are two types of pilates classes, namely mat classes, and reformer classes. The latter includes the use of a machine that has a sliding platform with pulleys, foot bar, and strings, while the former makes use of a thick mat that targets your pressure points.

Tai ChiPeople doing tai chi

This is referred to as more of a graceful form of exercise and is a type of art that embraces the body, spirit and the mind. Like Qigong, the roots of Tai Chi also lie in ancient Chinese culture where it was initially developed for self-defense purposes. Today, it involves a series of movements and techniques that are carried out in a very slow, systematic manner, coupled with deep, rhythmic breathing.

Tai Chi is basically a non-competitive type of martial art that combines simple and gentle physical exercises with a bit of stretching followed by sessions of mindfulness. It greatly helps enhance the flexibility of your body, balance, and control, as well as your overall fitness. Numerous studies conducted on the benefits of Tai Chi for the mind and body have significantly shown that it helps improve muscular strength, enhances your overall wellness and health, relieves chronic pain and gives a major boost to fitness and flexibility.

Tai Chi has been categorized into different types and styles, each with unique characteristics, forms, and benefits. Some of these include the sun-style, chen0-style, wu-style, wu (hao)-style, and yang-style. In each of these types, every movement of the body is such that it protects and supports the joints in the body, facilitates a proper circulation of body fluids like blood, enables people to be more flexible and move around easily, builds a kind of an inner strength from inside out and greatly emphasizes on weight transference in order to prevent falls and also improve the balance.

Martial Arts

Martial Arts training

You have probably heard of terms like Judo, Karate, Kung fu and Capoeira before. All these come under the umbrella of martial arts, another great alternative to yoga for a fit and limber body. This is the ultimate epitome of mind-body connection and workout whereby it aims to target every single characteristic of a mind-body exercise.

Much of the movement required in martial arts rely on the correct posture, form, and alignment of the body. It includes several breathing patterns through different exercises that help you regulate your breathing and also bring your mind at peace.

Martial arts, over the years, have been divided into various categories like grappling, striking, archery, swordsmanship and spearmanship. Chinese martial arts are believed to have originated almost some 4000 years ago during the period of the legendary Xia Dynasty. It has continuously gained popularity since then and eventually transformed modern martial arts which are a combination of Indian martial arts and a bit of the early Chinese martial arts.

Contrary to typically held beliefs, martial arts aren’t just for those who are looking to master the art of self-defense, but they can also be taught and learned in low-impact settings as a way to enhance bodily movement, breathing, and balance. There are also several physical and mental health benefits associated with martial arts. You can expect significant improvements in your overall cardiovascular fitness and the strength of your muscles with the help of this form of physical activity. Research on martial arts has also shown over time that it helps enhance stamina, flexibility, posture, endurance, increased bone density, and an improvement in balance and walking.

In terms of mental health, it is more like a form of mental therapy whereby it helps people release suppressed emotions and feelings. It also helps improve assertiveness as well a person’s attention span.

Contemporary DanceA couple performing dance

There is no denying the fact that dancing is indeed a beautiful way to express all that is inside you through various different bodily movements. If yoga is not your thing, perhaps you could try your hand at different types of dancing styles. There is a whole world out there filled with types and styles of dancing for you to choose from, however, the most fun and amazing is contemporary dance.

It is defined as a type of an expressive dance that blends in various genres and elements like classical ballet, modern, lyrical and ballet. The core focus of contemporary dancing is on versatility and improvisation. It can be performed to a variety of music styles and is often done barefoot, on the floor, which is considered to be a way of using gravity to pull down towards the floor.

The contemporary style of dance was developed in the 20th century which is why it is also often referred to as the modern form of dancing. The best part of this style is that it lets the dancers explore unique horizons of the movements of their body. Although contemporary dance classes are not exactly similar to yoga classes, there is still great similarity between the two in terms of their health benefits which is one of the primary reasons why contemporary dance could be a possible alternative to yoga.

Some of the key mental and physical health benefits provided by contemporary or modern style of dance are extreme flexibility, ultimate relaxation, the versatility of movement, physical fitness and a means of self-expression. There is a certain kind of freedom of movement in this style of dance where the body is able to pick up on the dance moves with great ease and flexibility. Furthermore, dancing in any form or style helps attain great physical fitness and contemporary dancing also helps you do that given the series of physical movement that it involves. So, if you are aiming for a physically fit and a limber body, perhaps you should dance your way to it.

Lastly, this form of dancing provides with almost the same kind of relaxation and peace of mind like yoga does. Regardless of how stressed out or mentally disturbed, you might be, dancing all those worries out can help you connect with your inner self and bring your mind at peace and rest.

Gyrotonics

This is probably the closest alternative to yoga since this exercise system is more like the incorporation of principles and movements from tai chi, yoga, swimming, gymnastics, and dance. It is often described as a new type of mind-body exercise that focuses particularly on spirals and arcs of the body.

Gyrotonics works by strengthening the body and stretching the body in order to develop bodily coordination, increase the range of motion, and correct your overall form and posture. It attempts to open up energy pathways in the body, improve the efficiency of your movement and also stimulate the nervous system.

It is three-dimensional in terms of its range of movements in which it helps you get into a state of active relaxation by connecting with your body and enabling you to breathe the right way. The exercises that are a part of the whole Gyrotonics series kind of like flow from one movement to the next and while doing so, they allow a slow, defined range of motion within the joints of your body. The exercise regime manages to do this without compressing the joints. This results in extreme flexibility, balance, strength, and efficiency.

The key feature of Gyrotonic is the use of a machine called the Gyrotonic Expansion System (GXS). This is a wooden machine with weighted pulleys and rotational discs that provide you with a chance to strengthen your muscles with the help of circular and smooth movements. As compared to other machine-based exercises, the Gyrotonic machine makes you do all the work. In order to get the most out of this system of exercise, it is absolutely vital for you to get your breathing right and connect with your body in ways that you have never done or experienced before.

BalletWoman practicing ballet

Most of you had probably taken ballet lessons or classes back when you were little kids. If not, perhaps you just admired and marveled at the ultimate beauty of form, posture, and movement that resulted from this beautiful performance dance. While ballet is obviously a lot different from yoga and one is likely to say that the two are not even remotely close. However, you must have noticed at some point in life that many ballet dancers are experienced yogis or those who are in the process of learning ballet take great help from yoga.

The primary reason behind this is that there are many different exercises in yoga that are quite similar to the kinds of movements taught in ballet classes. The main focus of ballet is on motion through which it produces short, graceful and repetitive movements that are so swift and beautiful.

While on the apparent, ballet may seem like a fancy and elegant performance dance, however, putting that aside, it has so many health benefits both for the mind and the body. Ballet simply changes the way your body looks making your arms, hips, waist, back, and legs stronger and leaner than before. This greatly helps you carry yourself with utter poise, composure, ease, and self-confidence. Ballet also makes way for super efficient and beautiful body mechanics by emphasizing on the way you move in order to ensure proper alignment.

Many people believe that ballet is a very slow-moving dance form that can’t help them much in terms of getting a physically fit and limber body. However, that is quite a wrongly-held notion because ballet sessions can actually be as intense as a boot-camp workout or even a HIIT workout. This is true because ballet focuses on total or full body-engagement which, over time, results in a more functional, sporty, fit and refined body. You will probably be surprised to know those ballet dancers are some of the fittest and the most robust and versatile of all people in the world.

 

The balance of the mind-body connection is a very important one if you wish to stay mentally and physically fit. Be it yoga, or any other method such as dancing, tai chi, or pilates, one must always engage in at least form of mind-body exercise in order to live a fit, healthy and happy life.





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