Workout Wednesdays: Get Your Yoga On!

Men, don’t let the title deter you—this is for you and the ladies alike.

I’m sure I’m not that much different from many of you when I say that when I came to school last year, I had never done yoga and I was pretty skeptical. I never really thought of it as a workout, and the picture of a woman sitting crisscross-applesauce style with her thumb and forefingers pinched together humming “Owmmmmm” was stuck in my mind. Why should I, or anyone for that matter, do yoga?

Image by Wikimedia Commons

I was walking across the lower quad on a Friday afternoon, finally done with class for the day and ready to be back in my dorm. I usually try to go to the gym for an hour every day, but as I walked, the weight of a long week and a heavy backpack pulling on my stiff shoulders were convincing me that I didn’t want to do anything except nap until dinner time. Back in my dorm room, I realized that I somehow couldn’t sleep and I flipped through the group fitness schedule just to see if there was any class that I considered “easy” going on that day. At 4pm, I found myself barefoot, sitting on a mat, about to put my yoga pants to their proper use for the first time. An hour later, I walked back to my room smiling, no longer feeling so exhausted and with my shoulders feeling better than they had for days, and suddenly I understood yoga.

Today I went to the Week of Welcome yoga class at the SRC because my stomach was bothering me yesterday and I didn’t quite feel up to fitness machines and fast music. I just wanted to stretch and give my body a chance to move, and I must say it worked like a charm! Each yoga instructor has their own technique, style, and approach to yoga: some are closer to the “owmmmming” meditation end of the spectrum and some are closer to pilates, which is more intense in its movements and purposes for toning and sculpting the body. I personally prefer somewhere in the middle, and today at the SRC, that is exactly what I got. There were over a hundred people, non-distracting but peppy music played in the background, and an enthusiastic instructor, winding her way through the rows of downward dogs, tall planks, and shaky first-time stances (including my own.) The stances were traditional, but the transitions were quick and fluid, forcing concentration and continued effort from the body and mind simultaneously. For me the time went by quickly, and as I put away my mat I was pleased to see the number of guys there who had come to participate. Yoga doesn’t discriminate against age or gender.

Two of the many great benefits of yoga are that it gives you the chance to use your body in a way that challenges and stretches, but it does not constantly push you to that pain point of intense cardio where your mind is tied up in the fight for endurance and the pride of finishing that last mile. Even as I concentrate on the motions and on my balance, the pace is enough to allow my mind to wander to other things and just think about my day and confront things that have been running through my mind.

Another great benefit that I enjoy is that yoga helps me to release the tension that tends to build up in my muscles over time, and if I come sore or achy, I leave feeling looser—much like the feeling you get after foam rolling muscle knots, if anyone has ever had that experience. One of the stances that I particularly liked today was called Chatush Padasana, and yes, I had to look that up. It is basically a variation on the typical back-bridge stretch, and it really helped to loosen up my shoulder and back muscles and offered a great stretch to sore abs, hamstrings, and hips.

This “Power Yoga” that I experienced today will be taught on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 8am at Ram’s Head Rec, and there are plenty of other yoga instructors with other times at Ram’s Head Recreation Center:

  • Mindful Yoga: Tuesday 5:15-6:30pm (RHRC)
  • Social Justice Yoga: Thursday 12:15-1pm (RHRC)
  • Yoga: Monday 5-6pm (RHRC), Wednesday 8-9pm (RHRC), Thursday and Friday 4-5pm (RHRC)
  • Yogalates: Monday 12:15-1pm (RHRC)

I’d encourage you to take the chance to experience the change of pace and the benefits of yoga for your own body, whether in a class or in your dorm room with the help of a YouTube video, because you might find that your expectations were far too low or simply different from reality. Everyone needs to take a little extra time now and then to breathe, stretch, and relax.

So, as you always finish in yoga: Namaste.

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we’ll be swapping blog posts with the Tarheel Tone Up blog so that our readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on This post was written by Emily Wheeler.