Life is about balance - balance between work and play, sweets and vegetables, intense cardio and mindful movement. The right balance of exercise activities is just as important as exercise in and of itself. When planning your exercise regime and goals, it’s important to complement vigorous cardio activities with some strength and muscle-conditioning exercises, as well as flexibility and stretching activities. This is why Zumba and Yoga make a wonderful combination to diversify your overall fitness routine - incorporating both into your weekly exercise can help improve your overall physical fitness and mental well-being.
Variety is the Spice of Life
While it is important to make exercise a routine and turn it into a productive habit, variation is key to keeping your fitness regime interesting so that you are motivated to keep doing it. The atmosphere of Zumba and Yoga classes can be described as polar opposites: loud and quiet, bright lights and dim lights, fast-paced and slow-moving. In a typical Zumba class, the music is on at high volume and if the lights are dimmed, there are probably some flashing disco lights on, with people chatting away before class. In Yoga, the music is soft and soothing, and participants are quietly laying down or seated on their mats with their eyes closed, allowing themselves to get into a calm mindset before starting their practice.
Whether in an in-person or online Zumba class, expect to find energizing music and colourful Zumba wear - and athletic shoes are a must as you will be “jumping” around. Yoga, on the other hand, can be taught with very little sound or music and all you need is a small space for your mat. Ideally practiced barefoot and “grounded”, Yoga is, by comparison, a low-impact activity using your body weight for resistance and weight bearing exercises, such as “downward-facing dog”. The atmosphere is quiet and serene as you focus on your breath and stretch out into your yoga poses.
Aerobic Activity vs Strength & Muscle Conditioning
The human body is complex - what your muscles need to be healthy differs from what is beneficial for your heart and lungs. Therefore, it is important to include a number of different physical activities into your exercise routine in order to give all parts of your bodies proper care. According to the Health Canada Physical Activity Guidelines, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity activity per week, and should add muscle and bone strength activities at least two days a week. Being active can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer, as well as providing many other physical and mental benefits!
Zumba is a cardio activity that drives the heart rate up, so naturally, you will start to huff and puff, feeling out of breath. This is important work for the heart and lungs. A playlist will move from the warm-up into a fast-paced merengue, down a little into a sultry salsa, and then back up to an intense reggaeton. This rise-and-fall pace of a Zumba class provides a combination of increasing your heart rate in one song, then switching to a form of active recovery in the next, optimizing your cardiovascular capabilities. Additionally, the beats of the energizing Latin music drive all the moves, and because the movement is set to a specific combination of steps, it also helps improve coordination. And not just in a physical sense - learning to keep up with new moves as the playlist changes also keeps your mind sharp.
Some of Yvonne's Zumba students during a Zumba Masterclass event.
Yoga focuses on mind and body awareness, including your breath as you aim to deepen and lengthen your breath to calm and centre yourself. Poses help create strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance. It is important to “feel” something in every pose to activate the muscles in your limbs and core, working on awareness of your body and increasing your joint mobility. For example, Warrior poses practice strength, especially in the lower body as you engage your leg and core muscles to hold these positions, whereas Sun Salutation flow is a series of transitional movements and poses that help with flexibility and mobility.
Positive Vibes All Around
The movements involved in a Zumba or Yoga class are almost entirely different, but they do share one very important similarity - positivity. While it is very well known that exercise is good for the body, it can be easy to forget just how good it is for the mind, too. The feelings of mental well-being that come from both Zumba and Yoga are equally important takeaways.
When you join a Zumba class, it is very easy to get into the music and just have fun - take all of your stress, worries and frustrations and let them go as you dance your heart out! This leads to a large release of endorphins, which leaves you on what we call a “Zumba high” after class. That feeling carries on into the rest of your day, or even your week! Think of the song “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & the Waves - that about sums up the post-Zumba class feels.
Yoga class always begins with “slowing our minds down, connecting with our breath before we begin our practice”. Breathing is your most powerful tool to calm and relax your body and clear your mind. Yoga allows the opportunity to turn your attention inward so that you can let go of external competition. It is about breathing, feeling, listening to your body, letting go of judgement and expectations, and trying to stay in the present moment. Most importantly, you are focusing on your breath to reduce your “inner chatter", thus calming and clearing your mind. The sense of peace that can come from a Yoga class can equally carry into your life outside of class, and the skills of breathing to centre yourself often become useful in life’s daily stresses.
Yvonne & her students on a health and wellness retreat in the Dominican Republic.
Finding Time for Both
We certainly have participants at Yvonne’s Fitness who love their Zumba/Yoga combo - but it can take time to get used to incorporating both! Perhaps you find your energy runs low, and generally only make time for a class like Yoga because you are able to move your body without intense physical exertion. Or maybe you have a more sedentary lifestyle and when you commit to working out, you are looking for an outlet to really shake things up and get out some big energy. So how do you add in the Yin to your Yang?
Start by making a weekly plan and schedule in a time for your Zumba and Yoga classes. Whichever class is your go-to will be easy to schedule - you already know when works for you. Commit yourself to just one day a week of the other class. Start small, and pay attention to the different takeaways you get from each class. It doesn’t have to be a full hour, either! At Yvonne’s Fitness, we offer a variety of class lengths - Zumba can be 30, 45 or 60 minutes, and Yoga can be anywhere from 15-60 minutes! These classes are also available on demand, so you can fit them into your schedule at any time - no excuses! You might find that you love Zumba in the morning to energize you for the day, and Yoga at the end to relax. But it can also be the opposite! Yoga can be a relaxing way to start your day and set some positive intentions, while Zumba allows you to let off some steam after a long day!
Zumba and Yoga are just two different types of exercise that you can build into your physical and mental wellness regimes. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming - the list goes on and on! The most important thing, always, is to keep it interesting and to keep it balanced. Find out what you love most and then get to it. Your body and your mind will thank you for it.