This is what happens when you stop doing yoga

There was a time you would walk a mile — literally — just to get to your yoga class. It was the center of your world. You were so connected to yoga that you considered (or even got) your Yoga Alliance Teaching Certificate. 

Then life got in the way. Between work, the school run, after-school or after-work activities, and family obligations, there just wasn’t enough time to roll out your mat to get into your poses. It probably wasn’t long before whatever gave you so much joy became something that caused grief because it was just another item on a list to be ticked off.

The physical price for stopping yoga

What happens to your body if you opt out of your yoga practice depends entirely on the kind of yoga you are doing. If you’re involved in a more vigorous form of yoga, LiveStrong says that counts toward strength training, particularly if it targets all the muscle groups in your body. Vinyasa, Ashtanga, or power yoga can even be considered moderate-intensity cardiovascular training. 

So if you do a demanding type of yoga, your body will respond the way it might with strength or muscle building routines. Your muscles will become larger and stronger, the number of small blood vessels — or capillaries — increase, and you end up developing a more defined mass. 

If you give it up, though, it won’t exactly make your muscles turn to fat or disappear, but it will make your muscles shrink and decrease in mass because your cells don’t need the increased blood flow anymore. You could also gain some weight if you eat more than your body needs to keep going, but your muscles will only atrophy if the quality of your nutrition suffers and you regularly eat things that are bad for you.

The hidden price of stopping yoga

If the yoga practice you made your own is more gentle, your body won’t change a ton because your routines will have a limited impact on your muscles anyway. In this instance, taking a break from yoga means skipping out on the benefits that health experts say even a gentle yoga practice, such as yin or Kripalu yoga can provide, which include better stress management and emotional health and the ability to better manage anxiety and depression (via LiveStrong).

But stepping away from the mat doesn’t necessarily mean you’re giving up on the peripheral benefits of yoga altogether. Yoga is meant to teach you not just how to manage stress, but to establish a balance between the needs of mind, body, and soul. So if you can still practice mindfulness, which is what yoga is really all about, it means you haven’t completely stopped doing yoga at all.

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