It’s not a shock that for many of us, exercise is purely a way to lose weight or change something externally on your body. For us, it used to be this and this only.
We too would google questions like: what is the best workout to lose weight? How to lose weight fast and build muscle? Will running make your legs thinner? Does yoga tone your legs? Does Pilates give you a six pack? What’s the best workout for hips and thighs? What about slimming and toning? And what should my body weight be?
And the list goes on and on.
Our minds were completely obsessed with the external body and we forever wanted to lose an extra 5 kilos, no matter how much we weighed.
Slowly but surely we realised that we’d been conditioned by Diet Culture. A culture created by society that makes us (especially women) believe their most important worth and value lies in their looks.
Just writing that, and we hope reading that, makes us realise just how absurd it is.
The truth is, you are so much more than what you look like. You’re so much more than a number on the scales or a number on a clothing tag.
Exercise for us used to feel like a chore, it used to feel like punishment. That was until we re-found Yoga and Pilates in 2012. You see we’d long been practising both of these amazing ways to move way back in 2003 when we’d enjoy BodyBalance classes with our Mum!
When we started to create a consistent Pilates and Yoga practice we realised just how much more movement can do for your mind and body. The simple fact that with any movement, feel good hormones are released, making you feel happier is just one reason (that has nothing to do with your weight) to move your amazing body.
But it was when we connected our self acceptance practice to our Yoga and Pilates, that was the real game changer.
Exercise used to be a form of punishment for us, after a weekend of indulgence we’d double up our Monday workouts and the diet would begin. This went on, week after week! It all came from this self-hatred feeling.
Then we completely turned it on its head.
We decided that our movement practice would instead be a celebration for what our bodies could do, a celebration of our bodies are right here and right now (and NOT when the next 5 kilos are lost, or when you fit into that dress).
The thing is, this practice we discovered was powerful! The more we intentionally moved with acceptance, the more we felt acceptance toward our bodies and others. The Diet Culture was slowly but surely being unlearned.
This is why we created MerryBody, we simply couldn’t keep it to ourselves!
And we are not saying we are anti-health, anti-weight loss or anti-change… we just ask that you check in with your mindset regarding your exercise. What is driving and motivating you?
And of course, there are certain Yoga poses that might be great at toning your booty, there will be Yoga poses that build your core strength, there are Yoga poses that will tone the muscles in your arms and there are Yoga poses that build muscle within your back!
But really you need not focus so much on these, instead, just show up, do your best and you will notice your strength improve.
We like to focus more on the feelings. There are types of Yoga that make you feel energised, like Hatha Yoga, and styles of Yoga that welcome more calm, like Yin Yoga. Most Yoga will absolutely get you present, out of your mind and into your heart and feeling body.
But does Yoga make your legs thinner?
We understand, you still want to work your legs and trust us when we say that during most flow yoga classes you WILL work your legs. Here are our favourite Yoga poses to create strong legs!
Bridge Pose or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
This is a great back bend, heart opening pose that also switches on your glutes and hamstrings. Let’s set it up:
- From a seated position, roll down onto your back so you are lying down on your Yoga mat, knees bent, feet are flat hip width.
- Take your arms by your sides and you should be able to just scrape your fingertips to your heels.
- Take a deep breath in and then as you exhale lift your hips toward the sky, squeezing your booty and legs.
- Hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths.
- Roll down and repeat 2-3 times.
Downward Facing Dog or Adho mukha svanasana
If you’ve ever done a flow Yoga class before, you would have most definitely done Downward Facing Dog! A pose that works your legs, core, arms, shoulders and back! Let’s set it up:
- Start on your hands and knees, wrists under shoulders, knees under hips.
- Take a deep breath in and as you exhale lift the hips and lengthen the legs toward the sky.
- Press your hands into the Earth, draw the shoulders away from the ears, arms straight, microbend the knees and lengthen the lower spine.
- Check in, feet hip width, hands shoulder width, core engaged.
- Hold the pose for 10 breaths then lower back down to your knees.
- You should feel your leg muscles getting a great workout!
Utthita Hasta Padangustasana or Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
This is an extended hand to big toe pose! And oh wow will you feel this one work your legs. It’s important to note that you would do this in a Yoga class once you’ve warmed up and probably as a peak posture. So we wouldn’t recommend getting straight into this pose without a Yoga instructor guiding you through class (if you’re in MerryBody, check out Moon Rising Fusion as it features this pose!), Let’s set it up:
- Stand hip width, place your right hand on your right hip. Microbend the knees and move the weight out of your left foot and more into your right foot.
- Bend down and peace finger grip your left big toe with your left hand.
- Inhale to prepare and as you exhale bring your left knee up into your chest as you stand tall.
- Hold here or option start to extend the left leg forward, feel your thigh muscles working (hello quad!).
- Hold here or option start to extend the left leg out sideways, feel your outer thigh working!
- Hold for 5 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
As we mentioned there really are so many Yoga poses that work the legs. The practice itself is a total body workout but there are so many other benefits you’ll experience too!
We’d love you to try out our online Yoga classes, just so you can feel for yourself, just how amazing Yoga is for the mind and body.
Right now, you can sign up to one of our MerryBody Yoga Classes FOR FREE! Let us know how you go!
Emma + Carla