Yoga is not simply stretching or meditation. With it's spiritual (not religious) framework, many people do not consider yoga to be a sport. While there may not be any... um... balls involved or competition, it is a quite athletic activity. There are many different types of yoga practice, from mellow and comfortable, to 90+ degrees and faster paced. Many professional athletes use yoga to improve their strength, flexibility, and balance.
The type of yoga that I practice, Vinyasa (flow) Power Yoga, is pretty intense. It focuses on flowing through different postures, or asanas, while matching your movements with your breath... in an 88° degree room. For 80 minutes, students move through Sun Salutations, Warrior poses, ab exercises, stretches, and balancing poses at the instruction of the teacher. I have never sweat so much in all my life, and I am almost always sore the following day. If that's not athletic, I don't know what is.
The type of yoga that most people associate with when they imagine yoga as just a simple stretching exercise is Hatha yoga. This simply focuses on the poses themselves, whereas Vinyasa involves the flow between the postures.
Another health benefit of regularly practicing yoga is that these postures have been designed hundreds of years ago in an atempt to make you healthy from the inside out. Poses can elongate your muscles and organs, helping to push out toxins we all take in through food, alcohol, and poluted air. The focus on deep breathing during yoga sessions also provides great stress releif.
If you've never tried yoga, I highly recommend it! In Orlando, I love Orlando Power Yoga. The instructors are all very nice and helpful, and almost every class has someone who is brand new to yoga, so you won't feel awkward. And let us know how you like it if you do try it out.
Are you a seasoned yogi? Tell us why you love it!
*images from amsterdampoweryoga.nl and store.chopra.com