How to get toned with yoga

Apr 6, 2011 at 12:27 p.m. ET

Madonna, Gwyneth, and Jennifer do it, and so can you. Yoga that is. Sculpting, strengthening, and stretching like the celebrities has never been easier with the help of some good yoga moves. So what is it that's stopping you? Julia Pearl, a Phoenix-based certified yoga instructor and star of her own DVD series, helps break down the barriers between you and your yoga mat.

Yoga class

Excuse #1

I'm not flexible

Well, that's pretty much why you should be embracing it. Julia advises finding a good yoga class geared towards beginners and an instructor who will provide easier options and modifications. Don't go to one yoga class and think that is what they are all like. There is no shame in sitting in child's pose when you need to.

Excuse #2

I don't have the time to do yoga

You don't not have the time. "Because it's such a good complement to other exercises, it truly is essential to your well being regimen," Julia explains. Yoga can help prevent injury, enhance range of motion to improve sports performance, and improve mental clarity, which is why it's favored even by professional sports teams. "It's a great complement to the other activities you do." For optimal results, Julia recommends performing yoga a couple of times per week.

Excuse #3

I don't know how to do the poses, so I'll look stupid

No one is born knowing the correct form for downward dog. Remember that everyone else is focusing on their own moves and trying to keep up with the instructor. The person next to you is thinking about how much harder it was than they thought it would be, not about you. If you try your best and pay attention, you'll fit right in.

Excuse #4

I don't feel comfortable with chanting and praying

"Most classes at fitness clubs are geared towards health and fitness, not putting a huge focus on spirituality. And yoga movement doesn't have any chanting." In fact, Julia says that most gyms will ask the instructor to tone down the religiosity aspect since these organizations generally have a non-denominational policy.

Excuse #5

Yoga isn't enough of a calorie-burning work out

"When your body is in stress, it releases the hormone cortisol, which tends to accumulate fat in the abdominal area, whereas yoga promotes relaxation and stress reduction. This can actually help with weight loss and mindful eating," says Julia. A power flow yoga class satisfies even the fitness junkie by increasing the heart rate. Think of yoga as creating an invisible girdle, since it helps tighten and lengthen muscles, especially in the core, thus contributing to a slimmer appearance.

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