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The 3 Yoga Styles That Keep Me Long + Lean

The 3 Yoga Styles That Keep Me Long + Lean
February 10, 2014 6 minute read

The Olympics are in full swing so I thought this would be the perfect time to start talking about fitness. Being the daughter of a paralympian father (who also wheeled around the world – 40,000 km through 34 countries) and a physiotherapist mother means I was bred to be a fitness-enthusiast. I played competitive volleyball up until I graduated from high school and then once I moved abroad to model full time I quickly discovered other exercise outlets. But being a model in an industry full of women who typically want as little as possible between their bones and their skin means I’m not exactly understood. Most of the time my efforts to drag my friends to the gym are met with failure, so I’m going to write a series of posts that will convince you ALL that exercise is absolutely necessary.

“Yoga is boring” – is what the high-intensity exercise junkie in me thought before I actually tried it. Don’t be fooled, yoga requires all the strength, determination and patience that any other sport does! Plus it gives you that sought-after toned body. I credit yoga for finally lengthening my volleyball muscles (powerful thighs and large traps). I was never big (I won a small frame in the genetic lottery), but there’s a big difference between being lean and being muscular. Six years of building up power muscles didn’t exactly suit the modeling career I was heading into post-high school, so I turned to Bikram yoga (because I sure wasn’t going to start starving myself). I decided early on that I was going to train for my career just like anyone else would. My job just happens to require physical training – so yoga became the foundation of my new fitness program.

Here are the three types of yoga that I love and have been doing regularly for 6 years. Once you start and see the benefits you will get addicted.

Vinyasa Yoga
What: Fast paced continuous moving yoga. This practice uses inhalations and exhalations to move through the poses in a flowing sequence. Expect a lot of downward dogs!

When: I go 1-2 times a week for an hour and fifteen minutes each time.

Why: This is my go to workout yoga! You’re using your own body weight to get in a killer cardiovascular and strength training exercise. My personal trainer from a couple years back, who has a clientele that includes Sports Illustrated and Victoria’s Secret models, taught me that the majority of your workout should be done using your own body weight – it’s the secret to building lean muscles. I definitely get my sweat on in this type of yoga, and while I’m not a spiritual yogi I still feel reenergized by making vinyasa a regular part of my routine. I do try to incorporate some of the aspects of the mental side of yoga because it’s so beneficial to practice being present and to be able to still your thoughts. I also find that this style of yoga incorporates a lot of core-toning movements, so my abs are more defined since starting vinyasa, never a bad thing. I know some yoga instructors will be shaking their heads at what I’m about to say next (feel free to skim past): I find this highly competitive and I love it. I know I’m not supposed to, but I totally compare myself to others in the class – I’m an athlete at heart and I can’t change that. If someone else is doing a forearm stand, well, then I’m going to do one too!

Forearm Stand Beach Yoga Emma Hansen

Bikram Yoga
What: A high intensity class with 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises that you do in a 90 minute class. The caveat: the room is heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit at 38 percent humidity. Sounds a little bit like torture – sweat flying off your neighbours, stifling heat and an instructor guarding the door to keep you from leaving (kidding….kinda). But sometimes you need to sweat it out.

When: I started in Vancouver, BC so in that climate I was going 3-4 times a week. But now that I live in New York I go once or twice a month, mostly in the winter (NYC is one big Bikram studio in the summer).

Why: To get my sweat on. Our bodies are designed to sweat. We need to sweat. I give credit to quite a few things for maintaining my clear skin, but sweating is definitely at the top of that list. When we start to perspire our pores are cleaned out, dead skin is removed, excess oils are eliminated and chemicals are stripped away. By inducing sweat we automatically improve the circulation of our blood and increase oxygen flow to the skin, it’s like a free oxygen facial. In addition to sweating, I find hot yoga helps me shed that extra water weight that my body holds onto in the winter. I don’t rely on Bikram as a main source of exercise and flexibility though – I think that creating internal heat in exercise produces better athletic results. I wasn’t nearly as limber outside of a Bikram class and that annoyed me – my muscles were relying on the warm room to stretch. I discovered I was significantly more flexible when I added other yoga styles to my routine, but hot yoga is still a great calorie burner. It gets your heart rate going in the first breathing exercise! Just make sure to replenish your electrolytes after; I like Raw Coconut Water.

Hatha Yoga
What: A very gentle, calm, stretching yoga style. I like to go in a pair of long lulus and a cozy sweater and just breathe. The slow pace is really good for beginners who want an easy intro to yoga, but it’s just so great for lengthening everything out.

When: I usually try to go once a week at the start of my week or the end of my weekend to prepare me for a crazy few days ahead.

Why: To purely lengthen muscles I’ve built from other yoga classes or from any of the other routines I do (pilates, spin, boxing, barre, etc.). Stretching is a crucial addition to your workout regime if you want that lean muscle definition. But what really brings me to a Hatha yoga class is stress. Living in New York is no picnic; the commute to an 8:30am call time alone is enough to turn me into a ball of tension and anger. Hatha yoga is my non-lazy version of sitting in a nice warm bath.

Variety is the key to everything though, so if you just can’t get into yoga I’ve got an arsenal of exercise ideas that will help you lean out and get strong. What’s your fitness secret?


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