Interested in yoga but not quite sure where to start or why you should even try it? Our ATI physical therapist weighs in on what you need to know.

Downward dogs, tree poses, pranayama, Bikram, child’s pose – all that yoga lingo can be pretty confusing to a first timer. And, how exactly does yoga help your muscles anyways? Today, we’ve got a “muscle expert” here to answer your questions!

Kate Burtman, a physical therapist at ATI Physical Therapy, who regularly attends yoga and completed a therapeutic yoga course for physical therapists, weighs in how yoga can help your muscles and how to get started.

Benefits of yoga for muscles

First and foremost – flexibility! Kate says that yoga really works to lengthen the muscles, thereby increasing your flexibility.

Strength and toning: As you hold positions for extended periods of time and begin moving your body weight in different ways, you’ll gain strength. As you gain strength, you’ll also begin to see more toned muscles.

Balance: Many popular yoga poses challenge you to put all your weight on one leg or side of the body, thereby increasing your balance.

Relaxation: The relaxation benefits of yoga can help ease effects of common chronic painful conditions.

How to begin a yoga routine

Find a trained instructor: Although yoga DVDs can be a convenient way to complete a routine, Kate urges beginners to go to a class with a trained instructor first. She explains that a trained instructor will correct any moves you’re doing wrong, helping you get the most out of your workout while also avoiding injury.

Start slow: You won’t be able to do all the moves right away, Kate says. It takes time to perform all of the poses correctly, so be sure you’re patient and ease yourself into a yoga routine.

Pay attention to form: Form is critically important in yoga, which is why you have to understand what you’re doing right and wrong to truly reap the benefits of this exercise.

“There’s really no other formal group exercise that’s all encompassing like yoga,” Kate says. “It works on your flexibility, strength, balance, and helps to de-stress you all at once.”