yoga horizons

Developing a complete training program

One thing that originally attracted me to yoga, was the idea of a complete system of physical, mental and spiritual practice.
So if one were to devise a system of physical fitness for themselves or others, what would it need to be complete, i.e. well rounded?
I think the following is a good general list.

Five Components of Physical Practice

  • Skill
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Restorative
Please note this doesn’t mean that every work out session has to include each of the five.  In fact many coaches and teachers will prefer to separate the elements into their own individual units. Nor does it mean the elements are completely separate, it’s impossible to separate them completely, but most practice sessions will have a clear area of focus from the above list. Also note, that though I think this is a pretty good list, it’s not perfect, lists rarely are.

Lets take a brief look at the elements –


A skill is anything that one has to learn to do, and the practice of which makes the performance of it more efficient, more artistic, more graceful or stylish.

In gymnastics, skills are the various ‘moves’ a gymnast does, a cartwheel or somersault on floor or a giant circle around a high bar for example. Gymnastic coaches break these ‘skills’ into more manageable bits, so a gymnast can learn the skills one bit at a time.

A Ballet dancer will learn the positions a bar, then integrate them into dance.

Skill is the art of practice, and the practice of art.

Skill work can also be the technical side of our art. In this way even a weight lifter can train skill, refining certain parts of their lifting technique. Rarely is anything all brain or all brawn after all.

Skill work feeds directly into whatever sport or activity we are doing it for. If I’m a golfer, it’s the hours working to hone a swing.

Recreational enthusiasts often want to bypass this, and simply do the sport. And due to limited amounts of time, it’s understandable, still a few moments of any practice session devoted to building the basics will always pay rich dividends.


Strength work is training designed to both help build strength to do our chosen activity as well as to build general strength and power to balance out what our activity lacks.

As an example of this, in Ashtanga yoga, with all of it’s jump backs etc, there are many pushing movements, but not many pulling. Adding some pulling specific work will help balance this deficiency.

As well many trainees come without the ability to do a decent push up, etc. Without working on this specifically, it’s difficult to build the required strength to properly do Ashtanga style vinyasa. Yes it can happen, but very often it doesn’t as students focus on gaining more skills, but not building the required base of strength.


The natural counterpart to strength work, which is normally done in short bursts, is endurance work.

Cardio-vascular health is naturally of great importance. The most popular way to do Carido, is simply to jog. One need not jog for hours a to time to get benefits, 15-20 minutes is enough for most and imposes less strain on the body.

Specific endurance is the ability to keep doing our chosen activity. Having the ability to run for miles does not mean you can also row a boat for miles. Endurance tends to be specific to the activity.


Flexibility work is specific work to attain the needed mobility for one’s chosen activity, and to balance out any deficiencies in that activity.

Yoga for example will require a large degree of flexibility, and it’s practice is largely working on flexibility.


This is a largely forgotten aspect of practice outside of Iyengar yoga, and for professional athletes.

Any physical activity will cause fatigue, breakdown the body somewhat. We need methods to help ease recovery, of active rest.


The descriptions here are purposefully brief, as to cover the subject in detail would require a book or more. However, I hope in reading this list it helps give some ways to analyse your training regimen, and address any deficiencies.

No system will have the exact same balance of these elements, but any good system should touch on them all in some way, or leave the door open to other methods that fill in the gaps.