Today Yoga has become one of the most popular choices in fitness regimes. It not only improves physical and mental health, it also comes with numerous other health benefits that far surpass the advantages of your regular aerobic workout.
However, most fitness enthusiasts who practice yoga regularly also prefer to include some form of cardio exercise in their fitness regime – be it brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling.
So the question here is – Is extra exercise necessary for those who do Yoga; or can Yoga be the only form of exercise one needs for well-rounded fitness?
Expert’s Point of View
Researchers at University of Maryland School of Nursing conducted an exhaustive study where they did a comparative analysis of 81 published studies to find out the true health benefits of Yoga. As expected, the study revealed that yoga is especially beneficial for combating stress that is a direct result of a fast paced modern lifestyle.
However, the surprising part is that the study concluded Yoga can be better than other forms of exercises when it comes to :
- Improving balance.
- Enhancing flexibility.
- Increasing strength and endurance.
- Reducing pain and discomfort brought on by age related diseases including arthritis and menopause.
- Higher daily energy levels, and much more.
However, that’s not all. Even though this study stresses upon the benefits of Yoga and has concluded it is all the exercise any individual may need for an all-rounded fitness regime, there are many who still believe that to be truly lean and fit, one must combine regular yoga practice with another fitness routine like weight lifting, running or cycling.
To prove that yoga is all the exercise one needs, John Schumacher who is the founder of Unity Woods Studios in Washington DC and a disciple of B. K. S. Iyengar took up the challenge to showcase to the world that his 20 years of practicing yoga and no other form of exercise was the right decision.
At the age of 52, Schumacher went ahead and got his complete physiological testing done. As expected, the results showed that he was extremely healthy and fit for his age with maximum heart rate and exercise recovery rate. His physical condition was so great that doctors said he has less than 1% chance of cardiac disease, or any other age-weight related disease.
So, Why Does Yoga Work?
The proof of what benefits Yoga can bring will differ from person to person, as the final impact of practicing yoga also depends on how long one has been practicing it, what level they are at and how often they perform their exercises.
But experts believe that yoga can result in increased muscle strength and endurance because the regular stretching makes the muscles larger in size and also better able to extract and use the oxygen available more efficiently in the body.
Also, regular practice of Pranayam increases lung capacity, allowing the lungs to expand fully as the ribs, shoulder and back areas become more flexible. Simply put – you can exercise for longer and reach maximum oxygen uptake levels, and also improve VO2 max levels.
Of course, the longer one can hold such poses increases the benefits that come from rigorous yoga training. It has been called an ‘untapped resource for losing weight faster and better’ and also tunes the body with better coordination and reflexes.
What must be kept in mind when you choose to tap in to the power of yoga is that it is a complex form of exercise.
Unlike brisk walking, cycling, swimming or running that can be started anytime, yoga needs a certain order.
Always practice yoga under the guidance of an expert yoga teacher as the risk of injury is too high if you are following a video or an online class.
The more effort you put in, the more benefits you’ll see. But reaching an advance level will take time and will depend largely on how dedicated you are towards yoga. In all earnestness, before you are ready to add more challenging poses to your Yoga workout, it may not be a bad idea to also continue with some other form of aerobic exercise on the side.
It is also true that to see good results in your physical fitness levels, you will need to practice yoga for more than an hour at least 4 times a week.
If you practice yoga for less than an hour and no more than 2 times a week, it’s best you either practice an alternate moderate intensity exercise like walking, or you can increase your yoga time or frequency.
In the end, always remember that the best form of exercise is only the one you enjoy most and WANT to perform on a regular daily basis.
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