by Hannah Aylward: We know that yoga can help us sleep better, live happier, reduce stress, eliminate toxins and loosen up those tightly wound muscles…
Clearly, there is no doubt that yoga deserves a consistent spot in our weekly wellness routine, but can we also count it as a workout?
In one study that examines the relationship between yoga and fitness, researchers at the University of California at Davis tested the muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and lung function of 10 college students before and after eight weeks of yoga training. Each week, the students attended four sessions that included 10 minutes of pranayama (breathing exercises), 15 minutes of warm-up exercises, 50 minutes of asanas (yoga poses), and 10 minutes of meditation.
After eight weeks, the students’ muscular strength had increased by 31%, muscular endurance by 57%, flexibility by 188%, and VO2max by 7%. VO2max is is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that the body can use. Typically it takes about 15 to 20 weeks of consistent exercise to see improvements in VO2max, so a 7% increase if eight weeks shouldn’t be taken lightly. So yes, we can label yoga as our “workout” for the day.
Of course the level of workout depends on which style and level class you decide to take. A hot power vinyasa class is going to be more physically rigorous than a restorative yin class. Don’t discount these though – they are magical in a different way. Fortunately, we have an entire Yoga Sculpt Series, including intervals and strength training, for you to build lean muscle and definition.
Many yoga poses like standing poses, balancing poses, and inversions, build strength because they require sustained isometric contractions of different large and small muscles. Shoutout to the pose we all love to hate: utkatasana, or chair pose. Want to increase the isometric burn? Hold the pose for even longer.
The thing is, when going through a yoga flow, chances are your whole body is involved. You are moving from one pose to another, with your arms, legs and core engaged the entire time. The core is engaged for full body stabilization, along with protection of your lower back. In many yoga poses, you are carrying all of your body weight on your arms – that takes strength of both the physical body and mental body! Inversions and arm balances allow you to raise your heartbeat and strengthen the body, all while elongating the muscles.
With every movement, your mind is present and engaged. The body and breath move as one. This generates awareness, which always yields better results. You can do hundreds of squats, but if you aren’t performing them in proper alignment, you aren’t going to achieve the desired result and risk injury. It is always better to do fewer repetitions properly, than it is to do a hundred repetitions with bad form. Proper muscle engagement must be there for proper
sculpting. Yoga encourages this way of thinking and being – mindful, fluid movement. This makes it arguably more effective than many other forms of exercise.
Want to rev up your next yoga practice? Take one of our yoga sculpt classes, advanced level classes, or Neesha’s Effective Strength Building practice to ensure that your routine is well rounded. They’ll have those muscles quivering and sweat dripping, in the best way possible.