When trying to decide what physical activity you should devote your time to, that covers all your bases and keeps you fit, is yoga on your list?
The burning question everyone wants to know is if doing yoga is enough to actually stay fit or if it’s just another activity on our already too long to-do list.
These days, people are reducing the amount of effort expended to be more efficient, no one wants to do more than they have to, which intensifies the need for an all-in-one program or routine– a one stop shop for fitness.
What is Fitness?
Fitness is the aptitude of multiple processes that encompass the points below to obtain a sense of health, well being, and longevity.
Stamina also plays a large role in the feeling of being fit.
This refers to the amount of weight you can carry and for how long.
The muscles make up for all of our physical movement and activity in our tissues. Aging decreases the amount of muscle mass.
As yoga practice increases, the muscles begin to support the body more effectively as the tissues respond and prepare for future use.
This primarily deals with healthy recovery and full function of the lungs, heart, and blood vessels.
They all work together to support the body through heavy physical demand, as the level of activity increases, so do the overall functions of these organs.
Pranayama (breathing exercises) uses the lungs to force the air in and out of the body in calculated ways that encourage faster heart rate, dilation of the blood vessels, and more work from the heart– as good or even better than a strenuous cardio workout.
This plays a major role in how someone easily gets around and refers mainly to range of motion and how free it is to move.
When one is stiff or inflexible in main areas of the body like hips, back, knees and elbows, it sends a chain reaction of other issues to occur leading to being unbalanced, muscles overcompensating and chronic pain.
This is part of yoga’s primary aim for using asana– to contort the body in ways that release tension in the tendons and ligaments while supporting the muscle and bone.
However let’s discuss another important layer to one’s fitness that over time has increased in importance, and that’s being mentally fit.
Nowadays it’s mainstream to hear more input on keeping up with mental health or shedding a light on it while considering physical health as a main supporter.
This all around type of fitness gives the emotional capacity to be non reactive (or less reactive) to stressful situations you are presented with, while also being able to extend compassion in the form of patience– yoga’s other primary purpose.
Is Yoga Truly Enough to Keep You Fit?
Yoga uses the body’s muscles as resistance while it works to expand your full range of motion by increasing your flexibility.
Using balance to engage these muscles creates a slew of functional responses that assist the body to stay engaged in the right places.
Putting the body through asana’s (yogic postures) and Pranayama (breath work) ushers challenging and long postures that prompt the heart rate to increase.
Yoga’s literal meaning is to yoke (to bring union) to one’s body and mind.
It’s the one practice that touts a mental benefit far past your time on the mat.
So yes, Yoga is enough to stay fit, but it’s a matter of how you yoga to stay fit that’s the real question.
How to Yoga– Lose Weight, Get Fit & Stay Healthy
Many people don’t realize Yoga is not a one size fit all approach.
There are dozens of lineages out there that go from extremely physical practice styles like Ashtanga Yoga to relaxing body restorative postures like Yin Yoga.
Below are just a few of the many practices out there that can give you better muscle tone, help you lose weight, gain more physical balance, and bring a sense of comfort to a body that feels disorderly and overstimulated.
Ashtanga Yoga– a style of yoga created by K. Pattabhi Jois that focuses on the eight limbs of yoga.
In the 1960’s and 70’s hundreds of young enthusiasts traveled to Mysore India to learn the practice of Ashtanga yoga.
The teacher gives a certain amount of asana’s (postures) to memorize and perform successfully, before one advances to receive another series.
This yoga while done in a class setting, requires you to work autonomously and classes are similar day to day.
A great style to develop a home practice.
One of the most physically demanding style’s around, most people who practice have a lean, muscular or a toned physique.
Kundalini Yoga– a yoga brought to the west in the early 1960’s & 70’s by Yogi Bajan, is a dynamic practice that uses asana and Pranayama to help you achieve the ultimate state of meditation.
When the body has worked through all its emotions and commotions through a demanding physical practice, the mind can finally rest and meditation is easily achieved.
It is the yoga of self-knowledge and is led by a teacher that guides the student through a set of postures to receive a specific outcome.
You will find that every class is uniquely different and the varying degrees of challenging postures are plenty.
This is a householder yoga which is a practice created that every-body can do.
Your personal will and determination hold the outcome of your results.
Many experience increased stamina, muscle toning, and better breathing practices over the course of time.
Vinyasa Yoga– a style of yoga that connects one posture to the next through the breath.
In this style of yoga, the breath determines the movement, in fact, it is the breath that moves you.
This yoga is to create a rhythm of movement that is constant, even between the postures called transition movements one is creating a posture and focuses on groups of muscles in a set series.
Krishnamacharya is the person linked to the creation of this yoga. It can be done quickly or slow paced and every class is expected to be different.
This yoga requires complete focus and helps develop ultimate muscle strength.
People experience increased muscle tone, releasing unwanted weight and developing better form and control of the body.
Hot Yoga/Bikram– a vigorous form of yoga postures that takes place in a heated and humidified room up to 105F.
This set of postures while already challenging, but performed in a heated room adds the additional stress to get fitness up, like sweating and rigorous breathing to keep your body in the posture.
Classes vary depending on the lineage, Bikram has a set series of postures while a regular hot yoga class (Vinyasa or hatha) has varied postures.
This style shows quick results as the heated and humidified room adds a level of fat burning one may not obtain in the other classes.
Can Yoga Take the Place of Your Daily Gym Workout?
Turning your practice into a daily workout actually has a name and in yogic traditions it’s called Sadhana– it represents one’s spiritual practice.
Spiritual for the sake of this article relates to a person’s journey to knowing and observing the self while in the physical practice of Yoga.
Sadhana is a routine you devote yourself to daily, usually it’s the first thing one does in the morning so it cannot be forgotten or pushed aside.
These Yogi’s didn’t just have a practice filled with prayer, but rather a physically demanding one that further stressed their allegiance.
It is the act of giving one’s body to the practice, whether painful or easy, rain or shine.
Turning your yoga practice into a daily work out doesn’t need to resemble all the steps a yogi would take, but it can be simple to incorporate some of their research and best practices to deliver the results you are looking for.
While you may feel ambitious to start a practice and do it daily, remember that we all have limits and you’re encouraged to find a practice that suits your bodily needs and one you find most enjoyable.
A beginners rule of thumb for a consistent daily practice is to start small, 10 to 30 minutes a day can increase your fitness levels. Over time you will develop the drive and stamina to move towards 60-90 minutes each day.
If you’re an experienced Yogi and haven’t had a daily practice at home, you are encouraged to create a space and practice between Gods hour (3-6 am) or the Golden hour (4-6pm) to get deeper into the subtleties of your practice.
How Long Will It Take to See Results?
The time it takes to see physical results from practicing Yoga does vary from person to person, but the Yogic rule of thumb when doing anything for a certain amount of time to recognize results is 30-40 days (depending on the lineage).
Toning of the body starts to develop in most people around week 3 (of daily practice) as increased balance and awareness of what feels more pliable or flexible is noticed.
Another result that could be unexpected is improved sleep patterns and overall mood.
Yoga encompasses more than a routine to teach you flexibility and how to achieve peace of mind, it offers a plethora of ways for you to reach your personal and fitness goals.
Yoga is enough to keep you physically fit, it increases your overall health and assists in healthy body composition.