With more than two-thirds of men and almost six in 10 women being clinically overweight or obese it’s no wonder people are starting to get more conscious of their health and wellbeing. I get asked so often if I do anything other than Yoga and if Yoga is enough, that I thought it would be a good idea to write about it.
What Our Bodies Need To Function At Their Best
We need to maintain a healthy weight, this doesn’t mean we need to have a 6 pack and guns, what it means is we need to have a small amount of body fat so that we don’t have fat clogging our arteries and organs.
We need strong muscles. Again I don’t mean you should be able to lift 3 times your body weight. What I mean is that you should be able to properly press, pull, bend and balance and sadly this is where the majority of the human population is lacking. We spend most of our days sitting. We hardly walk let alone run. We certainly don’t ever pull ourselves up on things. Too many people can’t get back up again when they bend down because they’ve ‘put their back out’ and we only seem to push things when we have babies in prams! Therefore, we have completely lost the ability to function as a normal human being should! AHHH THAT’S TERRIFYING!!!!
We need a healthy heart. This one could actually be a whole blog on its own but I’ll leave that for another day. All you need to know for now is that both food and exercise affect your heart (as it does your weight) but we do in fact NEED to perform some form of cardiovascular exercise about 3 times a week. This can be as simple as getting above your resting heart rate for 30 minutes (a steady run or uphill walk) or as intense as only being able to work out continuously for 30 seconds before needing a break to bring it back down and then back up again for a total time of between 8 and 20 minutes (High Intensity Interval training/HIIT).
So can Yoga give us all of that??
Let’s start off by looking at the different styles of Yoga and what their benefits are. I’m just going to stick with the most popular, which are Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram (Hot yoga) and Ashtanga.
The benefits of all styles include:
A great infographic from the Huffington post
Which styles are best for what?
Hatha is generally slow and more focused on each individual posture rather than a flow of sequences. It’s the most traditional form and has many physical and mental benefits, many of which are very similar to other forms of Yoga. However, I would say that because you focus more deeply on each pose you actually gain more concrete benefits than some others. What do I mean? Well, because you spend more time in each pose, you have more time to ensure you’re doing it right, therefore, fewer chances to injure yourself.
The flaw is It’s slow, so unless you do really no other movement or exercise at all, it’s going to have only a small effect on your heart rate.
Vinyasa focuses much more on a flow of sequences combined with the breath. It’s much faster than Hatha and therefore, can do wonders for the heart rate. Vinyasa used to be one of my favourite styles because I have a dance background and it has quite a lot of similarities. But since becoming a teacher whose students are mostly beginners, post-natal mums and people dealing with injuries I have realised how unhelpful this form of Yoga can be if not taught or performed properly. I still love it to do myself now that I can transition through poses quickly with precision and strength but for those of you who can’t, it can be hard to do without hurting your shoulders, hips and more.
Firstly, I am not a fan of hot rooms! So, for this reason, I don’t love it for myself but I have done it before and I do see some of the benefits, which is mostly the extra flexibility it gives you and in traditional Bikram you perform each pose twice which is great because you will learn to embody it more the second time around so can then improve your posture and strength quite considerably. However, this one has its flaws too, the biggest one being the myth that surrounds it and that is people thinking the amount you sweat means you’re losing a tonne of weight. NOT TRUE!!!! You are losing the same amount of weight as you would doing Hatha. What you are actually losing is water! The reason you see so many hot Yoga or Bikram students having amazing bodies is because they go almost every day. If you practised any other form of yoga (perhaps apart from Yin) for the same length of time every day, not in a hot room, you’d have the same beautiful body. In fact, the body will actually shed more fat in the cold because our bodies will burn our fat to try to keep us warm. So maybe we should be doing Cold Yoga instead!
Ashtanga has two series and each series is a sequence it’s great for strength and flexibility, I just don’t personally like the fact you perform the same sequence every time, it makes me bored and actually even the body likes a change now and then or we work all the same muscles over and over again.
This one is also slightly lacking in cardiovascular aspect. Although if you practice it properly there are a lot of jump throughs which definitely get the heart rate up.
If you mix up your styles and practice all forms properly you should get both the cardiovascular and strength benefits that you need and honestly, if you’re not doing anything right now then just Yoga is AMAZING!!!
If you’d really like a great mix of Yoga and fitness subscribe to my YouTube channel and get ready for 30 days to SHINE which starts on the 1st July. There’s even going to be a giveaway at the end to one of the people who has stuck with it the whole way through!