The Australian department of health and ageing tells us we need to exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Does a daily asana class count as daily exercise? Is Yoga enough or should your weekly Yoga practice be separate to your weekly fitness regime?
The objective of Yoga is to realize the union between our mind, body and spirit and to realize ourselves as individual beings intimately connected to the whole of creation. Deep stuff! The foundations of this practice was documented in The Yoga Sutras which described '8 Limbs of Yoga' that form the structural framework for most Yoga practice today. Upon practicing all limbs, we believe one is able to control the minds restlessness which then brings us closer to that union. This practice takes a huge amount of discipline and dedication.
So, the physical activity part (which is what most of us practice in the west) is called 'Asana' and is the 3rd Limb of Yoga. I'm well aware that the essence of Yoga is not in a downward facing dog and I'm well aware that the bulk of my class is based on the 3rd Limb (although I do try like many instructors to teach other limbs too). I'm also aware that some of my students are not interested in the '8 Limbs' or 'Yamas and Niyamas' or 'Oms' or 'Swami Sivananda'. They are there in my class 3 times a week to exercise, sweat, strengthen, tone and stretch. So, if this was all the physical activity they were doing in their week, is it enough?
Long Island University (2007) have studied and tested 20 intermediate / advanced Yoga practitioners to answer this question. Is Yoga enough? The study concluded that a basic Hatha Yoga class in fact did not meet the recommendations for levels of physical activity for improving or maintaining health or cardiovascular fitness (my guess is they weren't practicing Ashtanga Yoga in this experiment!). They did add that a sun salutation sequence that exceeded 10 minutes may improve cardio-respiratory fitness in unfit or sedentary individuals.
My personal experience
A few months ago I decided that I didn't feel as fit as I desired. My week looked a little something like this: I went to Ashtanga Yoga once or twice per week, I went to one Yin Yoga class per week, I did my own Yoga practice at home, taught 9 or so classes per week and also taught a class called Rock Aerobics which despite the name, is more of a dance style class rather than fitness class. I hadn't really done much cardio training in the past. I also just turned 40 so this could have had something to do with my crazy decision which was ...
A 60 minute class 5 mornings a week at 6am. Not Yoga bootcamp, but real bootcamp with burpees, running, medicine ball thingys, more burpees ....urgh!
I discovered I wasn't fit at all! In fact, I felt like I was going to vomit. Every muscle in my body was sore each day for the first week, then every 2nd day for the second week. By the third week I started to get into it and in the 4th week (on the second to last day) I actually wanted to go to bootcamp and exercise when my alarm went off in the morning. Yep, that's right ... wanted to!
Here's the link to Bootcamp Buddy which is what I attend every morning. https://www.facebook.com/BootcampBuddy?fref=ts
I'm in my 5th week now and i'm feeling good. It's still hard work, but I enjoy it AND It's helped me tremendously with my Yoga practice. My chaturanga is feeling stronger and 5 sun salute A's and B's are a walk in the park! I personally feel that my Yoga practice is separate to my fitness regime. My Yoga practice is WAY more important and personal as it's about stilling my mind and my ego. I need to exercise. I choose to practice Yoga (all limbs). And they compliment each other.
What do you think?
Hagins, M., Moore, W., & Rundle, A. (2007). Does practicing hath a yoga satisfy recommendations for intensity of physical activity which improves and maintains health and cardiovascular fitness? BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 7(40). doi:10.1186/1472-6882-7-40
The Yoga Social Team