Yoga as fitness is a growing trend

Fitness and yoga go together well and they are also a bit different. There are good numbers who roll out their mats these days and many who are interested in the deeper, and beautiful, philosophy of yoga or the other practices it entails.

It is a good thing that so many people practice yoga. The fitness aspect of yoga is undeniable. Studies have shown that yoga can be a preventative and curative force for a variety of medical problems and doctors are starting to recognize its benefits.

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I see more and more people coming to my classes at their doctors’ recommendations.  There are a large amount of people who practice yoga as their sole form of physical exercise and they see benefits, not just in flexibility, but also in muscular strength and endurance as well as cardiovascular fitness.

Yoga and other physical activity

Other people use yoga in conjunction with their other physical activities or pursuits as a way to temper the effects of their training.  Runners are notoriously fond of yoga for their days of active recovery and the benefits for their tight calves and IT bands. Body builders are another group of athletes that use yoga to help counter the tightness that comes with their gains.

A proper range of motion (ROM) in our joints is essential for our continued performance ability no matter what sport we play, because of this we see yoga being incorporated into the fitness training of even elite athletes. Yoga tends to strengthen muscles that are not commonly used in other forms of physical activity. The combined practices lead to a well-balanced and well developed fitness regimen.

Yoga helps us develop balance, a trait that is helpful in other sport or fitness activities. A strong and properly flexible body is less likely to be injured.

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Athletes understand that to be successful in their endeavors there is more than physical training that takes place. One must development mental toughness and the ability to perform under challenging circumstances.  Yoga’s ability to help one to become more sensitive to body sensations and to control the fluctuations of our minds and inner dialogues can be the key to success for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

Pratyahara

In yoga, we practice withdrawing our attention from the external stimulus that we are bombarded with on a daily basis and become more introspective. This aspect of a yoga practice, called Pratyahara, can help people stay focused on the task at hand and cope better with tough competitions and training.

Pranayama

In yoga we practice Pranayama – the control and retention of the breath.  This is a wonderful practice for athletes and helps improve lung function. More efficient breathing helps to keep a steady stream of oxygen fueling muscles through tough workouts.

Yoga as fitness is a wonderful tool

I invite you to explore some of the philosophy behind the practice. Asana, or the physical postures, are but one aspect of yoga.  Pratyahara and Pranayama are two more of eight that make up the full scope of yoga practice.

A description of the full practice is beyond the scope of this brief article, but there is much information out there for those who wish to delve deeper into the subject.  BKS Iyengar’s book, Light on Yoga, is a perfect place to start your discovery.  Whatever your interest in yoga, whether yoga as a lifestyle or yoga as fitness, it is important to practice safely.  Find a teacher who understands your needs and reach your goals.  Namaste.

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