While riding the bike at the gym last week, I was doing my best to have my iPod drown out the incessant chatter of a guy and gal next to me. During the course of their very long, and loud, conversation, I heard the man made an interesting comment in response to the women's far too detailed description of the fitness classes she had signed up for, which included yoga. He said, "I figured yoga was just a trendy pastime disguised as exercise." Oh how I wanted to let him know that couldn't be farther from the truth, but figured it best to keep peddling lest I spend the rest of my precious cardio time chatting when I should be breathing.
When many think of yoga, images of zoned-out new-agers in pretzel-like positions chanting mantras, may come to mind, but consider this: Yoga is an ancient practice that can help you deal with the stress of modern life. It has been reported that more than six million Americans are now practicing some form of yoga to increase stamina and endurance among other physical and emotional health benefits. And, it's far more than just a trend. After all, yoga is over 5,000 years old and still going strong.
According to findings by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) that looked at 34 non-active women in their thirties doing Hatha yoga, which is considered one of the easiest forms of yoga to learn, they discovered the women vastly improved their flexibility, balance , and aerobic fitness level as well as their muscular strength and physical endurance after just eight weeks of 55-minute yoga classes taken three times a week.
Apparently, a Hatha yoga session of 50 minutes burns 144 calories which is similar to taking a slow walk. Not a bad extra benefit considering yoga is often perceived as simply a form of relaxation. ACE also discovered that their test group showed significant improvement in their shoulder and body flexibility, with the ability to do more push-ups and curl-ups as part of the outcome. Posture also improved in all of the subjects.
So, if you ever find yourself in a heated debate over whether or not yoga offers any true health and fitness benefits, arm yourself with this verbal ammo:
Some benefits of yoga include:
o Improved physical balance, joint movement, muscular strengthening and coordination.
o Improvement of joint range of motion, flexibility and extensibility of connective tissue.
o Improved posture which allows internal organs to function properly and improves breathing.
o Stimulation of the nervous system.
o Improved circulation and pulmonary function.
o Enhanced immune system.
o Enhanced self awareness.
o Decreased the risk of injury.
o Promotion of relaxation and stress reduction.
As mind / body exercise continues to take hold in the present, the practice of yoga has moved from the alternative to the mainstream. So don't let anyone's preconceived notions of yoga keep you from practicing it and enjoying the benefits of this dynamic mind / body exercise.