Yoga is more than just a series of exercises. For three thousand years, this holistic approach to health includes breathing exercises, meditation, and healthy eating to help your body and mind reach their ultimate function.
The health benefits of regular yoga practice include gradual and sustained weight loss, mindfulness, improved flexibility, increased energy, stronger bones, enhanced hormonal functions, and reduced stress and anxiety disorders.
Understanding Yoga Styles
Yoga helps build your general fitness, strength, and mobility, but different yoga styles benefit your emotional well-being and body. For example, the more vigorous forms of yoga, like Ashtanga and Vinyasa, challenge your balance, endurance, and strength. On the other hand, Yin and restorative yoga follow a slower pace, helping to relax your muscles, reduce stress, and improve flexibility.
Still, most yoga styles can help boost your emotional health by reducing the symptoms of depression, as concluded by the authors of a 2017 review on various studies published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Besides stress reduction, gaining flexibility is another significant benefit of yoga. The time required to see some improvement in your range of motion can take up to two months if you practice four 20-minute yoga sessions a week. All types of yoga can help with flexibility, but Yin yoga teaches is one of the best for flexibility.
Strength training ensures that you build all the muscle groups and requires physical activity. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) guidelines, twice-weekly training sessions ensure optimal health.
If you prefer yoga as the best way to build your muscle strength, then strenuous forms of yoga like Ashtanga can help you reach your goals. However, even slower yoga, like Hatha, can help you build strength. For example, one study from the International Journal of Yoga found that a group of Indian Air Force volunteers showed improved strength in their hands and legs after only 12 weeks.
Muscle strength in yoga comes from holding the muscles in a fixed position, known as isometric contraction. Although isometric exercises don’t improve speed or athletic performance, they help build joint stability that prevents pain and injury.
You need anything between one or two months to see a difference in your strength if you practice three weekly yoga classes. Some examples of strength-building yoga poses include the plank, the yoga push-up known as Chaturanga, the boat pose (Navasana), Utkatasana (chair pose), Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle), and the three warrior poses. These challenging poses get easier after a few weeks as your body learns to adapt to the difficulty required. Moreover, studies show that the body needs about 16 workouts to adjust and build muscle strength.
When practicing yoga to lose weight, the style of yoga determines calorie burns. For example, Hatha yoga is gentle and results in a loss of 240 to 365 calories per hour, depending on your body weight. That is the equivalent of taking a 3.5 mph walk.
Vinyasa and Ashtanga are more active styles of yoga that increase the heart rate, so expect to burn more calories. However, yoga is about embracing a healthier lifestyle, and together with the exercises, you can expect to see a significant improvement in your weight.
You should include cardio and weight lifting exercises if you prefer faster weight loss because they burn more calories. Remember that the more enjoyable your exercise routine is, the more committed you remain toward your weight loss goal. However, including some yoga can help improve your mental and physical health.
Transforming Your Body
But what about how long it will take to rid your body of excess fat? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the steadier your weight loss, the more likely it will stay off over the long term. You should not lose more than one to two pounds a week. Depending on your body, you may see instant results from the combination of lifestyle changes and yoga exercises, but for some people, it requires a few weeks.
Improving Your Cardiovascular Health
Improving cardiovascular health requires at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly. If you prefer vigorous exercise, then you need about 75 minutes. In its most active forms, yoga is considered a moderate-intensity activity.
Most importantly, a 2018 study showed that the subjects who did high-intensity interval training showed more benefits, and those who did continuous exercise training showed the same cardiac auto-regulation in just two weeks. Therefore, all types of exercise have benefits for cardiovascular health.
Like with strength training, when you want to improve your cardiovascular health, remember that the gentler forms of yoga won’t cover your exercise needs, so supplement with swimming, walking, cycling, etc.