Yoga vs. Cardio

Is doing yoga enough exercise?  The answer depends on your purpose or intention for doing yoga. 

Are you training for a specific sports event or do you simply want to get fit?  If you are training for something specific such as a marathon or a canoe race, then yoga is not enough.  One should use the same muscles in training that one uses for the event: Meaning if you are training for a marathon, then use the treadmill in the gym.  If you are training for a canoe race, then use a rowing, elliptical, or upper body ergometer.  Yoga will best serve as an adjunct to the sports specific training by keeping the muscles supple, preventing injury, improving breath control, and focusing the mind.

If a person simply wants to get fit, yoga can be the answer.  Many people around the world practice yoga as their main source for fitness. The five areas of fitness are body composition, muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility.  In dynamic styles of yoga such as Ashtanga, Power Yoga, and Flow all areas of fitness are getting addressed.

Total fitness gains however are not completely addressed in all forms of yoga.  Some styles are too gentle to achieve improvements in body composition, muscular strength, muscular endurance, or cardiovascular endurance.  Nearly all forms of yoga in studios or health clubs produce flexibility gains.  The gentler forms of yoga are also good for muscular rehabilitation and stress reduction.

Before stopping your exercise regiment to hop on the yoga train, be clear about your intention.  If your intention is solely fitness, it will require taking intense and challenging yoga classes that will both challenge the mind and work the body.  It will also take time and patience to build up the endurance for this powerful style of yoga.  It would be best to make the change gradual.  Start with one or two classes a week and add more classes slowly over the course of many months.  

Many people in the United States start taking yoga purely for physical reasons – to loose weight, to become more flexible, to get a stronger core, etc…  What they discover is that yoga is so much more than a physical practice.  Yoga also has the remarkable ability to calm the mind, illuminate the soul, and open the heart.