When we talk about fitness, we are talking about our physical bodies: our flexibility, muscular strength and endurance, cardio-vascular respiratory endurance and body composition.
Flexibility reduces muscle tension and allows our joints to move through their full range of motion. Habitual muscle tension is reduced through the practice of postures and breath. This is critical to avoiding injury and pain, especially low back problems.
Muscle Strength and Endurance
Because yoga practice includes postures that use most of the muscles in the body, muscles strengthen gradually with a regular practice. In addition muscular endurance improves as we move in and out of postures and stay in a posture several breaths.
Cardio-vascular Respiratory Endurance
Our yoga practice contributes to cardio-vascular respiratory endurance by lowering our resting heart rate and improving oxygen uptake to meet energy demands.
Body composition is the amount of fat to lean tissue in the body. Students often reported weight loss in the 15 week Yoga I class I taught at HACC. Others have noticed increased muscle. A study reported in the Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found a correlation between regular yoga practice and “less age-related weight gain.”
Stress Reduction and Weight Loss
The various tools of yoga – postures, breathwork, meditation, visualization – all play a role in reducing the body’s response to stress. One of the stress hormones, cortisol, plays a role in maintaining body fat. Lowering the stress response and consequently cortisol can play a role in weight loss. This is in addition to the many health benefits of a lowered stress response.