Yoga has gained a lot of relevance in recent times, as it plays a very important role to boost the immune system to fight off a variety of illnesses and infections. In 2021, the United nation recognized the importance of Yoga and had promoted International Yoga Day focusing on “Yoga for wellbeing” to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing Yoga.
However, the important question here is: if Yoga practice is enough to keep you fit?
Well, if we look at our daily basic activities and movements, they are linked to the Yoga postures or asanas in some way or other, for example, Standing in Tadasana, if practiced properly will engage all the muscles from head to toe without any movement and will make you stand strong like a mountain for a long time, Chair pose or Utkatasana which helps to strengthen the knee joint by strengthening the muscles around it and helps in basic activities like sitting down on a chair or the ground and getting back up without any support, Uttanasana or forward fold works on lengthening the entire backside of our body and helps us to consciously bend forward to pick something up from the floor, Crescent high lunge pose or Ashta chandrasana works on strengthening the quads and hamstrings and helps in climbing stairs or walking uphill, etc. Most importantly, Pranayama makes us more aware and conscious about our Breath which is the anchor of our life. So, practicing Yoga is a great addition to our fitness regime to ensure we are able to do our basic and daily movements with control and ease and also to keep our minds calm, centered, and focused
What are your fitness goals?
It is imperative to understand what would you like to be fit for? Are you involved in any kind of sports or athletic activities like running, swimming, soccer, etc? or are you into dancing, martial arts, etc? Or are you just interested to add a fitness routine for a healthy lifestyle? Yoga can definitely help you in all of the above, but may not be enough to build the level of strength and stamina required for all of them. Let’s elaborate on two extreme categories below (athlete and someone seeking a healthy lifestyle):
Athlete: An athlete, irrespective of any sport will need strength, speed, endurance, mobility, and flexibility to be able to perform better. For strength, speed, endurance, and mobility, they will definitely need more investment of time and energy in activities like resistance training, weighted strength training, cardio training, etc which can be usually done in a gym or cross-train studios. However, for flexibility, it is recommended that the Athletes should also practice Yoga, as it will help them relax their contracted muscles. For example, runners mostly complain about hamstring pulls, which usually occur due to tight hamstrings and can be improved by regularly performing some yoga asanas like Adho Mukha Shvanasana / downward facing dog or Uttanasana/full forward fold as it works deep into the hamstring flexibility. Also, Yoga should be a part of every athlete’s fitness regime as a restorative or recovery session. It helps in relaxing the muscles and the entire body to perform better. Postures like Malasan or Garland pose is a very useful posture for recovery, as it releases the tension in your hips, groin, and low back while improving the ankle mobility; Viparit Karani re-balances the body and reduces swelling in the feet by bringing the blood flow back to the head and chest and away from the lower extremities. Also breathing exercises will be very beneficial to increase their lung capacity. So, is Yoga enough for an athlete? No, but is it important? Definitely yes!!
Someone seeking a healthy lifestyle: Someone who would like to add a workout in their daily routine for a healthy lifestyle and without having any particular goal in mind can choose to have Yoga as the only regular practice, as it will work on all required aspects like strength, stability, flexibility, and balance. Yoga can be customized as per the level of practitioner for example a very beginner level person can go for a less intense yoga style like sukshma yoga which focuses on joint movements and easy hatha yoga which focuses on alignment of the postures and will gradually work on increasing the strength and flexibility. However, an advanced-level person usually gets demotivated to practice yoga as there is a general myth that Yoga is only about stretching and nothing more. But there are strength-demanding yoga styles like Ashtanga Vinyasa, advanced Vinyasa flow, Iyengar yoga, etc where one can build the required strength and stamina along with flexibility. So, is Yoga the only way to become fit for a normal person? Maybe not, but is it a good way to start and continue a healthy lifestyle? Surely yes!
In a nutshell, Yoga can be a great choice of full-time exercise for someone who is just seeking physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle. But if you have any specific goals or if you are into any kind of sports then Yoga is definitely a great addition to the existing fitness routine. Ultimately movement of the body is important, doesn’t matter which style or fitness regime you choose. Make sure it keeps you motivated, helps you to evolve and transform into a new you!