Is Yoga the perfect form of exercise and relaxation? Let’s make a list of what our ideal type of exercise would do.
Firstly it would be simple enough that anyone could do it, but have enough variations and different methods that it would maintain the interest of someone who had been practicing it for years.
It would need to be easy to learn so that people could pick up the basics quickly and start seeing the benefits as soon as possible.
The Perfect Exercise:
To be a perfect form of exercise it would need to be capable of keeping our body in good shape all by itself.
It would help with weight loss, circulation and increasing the strength of the muscles.
It would stimulate the lymphatic system as well as the blood flow and help the body dispose of waste products, improving the overall immune response system.
It would also have benefits that went beyond health – the sharpening of the mind and an increased sense of well-being and contentment.
Ideally it would be an exercise form that required no expensive equipment and that could be practiced practically anywhere, alone or in a group.
This is quite a demanding set of prerequisites for a perfect form of exercise. Let’s see if Yoga measures up to these standards.
Yoga Is Thousands Of Years Old:
Yoga is a discipline that has it’s roots in India.
The documents that modern Yoga is based on are thousands of years old, and the principles behind these documents were practiced well before that.
It is a low impact form of exercise that has been tweaked and customized by literally thousands of different teachers and enthusiasts.
Many Different Styles Of Yoga:
There are numerous resulting ‘styles’ of Yoga, but they all have the same core background and beliefs.
What we refer to as Yoga in the West is usually the physical component of an entire life philosophy that has it’s own beliefs and code of ethics built in.
Yoga Is Physical:
The physical focus of Yoga is on poses and slow movements that are low impact and usually use nothing more than our own body.
Sometimes props and supports are used to assist the body in achieving and holding a particular pose.
The poses can vary greatly in their degree of difficulty and even the same pose can have many stages or levels. The perfect example is a simple forward stretch.
One person may be able to stretch out past their knees, another may be able to reach their ankles and somebody else may be able to touch the floor.
This level of progression allows us to see a physical difference in our flexibility level as we practice Yoga more regularly.
No Special Equipment Needed:
And because Yoga does not require any special equipment we are not refined to set class times and can practice
Yoga anywhere and any time the fancy takes us.
We can even do breathing exercises to clear the mind while sitting at a work desk.
The Health Benefits:
Yoga has some incredible health benefits which stem from controlled breathing (Pranayama) and increased blood flow.
Our bodies organs simply do not operate at peak efficiency unless they are receiving the oxygen and nutrients that they need.
The waste products from our muscles and organs are carried away by the lymphatic system.
Both systems can develop blockages that different Yoga poses will address and correct.
The result is a better more regular blood pressure, a more efficient immune system and an optimal digestive process.
The Focus Is On The Breathing:
Because Yoga movements are slow and simple, the focus on correct breathing has a pronounced mental effect the body.
It provides us with an enhanced ability to focus, and to un-clutter our thoughts.
This is a valuable edge in modern life and its importance should not be underestimated.
Common Misconceptions About Yoga:
Yoga is a popular way of exercising and discovering spiritual harmony, but it is also misunderstood by a lot of people.
This is almost inevitable when you consider the incredible popularity of Yoga as a discipline and the many styles that Yoga has.
Quite often people have experience with one type of Yoga but not another, and as such they will base their overall impression of Yoga on what they have seen.
The truth is that Yoga can be very different depending on who you learn it from and how they perceive Yoga.
Misconception Number One:
Yoga Is a Form of Exercise:
Well yes it is, but so is walking.
I can walk from my couch to my table and I can hardly claim to have done my exercise for the day.
The truth is that exercise is just the beginning of what yoga is.
It’s closer to a combination of exercise, physiotherapy, psychology and spirituality all rolled into one.
As you come to master Yoga you will need to become more and more mentally strong, and most importantly disciplined.
If you can discipline yourself to do regular Yoga sessions, and maintain your discipline to do each pose for the prescribed time.
Do it properly, then you will naturally become a very disciplined and organized person.
For some people this transcends to a spiritual level because they are so efficient at clearing their thoughts while meditating.
Misconception Number Two:
Yoga Is For the Free Spirit:
As previously mentioned Yoga can be a very spiritual experience if you become good enough at clearing your thoughts and concentrating whilst performing the exercises.
You certainly do not have to begin with any spiritual beliefs.
Yoga believes in aligning the body and the mind and the spirit through achieving inner harmony.
What that means to you is probably going to depend entirely on what your beliefs already are.
For some people it will be a spiritually freeing experience, for others it will be an effective way of distressing and achieving a level of calmness of thought.
Still, others will claim that these things are one and the same.
Misconception Number Three:
Yoga Is a Fad:
Recently there have been some very hyped up Yoga courses making big claims about what Yoga can achieve.
These are easy to associate with other ‘fad’ exercise crazes.
However, Yoga is not something new and is based on documents that are thousands of years old which describe exercises and poses that were probably being performed for generations before that.
An individual style of Yoga may come and go, but as long as people are still stretching before a game of football then Yoga will still be being used.
Misconception Number Four:
Yoga Is Too Slow to Help Me Lose Weight/Gain Tone etc:
This one is way off the mark, but we have been somewhat trained by the weight loss industry that weight loss.
Toning our body is all about hours in the gym and fast high impact exercise.
That’s simply not true.
Yoga can help with weight loss and in particularly toning for a number of reasons.
Firstly the exercises, while low impact and performed either statically or slowly – are still exercises.
While you use them you are using your muscles, and in many cases you are using muscles and muscle groups that regular exercise programs ignore.
The second way that Yoga can be of benefit in a weight loss program is that it will increase your mental strength and allow you to be more disciplined with your food consumption.
When it comes down to it excess weight is a result of excess eating and not enough physical exercise to burn off those calories.
Have you ever noticed how some people can eat whatever they want and not put on any weight at all?
It seems unfair, but it’s a natural result of the state of their body.
Usually these people will be quite ‘sinewy’ and this muscle allows them to metabolize food faster.
That’s the third benefit of Yoga in weight loss, as your muscles develop your body will actually become more efficient at consuming foods and processing them into nutrients and waste.
Hopefully we have now gone some way to explaining away the various myths associated with Yoga.
It is such a broad topic that it is very much a case of Yoga being what you make of it.
Finally, many regular Yoga enthusiasts will tell you that there is a spiritual side to Yoga.
How far this affects an individual will probably depend on their beliefs before they begin practicing Yoga,
It can perhaps be thought of most accurately with a greater comfort and connection with your own body.
The increased acceptance of yourself, and comfort with your own being results directly in more happy people.
So, it looks like Yoga does indeed check all the boxes and can be thought of as a perfect exercise form.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this post or this site in general.
I will answer all the comments on my website personally so drop me a line below if you have any Yoga questions or comments.
I’m happy to help any way that I can.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietitian before starting any fitness program or making any changes to your diet