Can yoga help us achieve fitness?
Is it enough of a workout?
Well, that depends.
There are many different styles of yoga – some faster-paced than others.
If you’re referring to physical fitness in terms of an effective workout then yes, yoga styles like ashtanga, vinyasa, hot yoga, and power yoga can not only help you work up a sweat but also gain muscle and core strength.
But let’s have a deeper look at the concept of fitness and set up some common ground here…
What exactly is fitness?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘fitness’ as ‘the condition of being physically strong and healthy.’
But here’s the thing – true fitness isn’t just about the physical.
It’s also about:
- Being emotionally strong and healthy
- Being mentally strong and healthy
Now, if we’re looking strictly at physical fitness there are certain parameters that can indicate whether a person is physically fit or not:
- Cardiovascular fitness (the state of your heart, arteries and blood vessels)
- Heart rate variability (aka HRV, the higher this number the higher the fitness)
- Respiratory fitness (the state of your lungs and breathing capacity, oxygenation levels)
- Muscular fitness (strength and endurance)
- Mobility & flexibility (the state of your connective tissues, tendons, and ligaments)
- Body fat levels (aka body mass index or BMI)
- Gut health (the state of your microbiome/gut bugs, inflammation levels, ease of digestion)
Why yoga is unique in helping you reach your fitness goals
When you think about it, yoga is the most tried and tested form of exercise in history.
It’s an over 5,000-year-old practice that has withstood the test of time.
Even though it has evolved a lot throughout the centuries and different major periods, it says a lot that today yoga is more far-reaching than ever.
It’s estimated that about 2 billion people practice yoga worldwide according to the United Nations News. (1)
And this is for good reason – because yoga helps us reach each facet of fitness and then some:
- Physical fitness
- Mental fitness
- Emotional fitness
- Energetic fitness
- Spiritual fitness
The true Yogic Path is based on 8 distinct limbs that cater to helping you develop each of these five pillars of fitness:
- The Yamas (Self-regulating behaviors)
- Ahimsa (Non-violence, benevolence, & compassion)
- Satya (truthfulness)
- Asteya (even-exchange)
- Aparigraha (non-attachment)
- Brahmacharya (non-excess & self-control)
- The Niyamas (Personal Observances)
- Saucha (Cleanliness)
- Santosha (Contentment, gratitude, & appreciation)
- Tapas (self-discipline through pain and challenge)
- Svadhyaya (self-study and self-awareness)
- Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender to a higher power, dedication, & devotion)
- Asanas (Mindful body postures meant to prepare the mind for meditation)
- Pranayama (the regulation of your vital energy via controlled breathing)
- Pratyahara (turning the senses away from the external world and towards the internal world)
- Dharana (sustained and one-pointed focus and concentration)
- Dhyana (Deep meditation and contemplation)
- Samadhi (Union with the higher self, the transcendence of the lower mind, bliss, & deep inner knowing)
This might be the first time you hear about the 8-Limbed Yogic Path because most of the modern yoga world focuses mainly on the third limb – the physical postures.
But that’s just like looking at the tip of the iceberg and thinking that’s all there is to it.
For many of us, the physical aspect of yoga is the entryway through which we deepen our daily practice to include these other limbs.
So yes, the physical aspect of yoga can help you burn fat, tone up, and look and feel amazing.
And there’s also a lot more to the big picture that is true Yoga.