Updated: Sep 10, 2019
We're back with another myth busting blog and it's a Biggy.
Possibly the biggest Myth there is with yoga.
It's one of the debates that will always rage on, with new studies contradicting each other always popping up.
Does yoga count as exercise?
The answer, it depends on what type you do.
There's one thing that the mainstream world just doesn’t get about yoga. It's not just gentle stretches, chants, and seated meditation.
The general misconception around yoga is that it will only make you more flexible and limber, but no stronger. When in reality yoga has the perfect balance between strength and flexibility training.
There are various different forms of yoga that will put finely tuned athletes through their paces. I'm looking at you vinyasa and bikram yoga.
Now you have to be realistic, yoga isn't going to build you your ideal body. It's not the way to bulk up and get 21-inch arms, it's not the way to train for a marathon.
But it will give you a good workout and a different challenge for your body to deal with.
Physical fitness was never the main purpose of yoga, it does more than just burn calories and tone muscles.
It's a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation.
What Does the Research Say?
This has been a hotly debated and research subject over the years for good reason. Workout fads come and go, but yoga has been around for over 5000 years.
In 2013 a study was carried out on young adults to determine the effects of short-term Bikram yoga training on general physical fitness.
The results found that yoga subjects exhibited increased deadlift strength, substantially increased lower back/hamstring flexibility.
They also showed an increase in shoulder flexibility and modestly decreased body fat compared with control group. However, the study also found that yoga had no effect on aerobic fitness.
A Study in 2017 found that higher speed yoga with more poses can be used to generate greater muscle utilization. Almost like a HIIT class.
In 2014 a study showed that yoga is comparable to aerobic exercise when it comes to improving cardiovascular health.
Although the researchers weren’t sure exactly how much yoga is enough to stimulate these benefits.
However, in 2016 researchers found that hatha yoga doesn’t offer the cardiovascular benefits to be counted in your recommend daily exercise. Hatha yoga is one of the gentler yoga types, so this doesn't really come as much of a surprise.
What type of fitness levels can yoga improve?
Flexibility: 100%. Yoga will stretch your muscles and with regular practice increase your range of motion.
Aerobic: No. Yoga isn't considered aerobic exercise. It doesn't meet the American College of Sports Medicine's baseline standard for aerobic exercise. The more athletic varieties, like power & Bikram yoga, will make you sweat though. A lot.
Strength: Definitely! If you think holding the plank pose is hard, you're going to struggle. It requires a lot of strength to hold your body in a balanced pose. Again, regular practice will help improve your strength.
Is practising yoga on its own enough?
No. As the studies above show, and as we have mentioned above practising yoga on its own will not be enough to achieve your body goals. Most people who practice yoga recognise this as well.
A Study in 2016 found that more yoga practitioners are involved in other forms of exercise – including running, biking and weight lifting – than people who don’t practice yoga.
The study also found that the top five reasons people take up yoga are to:
Gain flexibility (61 percent)
Reduce stress (56 percent)
Boost general fitness (49 percent)
Improve overall health (49 percent)
Improve overall physical fitness (44 percent)
Yoga classes can help you achieve the above, but it will take time and dedication.
We are firmly in the camp that yoga is a real form of exercise. It burns calories, it makes you sweat, it challenges muscles in ways they have probably never been challenge in before.
For those that argue otherwise, they may be subject to the misconceptions we mentioned earlier. And have probably never tried it themselves!
It's a great addition to your workout regime, but alone it is not enough to transform your body.