by Madeline Sadler
Yoga has been around for hundreds of years. It has been used as a form of mediation, a religious activity in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, and so much more. It’s primary purpose when created was to calm the mind and body as a form of self-care for yourself and honor your higher being. The definition of yoga is, “a system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and sometimes meditation derived from Yoga but often practiced independently especially in western cultures to promote physical and emotional well-being,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Following this, the definition of exercise is, “bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness.” Western society views yoga as an exercise, but others think of yoga as just stretching because it isn’t as intense as your standard aerobic exercises. On the contrary, I think it’s important that people understand that it is an exercise because it is so good for your wellbeing.
Yoga exercises your physical body. There’s no doubt that you are using your body through stretching and genuine movement. In an article titled, “Is Yoga Good Exercise?” Heid writes that “For starters, research shows regular yoga practice lowers your risk for heart disease and hypertension. Yoga may also lessen symptoms of depression, headaches, diabetes, some forms of cancer and pain-related diseases like arthritis” (Heid). Heid also states that yoga is a better form of exercise for you than aerobic exercises, as it is less taxing on your body and allows the muscles to stretch out and get worked out in different ways than a strenuous workout. It allows the muscles to loosen and strengthen in a far less intense form of exercise compared to running, for example. Yoga trains the muscles to hold certain poses strengthens them in the process against the force of your body weight as if you were weight lifting the same amount. You can maintain your physical fitness from yoga even though you might not be burning as many calories as a high-powered circuit workout. “Even hot forms of yoga like Bikram result in modest energy expenditures—roughly the number of calories you’d burn during a brisk walk” (Heid). Bikram yoga is a 90-minute yoga session in a room heated between 104-106 degrees Fahrenheit. In a yoga study taken place at the University of California at Davis, they examined ten untrained individuals ranging from 18-27. After an eight-week program their muscular strength increased by 26%, muscular endurance increased by 85%, and their relative maximal oxygen intake increased by 6-7% on average (Holly).
Yoga can also exercise your mind, with meditation and breathing exercises. You are working your brain in a different way than it is used to in everyday life. In the article, “The Single Best Exercise For Your Brain,” the author says that “For those saddled with the brain-clouding effects of depression, yoga can provide serious relief” (Crow). A study done at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center found that male veterans showed significant improvement in their symptoms after a twice-weekly yoga session after two months (Crow). This is a great way to demonstrate how yoga exercises the mind. It is essential to our overall well being that we not only exercise our physical body, but our mental “body” too. Yoga exercises your brain by learning mindfulness and being aware of your body and the 60,000 thoughts a day circling in your head (McKay, 100). You can learn stress tolerance, diffusion, decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety, and gain self-esteem by regularly practicing yoga to exercise your brain. In comparison to aerobic exercise, the mental state can be compromised. In the article written by Rick Rockwell, he states, “According to a study published in the June 2000 edition of “Neurological Research,” cerebral blood flow velocity induced arterial pressure within the brain up to 450/380 mmHg. The authors state that “catastrophic brain injuries such as stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, subarachnoid hemorrhage, retinal hemorrhage and retinal detachment have been associated with weight-lifting” (Rockwell). In other words, weight lifting can cause significant stress on your brain and body.
“Yoga is sweeping across the globe at a dazzling speed, as millions are turning to yoga not only to exercise, but also as an alternative to the experience of a spiritual gathering they cannot find in a church, synagogue, mosque or Web site” (Strom). Yoga is seen to benefit so many aspects of life. In western society, it is a form of exercise, but it’s also more than that. People use it to gain a new sense of self that comes from exercising the mind. They are looking for that peace that comes from practicing yoga and reaping those benefits from using it. This benefits come from the newly gained skills of mindfulness with your body, and not putting your body through so much strenuous exercise that can compromise your well being. This makes it essential for everyone who might need a little extra stillness in their life, so why not give it a try?
Crow, Sarah. “The Single Best Exercise For Your Brain”. Best Life, 2017. Online. Internet. 29 Sep. 2018. . Available: https://bestlifeonline.com/brain-exercise/.
Heid, Markham. “http://time.com”. Time, 2016. Online. Internet. 1 Oct. 2018. . Available: http://time.com/4185626/yoga-exercise-workout/.
Holly, Robert. “Effects of Hatha Yoga Practice on the Health‐Related Aspects of Physical Fitness”, 2007. Online. Internet. 1 Oct. 2018. . Available: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1520-037X.2001.00542.x.
McKay, Matthew, and Patrick Fanning. Self-Esteem. vols. 4th ed. New Harbinger, 2016.
Strom, Max, 2011. “The Global Impact of Yoga”, 2011 . Internet. 1 Oct. 2018. . Available: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/yoga-health-the-global_b_528595.
Rockwell, R. (2017). Long Term Effects of Weightlifting on the Brain. Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/549800-long-term-effects-of-weightlifting-on-the-brain/