Think of yoga and more often than not, you tend to think of it as an effective stress management tool, with deep breathing and meditation. While the health benefits of yoga are well known, the question on people’s minds often is, does yoga really count as exercise? If you are wondering whether there is a difference between yoga and exercise, here’s everything you need to know.
The answer to that question really lies in your health goals as also the kind of yoga practice you opt for. If your health goal is more restorative, you could go with a yoga class that doesn’t require too much movement and focuses on mindfulness. On the other hand, if you were to practice the Vinyasa style of yoga, for example, the class will be fast-paced, to say the least. Vinyasa means arranging something in a special way; as the name suggests, therefore, it causes your heart rate to be raised enough for it to qualify as moderate physical activity.
Similarly, if your health goal is improving muscle strength, there are many poses in yoga that qualify as a form of bodyweight training. If you are doing a handstand or a plank, for example, you are really using your body weight to challenge your muscles. There have been enough and more studies to show that yoga improves core and upper body strength. One of the differences between strength training through yoga vs exercise lies in the fact that weight training means focusing on a certain muscle, the biceps for example, while yoga would have its focus on muscle groups.
If you want to undertake yoga for weight loss, the focus has to be on the calories that you could burn in a yoga session. For this, again, if you take up forms like Hatha yoga or Bikram Yoga, you could, depending on your body weight, on an average burn around 120 calories in a half-hour session. Also, yoga typically leads you towards healthy eating and lifestyle changes, further leading to weight loss. By contrast, of course, if you are bicycling at a moderate pace on a stationary bike, you could look at burning an average 210 calories in a 30-minute session.
Clearly then, the choice of exercise or yoga for weight loss is a matter of your individual choice and how aggressive your weight loss goals are.
Moderate physical exercise typically means a target heart rate of 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, while vigorous exercise means elevating your heart rate to 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Yoga may not elevate your heart rate as much as what running or biking, for example, would do. There could be some yoga practices, however, that could help elevate the heart rate to moderate levels. Besides, yoga could help you strengthen the heart and help in overall cardio and circulatory health.
Some of the other health benefits of yoga include:
Also, as regular yoga practice leads to improved body awareness, it can result in early detection of physical problems as also help you take preventive action. Besides, one of the benefits of yoga, is, of course, the fact that it helps you manage stress, which has a far-reaching impact on both the body and the mind.
While there is no denying the fact that there is a difference between yoga and exercise, your health goals could determine what you opt for. In fact, many fitness experts recommend a mix of yoga with other forms of exercise such as weight training or cardio exercises. Since total body fitness includes developing strength, power, flexibility and endurance, a balance in all these aspects is ideal.