Yoga Fitness Training

Overview

Yoga for fitness increases in popularity as more people than ever enjoy yoga. Most health clubs and gyms offer some type of yoga class because it’s generally accepted as a way to improve flexibility and to reduce stress. There are many types of yoga classes to choose from, however, and you should choose one that meets your fitness goals.

Defining Fitness

Developing a basic understanding of how to define fitness will help you decide what yoga class is best for you. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, there are four types of health related fitness: cardiorespiratory, muscular, flexibility and body composition. To best use yoga as a way to improve your fitness, you must consider which of these components you want to focus on and choose a yoga class to fit that goal.

Cardiorespiratory Benefits

Power yoga, Ashtanga and flow styles of yoga follow a format that encourages you to work hard enough to raise your heart to meet cardiovascular improvement standards. These styles move from one pose to the next quick quickly, keeping you moving like you would do in any fitness class. Because yoga classes are typically 60 to 90 minutes long just 2-3 classes a week will meet the physical activity guidelines for improving your fitness set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Muscular Benefits

Yoga classes are structured so that you use your own body weight as resistance. Just like you would do in a bootcamp class, yoga poses offer variations of push ups, squats and lunges in order to strengthen the body. Any style of yoga you choose will help tone and sculpt your muscles. If you are just starting out, classes that go by the name of Hatha may be a good choice. But if you are already somewhat fit and wanting to add yoga to your program, power classes will challenge you to build more strength.

Body Composition

Yoga, like any exercise, will help you burn calories and improve your body composition. Vinyasa classes with plenty of movement offer the greatest potential for burning calories. The greater benefit of yoga is that is also helps you clear your mind and become more aware of the choices you make off the yoga mat. In the Yoga Journal article, “Losing It”, it states increased body awareness can change your eating habits by helping you explore emotional issues once buried by eating. Being more aware of your choices outside of the yoga class is where the real change will happen.

Flexibility

The most obvious fitness benefit of yoga is flexibility. Yoga moves your body in all directions and in ways you wouldn’t do in your normal day. Improving your flexibility will decrease your chance of injury in sports, and it will allow you to move freely in your day-to-day life. Any type of yoga class will focus on flexibility and allow you these benefits.

Put it Together

Of course you want to lose weight, sculpt your body and be stronger, but yoga also offers the benefit of reducing stress. Reducing your stress will allow you to better manage your time, enjoy your family and friends or your job and give you a sense of calm. Many people start with yoga for the fitness benefits, but end up staying because of the deeper meaning yoga gives their lives. Try different styles of yoga until you find the one that meets your fitness goals, fits your personality and gives you a sense of mindfulness.

About this Author

Paula Stephens has a master\’s degree in exercise physiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine. Professionally she has been a personal trainer, worked in cardiac rehab and currently is the director of a large community-based fitness program. She speaks nationally, presenting workshops to other personal trainers and hosts women\’s fitness retreats.