By Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Although Hatha Yoga is much more than exercise, we can make factual comparisons to other forms of physical exercise to understand how this ancient practice manages to have such an enthusiastic following. On the physical level, the practice of Hatha Yoga can help a student develop strength, balance, flexibility, and cardio vascular endurance. In comparison to other forms of exercise, Hatha Yoga encompasses all of their physical benefits and more.
Some people would question the cardio vascular aspect, but they have not practiced Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutations). This is a sequence of postures, which by itself, enhances strength, balance, flexibility, and cardio vascular endurance. Usually, Surya Namaskars contain twelve postures, but there are exceptions and there are many different sequences.
Some forms of Power, Vinyasa, and Flow Yoga, connect movement in a similar fashion. Anyone who has practiced these forms of Yoga can attest to the aerobic value. Yet, some studies will question this, because Hatha Yoga is not a high impact exercise. All forms of Yogic exercise respect and safely work to preserve the joints.
Yet, exercise of moderate intensity, performed over time, is classified as aerobic. To go a bit further, any exercise activity, which requires oxygen to metabolize glucose, in exchange for energy, is aerobic.
With that said, no one usually questions the benefits of strength, balance, and flexibility from Yogic exercise, especially if they witness a room full of women over 50, who can balance their body weight on two hands in bakasana (also known as crane or crow pose).
The postures (asanas) are designed to massage internal organs, preserve skeletal health, and tone the muscles. Massaging internal organs is of primary importance to our survival. We can send toxins on their way by keeping the body in motion, and we do not need high impact movement to perform this task. Prevention of disease, and early detection of disease, are benefits of an internal awareness, which comes with Yoga practice.
On the skeletal level, we want to keep our joints intact for as long as possible. The ligaments and tendons are precious, so we work to keep them in good working condition, as well. On top of this, spinal alignment, during posture practice, helps with mobility, when we become seniors.
How many other exercise systems work so completely? This does not take away the value of cross training. By all means, walk, swim and play your favorite games; but in comparison, Yoga, on the physical level, is the “Great Healer” of all forms of exercise.
© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
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