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Yoga for Increased Fitness

yoga increased fitness

It’s no secret that yoga boasts some great health benefits. We often hear how the exercise improves flexibility, releases stress, and calms the mind, but can the practice increase our physical fitness? Is heading to the yoga mat all that’s needed to get fit? In this article, we discuss this further as we explore yoga for increased fitness.

How Does is Improve Fitness?

Numerous studies have shown that yoga can, in fact, improve fitness. But how does it do so? According to Robert Holly, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in the Department of Exercise Biology at U. C. Davis, the stretching during yoga causes the muscles to become larger and capable of taking in higher levels of oxygen. Over time, this can increase our muscle strength and endurance, thus improving our physical fitness.

“My own belief is that the small but significant increase in maximal oxygen capacity was due to an increase in muscle endurance, which allowed the subjects to exercise longer, extract more oxygen, and reach an increased maximal oxygen uptake,” concluded Holly.

The breathing exercises used in yoga can also improve our fitness levels. When used regularly, pranayama can improve the flexibility of the rib area, back, and shoulders, allowing the lungs to expand further. Ultimately, this can increase our lung capacity. Pranayama also helps to fully oxygenate the blood and condition the diagram – both further boosting lung capacity.

Better still, yoga can be used as a form of cardio. Certain asanas are designed to increase the heart rate and make the practice aerobically challenging. When practised regularly, balancing postures and inversions build our fitness levels by using sustained isometric contractions of many large and small muscles. The longer the postures are held for, the more fit you’ll become.

Postures to Increase Fitness

Boat Pose

To practice the Boat Pose, begin sitting on the floor with your legs extended. Place your hands on the floor just behind your hips, keeping your fingertips pointing towards your feet. Strengthen your arms and press your palms into the mat. Keeping your back straight, slowly lean back and raise your feet off the floor. Your shins should now be parallel to the ground. Lengthen the front of your torso and lift your chest. Finally, raise your arms until they are in line with your shoulders. You are in Boat Pose. Hold the asana for 30 seconds whilst breathing deeply. To deepen the stretch, draw your chin into your chest to lift the base of your skull away from the neck.

Dolphin Pose

To practice Dolphin Pose, start on all fours. Keeping your knees in line with your hips, rest your forearms on the mat with your shoulders above your hands. Next, bring your palms together whilst keeping your arms on the floor. Curl your toes under and slowly lift your knees away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone and lift your bottom towards the ceiling. Your body should now resemble an upside-down ‘V’ shape. If you’re finding this tricky, keep your knees bent slightly. Press your forearms into the mat and draw your shoulder blades back and down. To keep your head supported, place it in-between your upper arms instead of letting it hang aimlessly. You are in Dolphin Pose. Hold the asana for around 30 seconds before bringing your knees back down to the floor.

yoga increased fitness

Plank Pose

To practice Plank Pose, start on all fours. Tuck your toes under and lift your legs up off the floor. Slide your feet back until your body forms a straight line from your head to your feet. Finally, engage your abs and draw your shoulder blades back and down. You are in Plank Pose. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged to hold the position for as long as you can.

Warrior One

To practice Warrior One, begin by standing up straight. Keeping your left leg in place, take a big step forward with your right leg. Next, bend your right leg and stretch your left leg out behind you. Finally, roll your shoulders back and lift your arms above your head. You are in Warrior One. Hold the asana for around 30 seconds before switching sides.

Warrior Two

To practice Warrior Two, stand tall on your mat. Take a big step forward with your right leg, keeping both legs straight. Next, turn your left foot out 90 degrees and your right foot in 45 degrees. Finally, bend your right knee and stretch your arms out to the sides. You are in Warrior Two. Hold the asana for 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.

Cobra Pose

To practice Cobra Pose, begin lying on your stomach. Extend your legs out behind you, keeping the tops of your feet touching the ground. Next, place your hands flat on the mat directly under your shoulders. Slowly draw your elbows back into your body whilst pressing your thighs and the tops of your feet into the ground. Stay in this position for a few seconds, taking time to breathe deeply. When you are ready, straighten both arms to lift your chest off the mat. Finally, press your tailbone firmly into the floor and engage your bottom. You are in Cobra Pose. For best results, draw your shoulder blades towards your back and distribute the stretch evenly throughout the spine. Hold the posture for 30 seconds before releasing the stretch and lowering yourself back down to the ground.

In Summary

If you’re hoping to use yoga for increased fitness, practice the sequence above regularly. If you’re new to the practice, it may be worth attending a local class. With the help of an experienced instructor, you’ll be able to learn how to practice each asana correctly. If your class is outside, remember to wear a yoga cap to protect your eyes from the sun.

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