They say that it is an aerobic exercise because of the postures (or positions) you are in when you are doing yoga.
That's quite true. When you are doing yoga, you are using many of the same muscles that you use when running or climbing stairs. But, there is a big difference.
While you are running or climbing stairs, you are using those muscles for a short period. When you are doing yoga, you are using those muscles for a more extended period.
While it is true that you are using the same muscles when you are running or climbing stairs, what makes yoga different is that your body is not in the same position repeatedly.
So not only do the poses last much longer, but they also work in several other planes of motion.
In this article, I will attempt to answer the question "Is Yoga Aerobic Exercise?" First, I will explain the difference between aerobic exercise and Yoga.
Then, I will come to why many people believe that yoga is aerobic exercise. Finally, I will also explain why yoga falls into a category of its own.
Let’s get started!
What Is Aerobic Exercise?
Aerobic exercise is a physical activity that requires an increased oxygen intake for the body to function effectively.
Aerobic exercise includes exercises like running or swimming for at least 10 minutes at a moderate intensity with increased heart rate and respiration.
Doing so increases your heart rate, burns calories and fat stores, lowers blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels.
What Does Aerobic Exercise Look Like?
Aerobic exercise can be broken down into four stages of intensity based on the level of exertion. Your heart rate remains at roughly 50 per cent to 60 per cent of your maximum heart rate at the lowest intensity.
At moderate intensity, the heartbeat rises from 70 per cent to 85 per cent of maximum heart rate. At this level, there's visible sweating, and you can feel your pulse in your neck and wrists.
The higher intensity level is 85 per cent to 100 per cent of maximum heart rate, and the maximum intensity is more significant than 100 per cent.
What Is Yoga?
Yoga is a physical and mental exercise that originated in India. In yoga, poses are held for a specific length of time, about 10 seconds to more than a minute. The longer the pose is held, the greater the stretch in your muscles and connective tissue.
Yoga's roots date back to 5000 B.C., around the time of the Indus civilization. Over time, it has become recognized as a complete exercise system, made up of eight limbs: Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dhyana, Dharana and samadhi.
It is recognized as both a physical and spiritual practice that combines postures known as asanas with breathing exercises called pranayamas.
The practise of yoga can have physical, psychological, spiritual, and social benefits. It also provides a balance between intellect and intuition. Yoga integrates our emotions with our thoughts.
Yoga therapy is a type that uses yoga as a method to help relieve physical ailments, increase flexibility, reduce stress, and promote mental clarity.
Yoga is an Integrated Health professional's choice - not a mass-produced exercise program.
Can Fast-Paced Yoga Styles Count as Yoga Cardio?
Aerobic exercise is any form of physical activity that requires an increased oxygen intake for the body to function effectively.
Yoga does not require fast-paced, aerobic movements to be considered aerobic exercise. Many styles of yoga are more flowing and restorative. They are more about using your body weight to stretch muscle tissue than for fast-paced, aerobic movements.
But does that mean that faster-paced yoga styles can't be considered aerobic exercise? Not necessarily. It depends on how you do them.
As I mentioned earlier, many people believe that yoga is aerobic exercise because you are in various positions. The thing is, when you are in those poses for several minutes at a time, it does provide a certain amount of aerobic benefits.
For example, while doing Inversions in yoga, I hang from my arms for about thirty seconds to a minute at a time.
When I do that, my heart rate goes up, and my breathing gets heavier. So that can be considered aerobic exercise.
However, if I do an Inversion on the floor for one minute, I won’t have a heart rate increase. So if I am using that Inversion to help me relax and let go of stress, it will help me release some tension.
In this case, it is more of a restorative type of exercise than it is aerobic exercise. It is better to use your body weight instead of your arms to stretch your muscles than run or do aerobics with them.
So, coming back to the question, “Is Yoga Aerobic Exercise?”
The answer is a resounding maybe! Depending on how you do it, yoga can be aerobic exercise.
If you are doing a fast-paced yoga style where you hold poses for more extended periods, it will count as aerobic exercise.
But if you are using these poses to help your body relax and let go of stress and tension, it will also count as a therapeutic exercise.
So, if you are just starting with yoga, don’t worry that it is not aerobic exercise. If you are doing it right, then it will be. If you use your body weight to stretch your muscles and let go of stress and tension, it is still doing its job.
Is Yoga Better Than Aerobic Exercise?
As I said earlier, it is not necessarily. Again, it depends on what your goals are.
If your goal is to increase energy and boost your metabolism, aerobic exercise is better. If you are trying to lose fat and inches from your body, aerobic exercise will help you reach those goals faster.
But if your goal is to increase flexibility and feel more relaxed, then yoga would be a better fit for you.
What Can You Do? – The Solution
While aerobic exercise and yoga have both been effective at helping people reach their health goals, they serve different purposes. Balance is the key to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If you are doing yoga, the best thing you can do is include some aerobic exercise in your routine. Likewise, if you are doing aerobic exercise, it's essential to incorporate restorative yoga poses in your workout.
While most HIIT routines last for about 20-30 minutes, it’s not uncommon for people to lose their breath that quickly during a HIIT workout.
When you are out of breath, it is a sign that your body is not used to more intense workouts.
The best way to get used to these intense workouts is to do low-intensity cardio for more extended periods.
For example, if I wanted to develop muscular endurance, I would choose a slower pace on my elliptical machine and extend my workout for 20 minutes. I wouldn't want to be out of breath for that long.
My point is that there are many benefits to both aerobic and restorative yoga, and it’s important not to dismiss one over the other.
The Bottom Line
Aerobic exercise and yoga are both critical for leading a healthy lifestyle. While some people assume that they can’t do both, the truth is that you can. It’s just a matter of finding the right balance.
If you are doing aerobic exercise, it's essential to include restorative yoga poses in your routine. Similarly, if you are doing yoga, it's necessary to have aerobic exercises in your practice.
In this way, you will have a balanced workout that will keep you feeling energized and healthy.
Yoga is a great and beneficial approach for your mental and spiritual well-being. For this to happen, however, you'll need to find the right balance that works for you.