A lot of readers who read my blog titled "Calorie Count: Hatha, Vinyasa, and Hot Yoga" thought that the article read as a bias against hot yoga, promoting running as a preferred method of exercise. This is not the case. Yoga is my first passion and I began running as a form of cardiovascular exercise. I practice hatha and vinyasa as well as heated yoga. I consider going to yoga class more along the lines of seeing a therapist than a form of exercise. Running and yoga are separate entities in my mind, but for many of our readers and customers, yoga is primarily a form of exercise. The article was meant to supply useful facts to those readers. I agree with reader "Steve" that running may become harmful for the joints and feet. I have terrible shin splints from running three miles four times a week for two months. My running-induced sports injuries have lead to severe pain and have impaired my gait when I walk. Yoga has been helpful in reversing these negative consequences I am experiencing as a result of my high-impact aerobic routine. As well as healing my body, yoga has become the most useful tool I have come across for spiritual and mental ailments. Everything listed above have been drawn from my own personal experiences, opinions, and findings from practicing yoga 2-3 times a week for almost a decade.
I also stated in the mentioned article that yoga has shown to decrease metabolism, citing "sources" which were unnamed and not linked to. I did not read this study on the internet and therefore it cannot be linked to, so I'll bust out my MLA stylebook from college English class. The effect of yoga on metabolism has been a hot topic and is up for debate. Many sources, like Gaiam's Life Blog, state that yoga boosts metabolism through improved digestion coupled with increased circulation and muscle mass.
Legendary Hatha yogi Sadhu Haridas demonstrated the power of the kundalini yoga mindset when he survived a live burial, burried underground without food and water for 40 days. One of the points he was trying to prove was that yoga helps to optimize bodily functions, making the body more efficient. Yoga may give you the power to live on a reduced metabolism. This live burial occurred in 1837 -- 176 years ago. Since then, with the advent of modern science and research, scientists have found that, "physiological slowing from yoga can reduce stress, the heart rate, and blood pressure, helping to boost immunity and prevent diseases.1"
In 2006, Indian physiologist and yogi Mayasandra Chaya along with several researchers studied over 100 men and women over the course of 6 months. Participants were prescribed a regular Hatha routine of 12 poses (including Triangle, Shoulder Stand, Locust, Cobra, Bow, and Thunderbolt), in conjunction with ujjayi breath and followed by relaxing Shavasana (Corpse Pose). Chaya measured basal metabolic rate -- how much energy it would take your body to keep functioning at rest -- as determined by the flow of respiratory gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide). The findings were notable -- metabolic rate was cut by an average of 13% in participants: 8% in men and 18% in women. These finding revealed that yoga makes the body more efficient by means of requiring less calories per day to function ideally. However, this increased efficiency sets the body up for weight gain and fat accumulation if food intake is not decreased.
This scientific find is not a popular one among the yoga world. Many yogis will attest to having experienced weight loss as a result of yoga practice, and they are not wrong. Yoga is a form of exercise and is endlessly beneficial to your health. The secret of weight loss associated with yoga is not a speeding up or slowing down of metabolic rate, but rather, the psychological fallout of stress and subsequent self-control. "Yoga affects the mind -- and desire," said researcher Chaya. "So you eat less." Total balance of being (mind, body, and soul) is one of the overall goals of yoga. As you breathe and work through a set of yoga poses, you build self-awareness and align not only the physical body but the mental state as well. This increased awareness is transformative and leads to healthy lifestyle choices.
How has yoga transformed your life? For me, I have become much stronger and I have found a healthy outlet to release excess stress and frustration. Plus, I have a new set of friends that are also making healthy choices. I am less impulsive and live life more mindfully.
1. Broad, William J. The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012.↩