I have often wondered if my Yoga is keeping me truly fit. It definitely gives me strength, balance, and flexibility. It helps to deepen my breath and calm my mind. Sometimes I experience life force (Prana) strongly pulsating through me. These are all positives. But what about cardio health?
There is a lot of controversy over whether-or-not Yoga can provide an aerobic workout. Some styles, such as power Yoga, lend themselves more to an aerobic routine. Several years ago, I studied power or ashtanga Yoga for a number of months. To be honest it just didn't feel like Yoga to me. That's not to say that everyone's experience would be the same. I found it frustrating to follow the set postures and "push" through movements (asanas) so quickly. For me the benefits of focus, concentration, awareness, and breath were lost during this type of practice. I enjoy (and benefit most from) becoming intimately aware of how each breath impacts my body and mind. I enjoy moving at a pace that brings stillness to my mind and depth to my breath.
I had a friend that once claimed holding postures for at least one minute provided a nice workout for his heart. He even lost weight this way. By looking at him, I'd say about 20 pounds. I wondered if my heart was really getting aerobic benefits from doing this.
So, last week (I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner) I decided to test my aerobic fitness. Instead of guessing if the Yoga was keeping my heart aerobically fit, I simply tested it out.
The test showed that my aerobic fitness s*cks! This was very surprising news to me. It wasn't just "not so great". It was darn right horrible! Other than carrying about 10 more pounds than I'd like to, I feel fit, healthy, and relatively balanced. I'd like to stay that way, so I've added 20-30 minutes of heart fitness 5 days a week. Next month I plan to test my aerobic health again and see where it's at.
If you are unsure if your Yoga is providing aerobic benefits or power Yoga is just not for you, then take the following test.
1. Determine your target heart rate. According to the American Heart Association, your target heart rate is 50-85 % of your maximum heart rate. Your max heart rate is 220 minus your age. If you're feeling lazy, see the chart here.
2. Using your exercise of choice (walking, running, biking, etc) get moving for at least 10 minutes. Pause and count your pulse for 6 seconds. Multiply this by 10 to get your heart rate. Be sure you have reached your target heart rate. Wait 1 minute and take your pulse again by timing for 6 seconds and multiplying by 10. The reason for only counting for 6 seconds is to get an accurate reading, because the heart rate can change the longer you count.
3. Dr. Gabe Mirkin says that if your heart rate goes down less than 30 beats/minute during the one minutes waiting time, then add more aerobics to your life. If it drops by more than 50 beats/minute, then you are in stellar shape.
Have a happy and healthy heart.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life!