The first thing that came to my mind when the word yoga was mentioned is a person sitting down, cross-legged, chanting in quiet solace. Yoga has evolved from meditation to enjoy the presence of Hindu gods to repeating several poses and enjoying overall well-toned physical bodies. Yoga now involves stretching and flexibility that contributes to muscle fitness and strength.
A study was made at the University of California on ten college students who spend most of their time sitting and watching television or videos. For eight weeks, they had two to four hours of yoga routine including 10 minutes on breath control, 15 minutes on warming up, 50 minutes on yoga poses, and final 10 minutes on reflection or meditation. The result of the study showed a significant boosting on their body condition as evidence by an increase of 31% in their muscular strength, 57% for their muscular endurance, an enormous 188% in their muscular flexibility and enhancement of 7% in their body system performance specifically the heart and respiratory system.
Conventional exercise can help in building up and making the muscles stronger, that is a proven fact, but how can yoga achieve this goal?
In regular exercise, tools like dumbbells and bars, act as the source of resistance, in yoga the body as a whole functions as the resistance. Most of the yoga routine requires the person to hold the position for a few minutes before transitioning to another pose or do the poses very slowly. This creates more tension and resistance than ordinary training where you may be able to do the exercise at your own pace.
Another helpful contribution of yoga is in the production of overall well-toned muscles. In body workouts using weights, concentric muscle contraction is being produced while with yoga the changing in poses causes the contraction to be eccentric. Eccentric type of muscle contraction causes the muscles to increase in length as it contracts thereby producing less immense and sometimes awkward muscles.
Also, in contrast with weight training, the isolation of certain muscles like in bicep curl or crunches is common while with yoga our entire muscular system works to switch to another pose. This is the very reason why we can expect the entire body to be more physically strong which is actually what we need more than isolated well-built biceps or six-pack stomachs. If we will think about it, in reality, we need all our muscles to be healthy and be in top shape since we are using all of them in our everyday chores and not just our arms or tummies. We may have strong arms but weak knees since we just focus our concentration on producing big muscular appendages.
Yoga may not replace specific workout for certain muscle especially if they are in therapy but if overall body strength and flexibility is needed then yoga will without a doubt produce the end product that we need every day.