Can Yoga help me… Improve my fitness?

YES it can!  It elevates your heart rate through an aerobic workout which can be achieved through practicing dynamic yoga sequences such as Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara).  To improve your fitness this flowing sequence should be sustained for a minimum of 15 minutes or 10 rounds (whichever comes first).   You can start slowly initially and build up a consistent and regular practice.

The Physical Benefits of Yoga
Performing yoga postures regularly offers a number of physical benefits, including:  Increased strength, stamina and flexibility.  Increased lubrication of joints, ligaments and tendons.  Massaging the body’s internal organs.  Detoxifying the body and toning the muscles.

Yoga for Weight Loss
Yoga will not ‘kick-start’ weight loss, but it will help to get you up, moving and motivated.  Some forms of yoga (vinyasa, dynamic, power, and hot) can raise your heart rate and help burn fat.  In order to lose weight, you should eat healthily and burn calories by doing exercise that raises your heart rate on a regular basis.

Start practicing Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara).

Sun Salutation is traditionally performed in the morning to greet the new day, but you can actually do it anytime!

The sequence can be a complete practice in itself, or can prepare you for a longer asana (yoga poses) routine.  Each time you flow through this sequence, synchronise your breath with the movements of your body.  

After Sun Salutation try this short yoga sequence (work both right and left side):

Virabhadrasana I - Warrior I Virabhadrasana II - Warrior II Trikonasana - Triangle Pose Parsvottanasana - Single Leg Forward Fold Virabhadrasana III - Warrior III Utkatasana - Chair Pose
Follow this routine at least 3 times a week, holding each pose for 2 breaths (increase heart rate, cardio), or 3 to 5 deep breaths (to increase stamina), for a more strengthening routine: hold each pose for 5 to 8 breaths and build up your repetitions for each.

Yoga Breathing
Most of us breathe very shallowly into the lungs and don’t give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises, called Pranayama, brings focus and attention to the breath and can teach us how to better use our lungs, to supply our bodies and its various organs with oxygen which is vital for our health, and therefore benefits the entire body. Certain types of breath can also help clear the nasal passages and even calm the central nervous system, which has both physical and mental benefits.

KAPALABHATI (Cleansing Breath) (kah-pah-lah-BAH-tee)
kapala = skull
bhati = light (implying perception, knowledge)

What is it?  Kapalabhati breathing can be cleansing, invigorating, and great for toning and strengthening the core muscles.  It consists of rapid, forced exhales followed by passive inhales, through the nostrils. Exhales are generated by powerful contractions of the lower belly (between the pubis and navel), which push air out of the lungs. Inhales are responses to the release of this contraction, which sucks air back into the lungs.

Before beginning the exercise, relax by taking a few deep breaths. Relax between rounds by breathing deeply.

How to: Focus on your lower belly. Many beginners aren’t able to isolate and contract this area. If needed, cup one hand lightly in the other and press them gently against your lower belly.

1.  Inhale through both nostrils deeply.
2.  Contract your low belly or use your hands to gently press on this area, forcing out the breath in a short burst.
3.  As you quickly release the contraction, your inhalation should be automatic and passive – your focus should be on exhaling.
4.  Do 20 to 30 cycles first, then gradually increase the number of cycles you do each practice.

Kapalabhati how to

As you become more adept at contracting/releasing your lower belly, you can increase your pace to about two exhale-inhale cycles every second. Imagine the exhale breath sweeping out or “brightening” the inner lining of your skull.

Caution:  Avoid practicing Kapalabhati if you currently have high blood pressure, heart disease, or a hernia. Women who are pregnant should avoid practicing this breathing exercise. As with all breathing exercises, always approach the practice with caution, especially if you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma or emphysema.

Stop the exercise if you become faint or dizzy. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities, speak to a qualified and knowledgeable teacher if unsure.

Disclaimer:  This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance should consult his or her GP.