Fitness Magazine

Friday Q&A: Running Versus Yoga

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge

Friday Q&A: Running versus Yoga

Olympic Track by LeRoy Neiman*

Q: What’s the comparison of yoga with running/jogging. Does yoga complement running, or we should try to stick to one form of exercise? Kindly explain.

A: The question I usually get around this topic is: Is yoga an aerobic-enough “exercise” that I can substitute it for my running/jogging/treadmill, etc., aerobic activity? It is usually noted that although yoga has many cardiovascular benefits (see Heart Health and Yoga: An Overview), most forms of modern yoga asana do not achieve the same aerobic level of activity as running and comparable activities. Now, Ram did mention some interesting ways that yoga really does fit the bill, and might at least assist us in being more aerobically fit (see Yoga Asanas: Endurance Training or Resistance Training ) But, in contrast, there are other writers who point out that even more active forms of yoga practice, like repeated Sun Salutations, do not achieve the same target heart rates that other forms of aerobic activity do (see Yoga Exercise Benefits Vs. Aerobic Exercise). My feeling on this is that the combination of yoga and some form of aerobic activity is better than either alone. I came to the conclusion in a very personal way. I shifted most of my physical/exercise activity to yoga over the past decade or so, and when I recently joined a gym in order to do some aerobic activity on the elliptical machines (best for my slightly cranky knees), I could really feel the effort I was making to finish a 20-minute session! I had lost some of my aerobic fitness from my pre-yoga days of regular running and biking longer distances. As I have been more regular in doing my 20-30 minutes aerobic workouts over the last few months, I have seen a steady improvement in my overall capacity, and have been able to achieve my target heart rate, which is an indication that I am working at a sufficient level to benefit my heart and entire system.But an odd thing has also happened: I have been getting a lot of specific musculo-fascial tightness in my legs and hips that was not there a few months ago! This is the tradeoff of increasing my aerobic fitness—and a great reason to add or refocus my asana practice to help address these changes. So, I have been spending a bit more time each yoga session on releasing tension in the hamstrings, quads, adductors, outer hips, and calves, and it has helped me regain some flexibility in those areas. I find this approach of adding in yoga practices helpful for many of my students who first come to yoga as regular runners or joggers, cyclists or gym rats. And depending on how you might apply your yoga practices relative to your aerobic workouts, your yoga might also improve your overall fitness and decrease the likelihood of overuse injuries from your running or biking. Order the combo plate today!

And, really, it is not as if doing yoga is actually comparable to running or jogging. Mindful asana, with appropriate pranayama and meditation added in, has benefits that go way beyond mere physical activity (even if it falls short on aerobic fitness), as we have covered in many past posts. These include the benefits of stress management, cultivating equanimity, training the mind on multiple levels, and more. 

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