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I believe yoga is one of the best kept secrets for its true benefits in all aspects of health and fitness for everyone.  I attended a seminar in my early days as a Student teacher by Krishnamacharya and something that still sticks is his comment “no one shoe fits all feet”, same as our yoga practice.  Regardless of where you are right now you will always find a yoga practice to suit but it must be non-judgemental, which isn’t a Western mindset in our approach, we tend to do rather than connect and feel until the pain kicks in.

Patanjali makes it clear that all yoga practices should be built on a firm foundation and that comes with the connection of body, breath and, most importantly, mind. This is what makes it a practice rather than a regime.  Our minds fluctuate all the time so staying focused and aware really is the challenge but the benefits are well worth it.

Practice provides benefits well beyond flexibility and relaxation. It improves strength, aerobic capacity and lung function.

Yoga is a great activity for you if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. It gives you strength, flexibility, and mind-body awareness. You’ll also need to do something aerobic (like walking, biking, or swimming) if you’re not doing a fast-moving type of yoga.

Four types of fitness help bolster health

  1. Cardiorespiratory – heart, lungs blood vessels
  2. Muscular – strength and endurance, regulates metabolism
  3. Flexibility – tight hamstrings and muscles restrict movement increasing the risk of injury
  4. Body Composition – body strength

We need to do cardiorespiratory, muscular and flexibility work for a strong body.

Realistically it takes 15-20 weeks to really gauge the benefits but within 8 weeks there should be a noticeable improvement.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the largest exercise science association in the world, defines fitness as both related to your ability to maintain physical activity and related to your health (for example, people who become more fit reduce their risk for heart disease). According to ACSM, four types of fitness help to bolster healing.

  1. Cardiorespiratory fitness

This refers to the fitness of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The better your cardiorespiratory fitness, the better your stamina, the lower your risk for a host of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Your ability to move without feeling winded or fatigued is measured by your VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake), a technical term that indicates how efficiently oxygen enters your lungs, moves into your bloodstream, and is used by your muscles. The more fit you become, the more efficiently your body transports and uses oxygen, improving your overall VO2max.

To test VO2max, physiologists ask you to cycle or walk or run on a treadmill with a tube-like mask over your mouth. The mask gathers the carbon dioxide and oxygen you exhale, and the ratio between the two gasses helps to indicate how efficiently your muscles use oxygen.

There are other tests that measure additional aspects of cardiorespiratory fitness, including a lung function test, in which you take a deep breath and then blow into a tube to measure your lung capacity, and heart rate tests, taken both at rest and during exercise. Since equally fit people can vary as much as 20 percent in heart rate, this measure best indicates your own progress: If you become more fit, your heart rate generally drops.

  1. Muscular fitness

This refers both to muscle strength (how heavy an object you can lift) and muscle endurance (how long you can lift it). Without exercise, all of us lose muscle mass as we age, which can eventually result in weakness and loss of balance and coordination. Because muscle is such active tissue, it also plays an important role in regulating your metabolism, with every pound of muscle burning about 35 to 50 calories a day.

In a lab, researchers test your muscle strength and endurance on specialized equipment that looks like an exercise machine at a gym but contains sensors that read how much force your muscles generate as they contract.

  1. Flexibility

As most people age, their muscles shorten and their tendons, the tissue that connects muscles to bones, become stiffer. This reduces the range of motion, preventing optimum movement of your knees, shoulders, elbows, spine, and other joints. Loss of flexibility may also be associated with an increased risk of pain and injury. Tight hamstrings, for example, pull down on your pelvis, putting pressure on your lower back. In general, tight muscles increase the likelihood you’ll suddenly move past your safe range of motion and damage ligaments, tendons, and the muscles themselves.

  1. Body composition

Your body composition refers to the percentage of your body made up of fat instead of muscles, bones, organs, and other non-fat tissues. Though the use of body composition as a fitness and health indicator has come under fire in recent years by those who argue that it’s possible to be both fat and fit, the ACSM and many physiologists continue to assert that too much fat and too little muscle raises your risk for disease and makes movement less efficient.

This article was taken from Yoga Journal where there is much more info on the benefits of yoga following intense research by an internationally recognised body.