Medical doctors are now prescribing yoga along with or instead of exercise as a therapeutic.  It is well established that exercise is a means of acquiring and keeping the body healthy.  Now, there are numerous studies indicating profound changes towards wellness with a simple, and regular yoga practice.  More and more doctors are directing their patients to find a yoga class or  a yoga teacher.

Why yoga?  While exercise and yoga are both beneficial, traditional exercise regimens usually stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, making it tiring, and often stress inducing.  Yoga, on the other hand, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, making it relaxing and stress reducing.  Stress has been determined to be a major cause of illness in the typical American lifestyle.

Exercise typically uses rapid, forceful movements and increases muscle tension, thereby increasing the risk of injury.  Yoga uses slow, dynamic movements that become progressively more challenging.  This reduces muscle tension and creates a lower risk of injury to muscles and ligaments.

Yoga emphasizes balance and trains the practitioner to develop better balance, not only in the body, but in the mind and emotions as well. The emphasis on deep, steady, rhythmic breathing in yoga is both energizing and calming. The taxed breathing in exercise often creates fatigue and restlessness.

We often burn more calories with exercise than with yoga. However, after exercise, we’re hungry and with a stimulated sympathetic nervous system, food cravings typically occur. The result is that we can easily eat more calories than were burned. Following a practice of yoga, if there is hunger, it’s more balanced, and the mind is drawn toward healthy foods and a relaxed pace in eating. This allows the digestive tract to perform optimally, extracting the nutrients from the food, and delivering a sense of satisfaction. With yoga, the tendency to overeat is greatly reduced.

The emphasis in yoga is on internal awareness, and engaging body, mind, and spirit to bring wellness to the individual. A successful yoga practice creates a sense of balance and lightness in the body and joyfulness in the mind. It’s process oriented, non-­-competitive, and presents limitless possibilities for growth in self-­-awareness.  So when faced with the question of whether to do yoga or exercise, you might consider a bit of both each day. If forced to choose, however, yoga will bring you further along the path toward wellness. So, find a good yoga teacher in your area to help you find a healthier, more balanced you!

This week’s contributor:

Lynda Barrow has over eleven years experience as a yoga teacher and has an RYT – 500 certification with Yoga Alliance.  To learn more and work with Lynda consider joining her Intermediate Yoga class Mondays 6 – 7:30 PM.