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  • Writer's pictureCarmen Weghaus


What...? The other day, my hubby came across an article which identifies yoga to be the worst kind of exercise, based on a scientific study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in the USA. This study ranks different forms of exercise by the number of calories burnt within an hour. But is this really a suitable measurement for good or bad exercise?

The question is, when choosing to practise a particular form of exercise, what do I want to achieve? Is the primary goal of yoga burning as many calories as possible? Most likely not, although there are some styles that create a good sweat, even without additional external heat as in Hot or Bikram yoga.

These days the common opinion is "no pain, no gain", and that we must walk away oozing with sweat, sore and exhausted - otherwise it's not worth the effort. Look around and you will find numerous gyms and personal trainers advertising their method as the best way to shed kilos as it is the ultimate workout which keeps burning (calories) long after you've finished your session.

“Weight loss” and “burning calories” are THE key words for fitness marketing. Reading through the course descriptions of a soon-to-be-opened gym in the neighbourhood I found that most of them contain the idea of burning unwanted fat and creating “lean quality muscle” – and all of them sound pretty intense.

There is no doubt that an intense, full-on workout is a great thing to do. I’ve done this myself many times and enjoyed it! What annoys me is that the average person gets the impression that the short, intense workout is the only form of exercise that “truly works”, and everything else is crap.

What I miss is some basic fitness education. Mainly two important facts:

Firstly, nobody can push, push, push all the time without the risk of burn-out or injury. When you always go to or exceed your physical limits, especially when you train several times per week, you will harm your body rather than doing good. Sore, burning muscles after an intense workout are usually a result of lactic acid build-up and micro-tears in the muscle. This is a normal process, but as with all injuries, the muscle needs to heal properly before being stressed to the max again.

Therefore, it is important to include less intense sessions, ideally look for something that challenges your body in a different way. Yoga has been proven to support and speed up the healing processes in the body plus enhancing body awareness, focus, balance, alignment and – as a result of all – it leads to more efficient movements. Wait! Does that mean that with greater efficiency I burn less calories with the same exercise? Yes, but hey, you can do more of it, and better!

Secondly, not everyone can do high intensity fitness training straight away. Especially those who are overweight or obese – and would greatly benefit from weight loss – need to be guided to safe forms of exercise. Slow, correct movements, balance and body awareness are the key elements of a good start. The same is for people with recent injuries or similar limitations, such as spinal issues or joint problems, or women within the first year after childbirth.

Depending on the style, yoga can be a good choice here, either in a specialised class that targets your issue, in one-on-one sessions or in (smaller) groups where the teacher can support you by showing modifications or adjustments.

For many people yoga is indeed a good way to lose and manage body weight, but most students start a regular yoga practice for other reasons: reducing stress levels, improving flexibility & mobility and reducing (back)pain are the most common answers I hear from new students. In fact, yoga is a very valuable addition to any exercise schedule for its multiple positive effects on body and mind. Many first-class athletes do so! Yoga can also be the main form of exercise, ideally paired with some walking, running or cycling for cardio training (which is what I do…).

As the author of the mentioned article is a personal trainer himself he should know all that. Unfortunately, he misses the chance to educate the readers in this regard for the sake of popularity.

Feel free to read the original article yourself:

What is your opinion? Send me a message – I would love to hear your thoughts! And if you are wondering how you can improve your current exercise routine through yoga and meditation, you are most welcome to contact me – I’m happy to help!

Carmen Weghaus is a mum-of-four, yoga teacher for over 10 years, and passionate about educating people towards a more holistic approach on fitness and lifestyle. Apart from teaching and practicing different styles of yoga she loves a good run along the local coast lines and participating in running events. Together with her husband she runs Inner Smile Yoga & Health, based in Altona, Australia.

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