By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Although Ashtanga, Power, Vinyasa, and some forms of Hatha Yoga, do offer aerobic benefits and cardiovascular endurance, some Yoga instructors have tried to design it as a high octane workout. Simply put, the physical forms of Yoga were never meant to be a purely physical activity, like running, step aerobics, or kickboxing tend to be.
The modern health club version of Yoga, that people practice, does tend to emphasize cardiovascular health and endurance-building sessions over the mental and spiritual practices included in traditional Yoga schools. Those, who are interested in practicing a more physically challenging and athletic form, should enroll in Yoga classes at gyms, or they should try Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Flow or Power classes. These styles work the body with a focus on deriving strength and aerobic benefits from the session.
Tips about Teaching Yoga for Aerobic Benefits
One of the most important aspects about teaching Yoga for aerobic benefits, is a two-fold practice that includes holding challenging poses to build strength, while maintaining a flow from pose to pose, during less challenging postures. To achieve this, your students must be experienced enough to know pose names and positions, as well as to hold the pose with correct technique. Beginners should study forms of Yoga that are slower, and more focused on holding asanas, before moving to the flowing classes, as they will be unable to keep up with the quick flows from pose to pose and will need more in-depth feedback from Yoga teachers. Any slowing down of the series can inhibit aerobic benefits.
Holding asanas for longer time frames will fatigue muscles and make each pose progressively more difficult. As our students will soon discover, the longer a student holds a challenging Yoga posture, combined with a quick flow during a less challenging series, will boost heart activity, and will make it more difficult to breathe correctly. It is especially important that practitioners focus on correct breathing techniques while tired, since the fatigue will make it harder to focus on breath control and synchronization.
Remember that as our students tire out, correct form also tends to become harder to maintain, making this a prime time for injuries. As most Yoga instructors know, we should be especially vigilant about asana technique, as we keep an eye on tired students. If a student needs to stop and catch his or her breath, encourage it. Never sacrifice correct form and alignment for continued aerobic benefit.
When teaching any form of physical Yoga for aerobic benefit, it can be tempting to cut short both the warm-up and the cool down time in order to spend more time on the physically challenging series. However, a Yoga instructor should ensure a proper warm-up series before getting into the more difficult part of the class, and the cool down should be relaxing and invigorating, as tired tension leaves the mind and body.
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