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Flexible and Fit

A recent study that took a closer look gave yoga a bit of a pasting, in the mainstream press, at least. But there's more to the story.

By Sierra Senyak

Accomplished yogis are rarely subjected to the scrutiny from fitness experts that, say, Olympic athletes are. A recent study that took a closer look gave yoga a bit of a pasting, in the mainstream press, at least. But there's more to the story.

Researchers from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recruited 17 sedentary women for eight weeks of thrice-weekly hatha yoga classes. By study's end, the women were more limber, could lift more weight, and had better balance. But they showed no improvement in aerobic fitness. A companion study found that even a heart-thumping power yoga class was equivalent to just a "mild aerobic workout."

But these findings don't represent all yoga, says Massimo Testa of the Sports Performance Program at the University of California, Davis. In 2002, he did intensive fitness testing on four yoga instructors who got all their exercise from several hours of yoga a day. "They were about what you'd see in someone who goes jogging three to four times a week," he says. Those yogis, he argues, better reflect yoga's long-term benefits than the beginners in the ACE study.

Testa also notes that many cardio junkies would do well to add yoga to their routines. "Cyclists score well in cardiovascular fitness, but 80 percent of them are stiff and uncoordinated, because they do only one movement many times," he says. "We often recommend yoga to them."

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Reader Comments

Joy

Lauren, I would like to comment on your post. I am a runner and a yogi and I find the best way to balance the two is to run and do yoga- at seperate times! I like to run on Friday, do yoga on Sunday and run some more on Monday. As long as you spread out the two long enough I garuntee your tight muscles will go away.

Lauren

Shelli, I totally agree with you! I used to be a runner and now I've become a yoga devotee (I attend power classes a minimum of 3x per week). I find that if I do cardio or running, the following yoga class is a miserable experience! When I go to only yoga several times per week, it is enjoyable and the poses come to me more easily, as my body feels more open instead of stiff and tight. I'm not sure of the best way to combine cardio exercise with yoga - for now, I figure that power flow classes give my heart rate enough of a boost.

Shelli

Cardio makes my muscles tight and hinders my flexibility before a yoga class...

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