The Benefits of a Yoga Workout

Yoga can improve balance, strength and flexibility. Some studies suggest it also reduces stress levels and may aid in weight management.

Although it’s unlikely that yoga will provide an intense cardio workout similar to running or swimming, some classes can get your heart rate up enough to make you pant. And any exercise that elevates the heart rate for a sustained period of time is beneficial to overall fitness, Laskowski says.


Yoga is a form of exercise that combines flexibility and strength training. A beginner’s yoga practice will naturally build both types of muscles. However, more strenuous forms of yoga such as ashtanga can offer a full-body workout that rivals other vigorous exercises like weightlifting.

If you incorporate yoga into your strength training routine, aim for a session that lasts 30 to 45 minutes. This allows you to warm up with dynamic stretching moves such as walking lunges and high knees before starting your yogic practice. Alternatively, you can use yoga as your cool down by doing a more passive and relaxing yin practice with longer hold times such as the bridge pose or the savasana pose.

Several studies have found that doing yoga regularly improves your strength. For example, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that after eight weeks of Bikram yoga, subjects were able to lift more pounds than their non-yogi counterparts.


When many people think of yoga, they may picture rows of mats topped with individuals resting in Child’s Pose or Savasana. But yoga is far more than just stretching and relaxation, and it can also be a great strength-building workout. Many of the movements in yoga involve using your own body weight for resistance, which can improve both your muscular strength and endurance.

Flexibility training during a yoga workout can also improve balance and posture, while decreasing the risk of injury when performing other types of exercise. Flexibility can improve the thoracic (upper) spine’s range of motion, which can help alleviate neck and back pain, as well as promote good posture.

The key to getting a great flexibility workout out of yoga is consistency and patience. Aim for at least five half-hour sessions each week and you’ll quickly see physical improvements. Just be sure to complement your yoga practice with other types of exercise to get the most out of it.


Cardio is a key part of any exercise regimen because it keeps your heart healthy and improves blood flow to your muscles and organs over time. Exercise that raises your heart rate causes your body to pump more oxygen-rich blood through your system, which in turn stimulates the production of feel-good hormones known as endorphins.

Traditional cardiovascular exercises such as running, cycling and swimming are good forms of cardio exercise. But you can get your heart-healthy workout without putting too much stress on your knees and ankles by doing yoga.

Yoga poses use your own weight for resistance, so you can do it virtually anywhere. If you need more of a challenge, you can add weights to your routine. Yoga also targets the arms and legs, and it works your core. Try poses like plank, boat pose or the crow pose to strengthen your arms, and lunges and bridges to work your legs. Then finish up your session with a 5- to 10-minute cool down by stretching your calf muscles, quadriceps, lower back and hamstrings.

Stress Relief

Yoga is an excellent workout to relieve stress and anxiety. The calming effect of this form of exercise is due to its emphasis on controlled breathing, meditation and mind-body awareness. Yoga can also help reduce depression, according to studies.

In fact, some research suggests that practicing yoga improves your quality of life (QOL) and immune system function. This is thought to be due to yoga influencing gene expression, which strengthens your immune system at the cellular level.

The twisting poses in yoga can also improve your blood circulation, which helps your heart work more efficiently by delivering oxygenated blood to the body’s tissues. Yoga also may lower your cortisol levels, a hormone that increases with chronic stress and contributes to heart disease and anxiety.

While most forms of exercise can improve your mood, yoga is unique in that it can elevate your levels of the brain chemical gamma-aminobutryric acid, which is associated with a positive mood and decreased anxiety and depression.