Practice yoga to minimize stress and speed recovery from training, while increasing well-being and other fitness markers. A new study found that yoga can produce dramatic improvements in fitness in addition to minimizing stress if practiced regularly.
The study published in the International Journal of Sports Science and Engineering tested the effect of an 8-week yoga training program on a variety of fitness markers including agility, power, speed, and muscular strength in college students. Yoga was done five days a week for one hour and included yogic breathing and 45 minutes of hatha yoga poses. At the end of the study, fitness markers were measured with a muscular strength sit-up test, an agility shuttle run, a standing broad jump test for power, a speed test using the 50-yard dash, and an endurance test using the 600-yard run.
Results showed dramatic improvements from the yoga training in the sit ups, agility, power, and speed tests. Most impressive, the yoga group increased 50-yard dash time by 0.2 seconds, increased power as measured by the broad jump by 22 percent, and improved shuttle run speed by 0.5 seconds. The sit-up and endurance tests also reached significance, whereas a control group that did no yoga or training had no improvements on any tests.
For best results with yoga, practice in addition to your regular strength and conditioning. The value of lifting heavy loads for hypertrophy and neuromuscular strength is enormous, but this study provides evidence that yoga will support your goals and may provide additional benefits. For example, other studies have found that yoga practice can support neuro-endocrine response and increase the secretion of melatonin, leading to greater feelings of well-being in participants. Melatonin can also aid in restful sleep, and is a powerful antioxidant that may convey therapeutic effects.
Other studies have shown yoga can reduce chronic low back pain, improve balance and gait mechanics in the elderly, and decrease anterior pelvic tilt.
I have found that yoga is very useful for restoring adequate muscle length and may help prevent injury, while giving you time to de-stress and support recovery from training. I suggest practicing yoga at least three days a week to get benefits, and to always avoid positions that cause pain by using proper biomechanics.
Gaurav, Vishaw. Effects of Hatha Yoga Training on the Health-Related Physical Fitness. International Journal of Sports science and Engineering. 2011. 5(3), 169-173.