Is Yoga enough on its own or do you need to add something like running or swimming to make it a complete exercise program?
For a start, there is a problem with this question: Yoga is a spiritual practice. It is not simply about exercise. Even once we focus on physical Yoga (known as ‘Hatha Yoga’) it is important to remember that the physical practice was developed over thousands of years specifically because it has an effect on our minds. It has been designed over this time to be a complete system for body, mind and spirit. So to pair it with ‘conventional’ exercise like going to the gym, it really does it a disservice.
It is true, one of the reasons Yoga has become so popular is because of the physical benefits. We can use Yoga to boost the immune system, for example, whereas going to the gym can deplete the immune system. The more we practice Yoga, the more we are likely to realise that there is more to Yoga than just the physical. I plan my Yoga classes in Horsham, West Sussex, to ensure there is a mix of active poses that get our hearts pumping and restorative poses to work on the breath and lung capacity. Some students find this sort of work more ‘intense’ than any other type of exercise- you have to pay attention completely, you can’t just ‘switch off’. So, if Yoga can be so intense, why then add something like running with its risk of injury?
It is becoming fashionable to add on extra things to our Yoga practice. I don’t mean the silly gimmicks like ‘Beer yoga’ or ‘Goat yoga’ as no-one really takes them seriously…. but more Yoga classes are adding little things which are not really part of Yoga. This could range from hitting gong bowls to rubbing essential oils into students skin. All lovely ‘New Age’ add-ons, but not part of a traditional Hatha Yoga practice. In fact, Mr Iyengar specifically asked his teachers NOT to mix Iyengar Yoga with these ‘extras’- as it is enough on its own.
If you’re still not convinced, then ask yourself this question: When I am looking for a teacher to introduce me to Yoga, someone to help me develop my Yoga practice, do I choose someone who feels the need to do extra things, add extra elements, or do I choose someone who believes that yoga is enough?