Healthy Living

Health Benefits of Yoga, Tai Chi & Pilates

Many consider yoga as a method to stretch the muscles and expand the mind, and this eventually becomes the activity of choice. “The physical benefits of yoga are very often underestimated," says Julie Rudiger, a therapist in Denver. According to her, practicing this activity has helped to be stronger and more flexible, physically and mentally.

Physical activities like Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates are called mind and body fitness methods because of the stress each gives on physical and mental strength. “The poses, or the movements in these activities, strengthen the body and improve the flexibility by teaching how to move the body and concentrate the thoughts”, says Kevin W. Chen, PhD, MPH, associate professor in the Center of Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

To burn more calories, advanced yoga and Pilates sessions are beneficial, as they have more faster paced movements. For example, up to 298 calories can be burnt by a 155-pound person by doing a regular one-hour yoga session. The other yoga session that may be of help to burn more calories include Bikram yoga or power yoga. These yoga sessions requires the person to be in a complex pose for a longer time, making it an intense activity. The initial classes help a person to perfect the postures and this provides more benefits other than just the burning of calories. In addition, the basics of yoga help to prevent injury when one moves to more advanced classes.

Tai Chi includes a number of graceful movements involving all major muscle groups and joints which helps to improve the balance and strength. Pilates helps to strengthen the core of the body improving muscular endurance and flexibility. In general, all of the activities that involve body and mind practices help to reduce body weight, stress, and blood pressure. Moreover, it helps to improve sleep. During a three month study, yoga reduced the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by more than 12 points.

The intensity levels in a session of any of these activities will depend on the instructor and the style. According to Chen, the specific practice that is selected is not as important as doing it. Any of these practices improves the strength and flexibility. It is normal to do mistakes in the poses initially, just being there and doing it is more important, Chen adds. According to Rudiger, she is more flexible and has a better core strength when compared to her brother who is a marathon runner.

How to get started with any of the activities:

Call up the instructor – A discussion with the instructor before joining a class will help them to have an idea about how much experience you have in the class. You can also ask for options of a specific style of yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi that will suit the beginner.

Test it before you book – Although yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi are mind and body exercises in general, there are a number of styles in each. It is better to take few test classes to see what suits you the best before joining one.

Dress appropriately – Removing the shoes before the session gives a feeling of being grounded, a very important philosophy in these practices. Comfortable clothes are also an important component in these. 

Key Takeaways

  • To burn more calories, advanced yoga and Pilates sessions are beneficial.