The Effect Of Yoga (and other exercises) and Choosing what is Right for You

By: Dawn Cutillo

a man and woman from shoulders down doing a yoga pose

In honor of National Yoga Month, I’m sharing the benefits of yoga and other types of exercise as part of a holistic health plan. It likely comes as no surprise that everyone would benefit from daily exercise. Most of us sit at a desk or are inactive most of the day. This means we need to compensate for that inactivity outside of work, and with busy schedules, it can be difficult. But I am hoping that the benefits of a healthy diet, balanced hormones, and exercise will outweigh the challenges that the day throws our way.

Exercise and Health:

Did you know that exercise helps improve circulation and detoxification while increasing strength and flexibility? Not to mention, exercise can increase your mood and self-esteem! Setting a goal to look “fit” physically can be overwhelming. I suggest focusing on your overall health and wellness rather than just focusing on fitness. While keeping our weight under control can be aided with exercise, the key to overall weight management is really by balancing your hormones, diet, and supplementation. BeBalanced helps to balance hormones that affect a myriad of things, and regular exercise in tandem can help you feel healthy, flexible, and refreshed.

I believe the biggest issue that imbalances our hormones is the stressors of our modern society. Stress can raise cortisol and cause an imbalance in blood sugar, insulin levels, and female hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. This leads to weight gain as well as many PMS-related symptoms. Over time, high blood pressure, diabetes, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and even female cancers can result from these imbalances. One of the goals for exercise should be to increase the health of the body and to lower stress. Unfortunately, most traditional exercises can be stressful on the body.

Linear Exercise and Stress:

Most people think that running or other linear exercises are the best way to lose weight. Linear exercises can actually be stressful on the body because you are in a linear position that is increasing your heart rate. Your body thinks you are in fight mode (as though you were running from a wild animal or an attacker, or in some sort of danger), and therefore cortisol levels will rise. This type of exercise can cause hormone imbalances or intensify existing imbalances that can then cause weight gain. Trade in these types of exercises for yoga, walking, or dancing which help to raise your heart rate. These will not evoke the stressful response of the “fight or flight” mode that running does. Plus, it is often more fun and causes less joint stress.

Resistance Training as We Age:

To remain strong as we age, some sort of resistance training is needed to prevent muscle deterioration. Weight training can be somewhat stressful on our muscles and bones, but this is a good stress because it increases strength. The body can take this type of stress because it doesn’t throw us into the “fight or flight” mode. What people may not understand is that any type of weight bearing exercise or resistance can do the same for us. Yoga can be substituted for a weight training or resistance training program. It will take us out of the “fight or flight” response and take us into something called the “relaxation response.” Dr. Herbert Benson stated that if a person can evoke the relaxation response through yoga, meditation, and deep breathing for at least 20 minutes a day, that can compensate for the times throughout the day that we are highly stressed or in the “fight or flight” mode. Yoga can serve this purpose while also increasing muscle strength and tone and increasing flexibility. Flexibility is one of the most important things we need as we age. When you observe an older person, observe how they walk, bend, and move, and you’ll often notice they seem inflexible.

My favorite, Yoga!

Yoga is an awesome way to have an exercise program that gives you all you need in a simple, inexpensive form that you can even do in your own home. It is an exercise discipline that will connect your mind and body and nurture your soul, and it can really help bring about positive life change. Below are some of the types of yoga you might consider:

1. Hatha

Slower moving classes that require you to hold each pose for a few breaths. Very gentle in nature, so it is best for beginners due to its slower pace. A great way to get started.

2. Vinyasa

A very dynamic practice that links movement and breath together in a dance-like way. The pace can be quick, so your heart rate will rise. Best for those who will miss their normal intense exercise if they try to substitute yoga.

3. Ashtanga

A more challenging, yet orderly, yoga consisting of six series of specifically sequenced yoga poses that flow. You breathe through each pose to build heat in the body. Best done in a class until poses are learned and perfected.

4. Hot Yoga (example: Bikram style)

Be ready to sweat because this yoga consists of a specific series of poses and two breathing exercises practiced in 110 degrees with higher humidity. If done in Bikram style, it is 26 exact poses. You must stay hydrated, but it is easy for beginners because of its predictable sequence. Usually done in a class setting.

5. Kundalini

This type of yoga will seem very different from your typical yoga class. You’ll perform kriyas which are repetitive physical exercises coupled with intense breath work, while you are chanting, singing, or meditating. You will most likely break through your internal barriers, releasing the untapped energy in you, bringing you to a higher level of self-awareness. Great for those who are looking for a spiritual discipline that benefits the body as well.

6. Yin Yoga

This type of yoga will really calm and balance your body and mind. Yin yoga poses are held for several minutes at a time. This meditative yoga is designed to target your deeper connective tissues and fascia, restoring length and elasticity. You can learn these poses in a class and then do on your own at home. Great for those who need to stretch and unwind.

7. Restorative

It may feel like you are not doing much in this type of yoga class, but that is the goal. It is a mellow, slow-moving practice with longer holds. It gives your body a chance to tap into a “relaxation response” mentioned above, allowing you to experience a very deep relaxation. Great for those who deal with insomnia and anxiety.

Keep in mind that you don’t always have to go to a class, but to learn certain positions correctly, it can be nice to have one-on-one instruction. Many studios offer class rates in addition to monthly memberships, which can be more cost-effective. After a short time, you will learn on your own and can practice whenever and wherever you want. Try a video to help you get started in an inexpensive way.

So if you’re looking for something to meet your exercise goal and help with stress management, yoga is a great option!

At BeBalanced, our healthy weight loss program has helped over 5,000 women reach their goals by balancing hormones and helping affect wellness in all areas of life! You could be next. Don’t lose hope, find BeBalanced!

For more information on any of the topics mentioned here, you can contact your local BeBalanced Center, or email us at info@bebalancedcenters.com. You can also take our free hormone assessment to start your journey to getting back to your best self! Be Slimmer, Be Happier, Be Energized, BeBalanced!

Dawn Cutillo is the author of “The Hormone Shift: Using Natural Hormone Balancing for Your…Mood, Weight, Sleep & Female Health” and has been in the health field for over 25 years. She is also the founder and hormone health consultant of BeBalanced Hormone Weight Loss Centers and is degreed and certified in health and nutrition. In addition to overseeing the operation of the BeBalanced flagship center in Lancaster, PA, Dawn also owns Infinity Health LLC, a national consulting company that advises healthcare practitioners on how to aid patients in balancing their hormones for weight, mood, sleep, and health issues.