It’s recommended that healthy adults include aerobic exercise and strength training in their fitness programmes, specifically:
- At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination spread out during the course of a week.
- Strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.
Yoga and Pilates can be a good form of strength training, but you will still need to include aerobic exercise into your routine, such as; walking, running, cycling, or swimming. It’s important to vary your workouts and mix up your routine as doing the same thing every week can actually work against us. Here is a short summary of what your body experiences when you begin a new workout, also known as General Adaptation Syndrome (or GAS):
- Stage 1 - Alarm Phase: Your body recognises when you begin a new exercise regime and initiates the first phase; the alarm phase, which lasts for the first one to three weeks. As our bodies go into shock from doing something new, the “fight or flight” response is engaged, releasing hormones, including cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline to provide instant energy. Adrenaline immediately raises the blood pressure and heart rate.
- Stage 2 - Resistance Phase: This is where your body begins to adapt. You may find that the exercises you found difficult at first, have now become easier to do and require less effort to complete. Your blood pressure might start returning to more normal levels, following a spike from the alarm stage. This is where the body is trying to return to a sense of normal following an initial stressor.
- Stage 3 - Exhaustion Phase: This is where your workout no longer has the same initial effect it once did. Your progress might have stalled and you’re probably not improving at the same rate. You might start to feel physical effects such as burnout, decrease in energy, and fatigue, especially after several days without rest.
Choose exercises and activities that you enjoy doing, and if you’re new to fitness, start slowly with low-impact exercises like yoga, Pilates, and walking. You can make your workouts more challenging with more high-impact activities such as HIIT, running, and racquet sports as you get fitter.
What is a yoga diet?
When looking at nutrition from a yoga and Pilates perspective, it’s important to eat a healthy well-balanced diet to fuel your body. Nourishment of the body's tissues forms a foundation for nourishment of the mind and emotions, and a balanced, calm mind is much easier to come by if you commit yourself to nourishing your body properly. But what does it mean to nourish yourself properly? And how do you eat like a yogi?
Extending your yoga practise to the dinner table is not an easy task, mostly because the classic yogic texts don’t list any specific foods for following a yoga diet. But there are ingredients that keep the body light and nourished, and the mind clear. In yogic and Ayurvedic philosophy, there are three qualities of all things in nature:
- Raja (fast, hot, spicy)
- Tama (slow, lethargic, bland)
- Sattva (purity, harmony)
It’s said that these three qualities are present in all things, but in different amounts, making one quality dominant.
Rajasic foods are hot, bitter, dry, salty, or spicy. They overstimulate the mind and excite the passions. In contrast, tamasic foods are bland and include meat, alcohol, tobacco, garlic, onions, fermented foods, and overripe substances. Sattvic food is the purest diet, and the most suitable one for any serious yoga student. It nourishes the body and maintains a peaceful state. This, in turn, calms and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at its maximum potential.
A Sattvic diet will ultimately lead to true health; a peaceful mind in control of a fit body, with a balanced flow of energy between them. Sattvic foods include:
- Wholemeal bread
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Pure fruit juices
- Butter and cheese
- Nuts and seeds
- Honey and herbal teas
Many people often mistake a yoga diet as being the same as a vegan diet, although some dairy is considered a Sattvic food. Take a look to see what other rules a yoga diet should follow:
- Avoid meat: Animal protein contains too much uric acid and other toxins to be broken down by the liver. Some are eliminated, but the rest are deposited in the joints and tissues. Meat is also among the greatest sources of cholesterol, and it takes three days to pass through the digestive system. For optimum health, men need to digest food within 24 hours, and women 18 hours. Instead, go for nuts, dairy, leafy greens, and legumes, which are all full of high-quality protein which doesn’t pollute the body.
- Free of chemicals: Choose organic when available, and avoid stimulants such as caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. These substances are not healthy for the body and alter the mind, making it more difficult to concentrate. And if possible, always prepare a fresh meal. Frozen, prepared, packaged and left-over foods should be avoided, so you’re only consuming the freshest ingredients.
- Eat at regular intervals: If you train your body to eat at regular times, it will better utilise its energy throughout the day as it anticipates intake of calories at these times. The body has cycles, and functions best when these cycles are regular and steady. Avoiding food two hours before exercise or sleep helps the body function at its best, and ensuring proper time for digestion before sleep helps to keep the mind clear.
Many who practise yoga seriously also choose to fast one day each week to purify the body and the mind. However, this won’t work for everyone. And you should still make sure you’re drinking enough water. Going a day without eating is generally safe and can be beneficial for several reasons, including weight-loss, however, long-term fasting starves the body of essential nutrients and can cause complications, especially for those with underlying health conditions, particularly if they’re on medication.
Remember, what you need as an individual may be very different from what someone else needs. And what you need at this moment in your life may be very different at other times in your life. Just as you learn to listen to your body on the yoga mat, you must listen to your body at the table too. And always seek professional advice from a doctor or nutritionist before making significant changes to your diet.