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I often find myself discussing the deep connection between yoga and exercise in the Ornish Program. While the primary focus of yoga in the program is for stress management, it still has a strong relationship with physical fitness.

Yoga and meditation not only will help your fitness routine, but it will improve your focus and productivity at work.

As a lifelong athlete and avid exerciser, yoga has always provided great benefits. It’s a way to move, stretch, recover and relax after exercise. It’s the anti-exercise. It’s about balance, the yin to exercise’s yang. In fact, the time I spend practicing yoga after my exercise routine feels much more productive than a typical stretching routine.

Why include several basic yoga postures in your exercise recovery? The yoga postures are specific positions that will help stretch, relax and promote health in your body. It’s so important that we spend as much time on yoga, meditation and the other elements of stress management as we do on our fitness routine.

The Benefits

1. Promotes Digestion

A regular yoga practice, especially some of the twisting postures, helps to promote digestion. You might wonder how this relates to fitness? Effective digestion helps our body to utilize the nutrients in our food, which ultimately helps with athletic performance and overall health.

2. Improved Mind-Body Connection

Yoga, along with meditation and a breathing practice, can help us to improve our mind-body connection. Awareness is a large goal in the Ornish program and this awareness should extend into fitness. Yoga and other stress management practices will help us become more aware of tight or overused muscles, feeling strong or fatigued, or knowing when it’s time to take a break. This more enhanced awareness can significantly improve your exercise routine, help to keep you safe and therefore improve your results.

3. Weight Loss

A primary goal for many people when it comes to fitness is weight loss or to keep those extra pounds away. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that a steady yoga practice is tied to mindful eating, particularly through breath awareness, which strengthens the mind-body connection. So the combination of fitness and awareness that comes from a regular practice can be the key for success when it comes to weight control.

4. Better Immunity

Scientific studies have found that regular exercise can help boost immunity. Yoga and other stress management techniques has also been shown to provide similar benefits for your immunity. These benefits happen almost immediately and some research even points towards a change in our genetics even while we are on the yoga mat.

One of the most common reasons I see people fall away from their fitness routine is an extended illness like the flu or a lengthy cold. The healthier we are, the more regular we can be with our fitness routine.

Yoga and meditation not only will help your fitness routine, but it will improve your focus and productivity at work and on other mental tasks because it promotes more calm and awareness in your mind. It will also improve your relationships. So if you haven’t started practicing the stress management part of the Ornish program, know that it will not only improve your fitness routine, but many other aspects of your life.

Explore the beautiful collection of  stress management practices, available for free on the Ornish site.

Try practicing some yoga before or after exercise and let us know what benefits you notice?

Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

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