Engaging in intense endurance and resistance exercise training plays a pivotal role in enhancing metabolic health and overall wellbeing. However, it’s equally essential to recognize the significance of more gentle practices such as yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and martial arts. These disciplines offer a range of benefits. Not only do they improve flexibility and balance, they also have a positive effect on both physical and mental health.
Hatha yoga, Tai Chi and various martial arts like taekwondo, aikido, judo, and karate, are all practices originating in the East. They were developed with the purpose of integrating and enhancing both the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners.
In both yoga and martial arts, the postures are meticulously crafted to engage every muscle and tendon in the body. Practicing these arts increases agility and suppleness while also improving coordination, equilibrium and posture. These exercises offer a combination of muscle-strengthening and light-intensity aerobic activity, all without the need for any equipment, as our bodies serve as their own weights and counterweights.
Clinical trials have provided evidence that regular yoga practice can lead to a reduction in certain inflammation biomarkers and an improvement in arterial function, a well-established indicator of cardiovascular health.
Specific asana exercises, when practiced consistently for six months, can effectively reduce chronic low back pain.
A small randomized clinical trial involving healthy older adults without cognitive impairment, found just eight weeks of yoga resulted in a significant improvement in their ability to maintain focus and retrieve information from working memory, especially in stressful situations demanding heightened cognitive resources.
Indeed, one of the primary benefits of yoga, Tai Chi and martial arts lies in their ability to train and cultivate discipline in both the mind and spirit, particularly when complemented with specific meditative and breathing techniques.