I practice a gentle form of yoga and must say it is very effective to keep my body healthy and my mind calm. I am not looking for the fountain of youth, i just want to age gracefully and be able to keep doing what i am passionate about. Looking like a 25 year old at 50 was never one of my affirmation mantras :-)
On the other hand, i have a few acquaintances who are true yoga junkies and believe that yoga is all about burning excess calories: they attend Power yoga and Fast Vinyasa classes every day, go running at 6:00 am and..... look older than me. Why? The answer is very simple: very intense aerobic exercise, the kind of exercise that makes your heart rate increase beyond what is comfortable for your body and leaves you gasping for air .
If your breathing becomes irregular, you are no longer following any sound yogic principles.
Yoga was never intended to make your breathing irregular and make your heart race.
If anything, traditionally yogi have always tried to slow down their heart rate through meditation and controlled breathing.
The intense yoga workout that many people swear by is a Western aberration, invented by people who want to burn more calories than your body is designed to burn naturally.
A vegetarian Yogic diet is based on fresh ingredients, and portions are small. Eating more than your body needs is regarded as a form of greed that is bad for both your health and the planet. People who eat moderately do not need to burn extra calories!
Burning these extra calories through an intensive workout is also extremely unhealthy. Just take a look at professional athletes. Their skin looks old, their bodies do not age gracefully, and most of them die relatively young. All that excessive internal combustion can't be good for you!
When your burn calories, the oxygen molecule undergoes a change, is stripped of an electron, which means there are free radicals floating in the body. Free radicals do damage: they react intensely with other molecules of the body and leave destruction behind them.
I live in China, where people believe that we should conserve our energy (Ch'i) rather than dissipate it. It sounds logical. As we age our metabolism slows down for a reason, and we should limit our calories intake, instead of burning them on some internal pyre! That’s why Tai Ch'i is regarded as a better activity for the elderly than any intense aerobic activity.
A Chinese acquaintance is 85, does Tai Ch'i every day and looks a lot younger than some 60 y/o Western guys who push themselves too hard in order to stay fit…I bet he never jogged, run or signed up for a fast Vinyasa class!
My recommendation for keeping weight gain at bay is very simple: watch what you eat, stick to fresh, unprocessed, wholesome food, preferably adopt a vegetarian diet, eat moderately.
If you are putting on weight, it means you are eating too much for your metabolism.
If you eat for comfort, then maybe it's time to take a look at the underlying psychological causes that make you reach for the food your body doesn't need.
Meditation is a very effective way of balancing your mind, much more so than an intensive yoga workout that depletes your body of energy and doesn't allow you to break the vicious circle of accumulating fat and burning it. An unbalanced mind and an unhealthy body go hand in hand.