Several people have approached me lately asking if they can practice yoga and also do other forms of exercise. I find these questions interesting because it never occurred to me that people might think that you can’t do both together. You can. I do. It is no problem to do yoga and also do other forms of exercise.
I’ll use myself as an example. I do Kundalini Yoga every day with my main kriya being Nabhi Kriya for Prana-Apana. I’ve been doing this kriya for about five years, and I love it. The kriya itself is less than 15 minutes of physical exercise. I also take 90-minute beach volleyball lessons twice a week (thanks Attica Beachvolleyball!), and I try to do one Crossfit class per week. The goals of all of these practices are different, but they work together really well to keep my body and mind in the condition I want.
The fundamental difference between yoga and other forms of exercise (running, working out at a gym, etc.) is that while regular exercise is intended to tone and strengthen the body, yoga’s intention goes beyond body toning. And in Kundalini Yoga in particular, one of the key goals is to strengthen your nervous system. From personal experience, I can say there is a difference. Prior to yoga, I was athletic–I did triathlons, I ran, I surfed, but I still had a weak nervous system. I could swim, bike and run for a triathlon but I’d still feel overwhelmed if I thought traffic was going to make me late for an appointment. Kundalini Yoga, with its emphasis on strengthening the nervous system, changed that for me.
A typical yoga practice encompasses yoga exercises, meditation and pranayama (breath work). Each posture in a yogic practice breaks up physical congestion and blockages in the muscle and soft tissue that obstruct the flow of the body’s prana, or life force, through the body. With an obstructed flow of prana, the body becomes dense, toxic and emotionally protective. A regular yoga practice helps remove these blockages and allows for the full flow of prana through the body. Yoga also offers benefits in physical health, well being, stress reduction, fitness and mental and emotional health.
Pranayama, or breathing techniques, are intended to drive the prana or life force into both the body and the mind. Once the yoga exercises have plowed through subtle physical blockages, old protective mental and emotional patterns that create the density of the body are cleared by the movement of the life force through specific pranayama breathing exercises.