The answer is you absolutely can, but there’s a caveat: you can break a sweat doing certain types of yoga. Colloquially, we all often make the mistake of assuming that yoga refers to a style of physical movement. In reality, the level of vigor varies substantially amongst different forms of yoga. From Restorative to Ashtanga, it really runs the gamut (even if they some share some poses, such as downward dog). Consequently, some varieties of yoga will make you sweat, while some are actually designed to do the very opposite. Many will land you somewhere in the middle, depending on the particular class, teacher, and your individual fitness level.
That said, most of us use “yoga” to mean Vinyasa Yoga, which is a type of yoga that does generally elevate your heart rate and fire up your pores. From the Sanksrit “to place in a special way,” Vinyasa Yoga is characterized by linking a deliberate sequence of poses to breath in order to achieve a continuous flow (thus the common term “Vinyasa Flow”). Within this world of Vinyasa Yoga*, there will be gentler and more energetic forms – you have to dabble until you find the studio or teacher that can provide the balance you’re specifically seeking.
Exercise for Fertility
If sweating is your only goal, there are certainly other types of exercise out there that will get you more of it, more quickly – think boot camps and other High Intensity Training (HIT) models. However, it’s my belief that as a society—one so focused on weight loss—we’ve rather exaggerated how much cardio we need. Correspondingly, we have deeply undervalued the importance of stretching and intentional breathing. Both of which improve mobility, circulation, and digestion while reducing anxiety and depression. These are just some of just some of the benefit. I could really go on and on – obviously though, I’m a little biased. This is especially true if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive. Beyond calorie burning, your body needs a holistic caring approach so that it can thrive. Important to think about when considering exercise and fertility journey.
Whether you’re a mother, an expectant mother, or hoping to become a mother (read: trying to conceive), yoga can be helpful. Vinyasa Yoga can provide the ideal balance of cardio, strength building, and stretching. Yoga for fertility, oh h*ll yes! A sixty-minute class typically begins with a warm up and then moves into approximately thirty minutes of more energetic sun salutations. The salutations and other standing flowing poses is the part of class where you get that sweatiness going. The last 25 minutes or so are generally some combination of seated forward folding and back bending (on your belly or on your back). We often also include an inversion (supported or more active) and then a few minutes of completely passive rest known as Savasana.
Between the planking, downdogging, stepping forward, stepping backward, lunging, warrioring, back-bending, you’re really getting the best kind of sweat on.
Sweating in Yoga
Notably (and perhaps surprisingly?), this is approximately how much cardio the American Heart Association recommends. 150 minutes per week, or 30 minute sessions five times a week. In yoga you’re really getting the best kind of sweat on. Between the planking, downdogging, stepping forward, stepping backward, lunging, warrioring, back-bending, all the while using your core to sustain the movement of your body. Not to mention all the arm variations which help to open up our shoulders, chest and back. You get your heart beat up. You weight bear smartly, using only your body weight. While your muscles spend as much time contracting as they do extending, which is great for your bones, and especially important women. Rather than feeling drained and constricted, you generally feel energized, calmer, and more open when you leave a yoga class. The calming part tends to come from the latter part of class. The end of class is soothing to our nervous system. It’s often characterized by quieter, longer, and more targeted stretches and strengthening poses.
Prenatal and postnatal classes will eliminate particular kinds of exercises (such as planking), while focusing on the muscles groups natal women should strengthen and release. Natal yoga and fertility yoga classes also provide women specialized support for their experience. Be it help with round ligament pain, piriformis syndrome, or heartburn.
There are few other types of physical activities that provide you the plethora of benefits in such a short time. Let’s be honest, that 60-minute workout followed by a 5-minute stretch is a ratio that just isn’t going to cut it. Especially not in the long term, as our bodies age. This is particularly true given that we are spending more and more of our time sitting, which makes us even tighter and less able to sustain the wide range of motion our bodies were intended to enjoy.
Do you ever marvel at kid’s ability to sit in the most contorted of ways? It’s easy to forget this but you used to sit that way too. The only reason we can’t anymore is because we stopped in the first place. Our bodies are rich in the complexity of their movement. It’s our lifestyle that has limited is by narrowing our movements to the repetition of a miniscule range of motion.
So, yeah – you really can break a sweat doing yoga. You can do that, and so much more.