Here's Visual Proof That Yoga Is, in Fact, a Great Physical Workout

Lindsey Metrus
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Urban Outfitters Blog

Convincing my boyfriend to come with me to Tuesday evening yoga class was a big feat. Along with eating vegetables and going on hikes, it took a lot of bartering to get him to take the leap, but once he did, he made it a habit.

I’m sure he isn’t a rare case—yoga gets a bad rap for not being a substantial workout, often viewed as just a whole lot of breathing, standing, and “omm-ing.” While it’s a spiritual practice dating back over 5000 years that, on the surface, understandably seems more meditative than physical, it’s actually an even split of the two.

I’m a fair-weather gym-goer, so yoga has been the perfect outlet for me to decompress after work while toning my body. Since ritualising Tuesday class, I’ve noticed a marked difference in my legs and core, gains my boyfriend has experienced as well. But let me be clear that these changes didn’t come easily—yoga takes a great deal of strength to carry out well. I still can’t do crow pose, but my 60-year-old teacher who’s fit as a fiddle can stand on her head. My boyfriend struggles with certain poses too, which even further validates my quest to convert him into a yogi. “Told you it isn’t easy,” I said to him with a smirk.

For anyone else who’s still a yoga sceptic, I thought I’d do a test to prove how much of a physical workout it truly is. I’d heard about an app called Instant Heart Rate (free on iTunes and Google Play) that captures your pulse through your phone’s camera. It’s a process called photoplethysmography, where the camera detects colour change (with the help of the camera flash) in your finger’s capillaries as they expand with each beat. Throughout an entire at-home YouTube yoga class (I’m sure a constant camera flash during a group class would earn me a spot on my studio’s blacklist), I periodically captured my heart rate from start to finish. Take a look at the results below.

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