No sweat: Is yoga a proper workout?
James Pop By Catherine de Lange Namaste! It’s famous for its downward dogs and sun salutations, and each year more and more of us are doing yoga – over 37 million people practiced it in some form or other in the US in 2016 (see diagram). But is there any evidence for the benefits claimed for body and mind? Science is starting to catch up. Much recent research has focused on Bikram yoga, a series of 26 poses with breathing exercises performed in sequence for 90 minutes in a humid room heated to 40°C. Physically, it’s probably not the biggest bang you can get for your buck. While a regular session can improve muscle strength, there is no effect on aerobic fitness, found Brian Tracy at the University of Colorado and his colleagues. With a Bikram class burning around 460 calories for men and 330 for women, on average, and more gentle disciplines even less, if you are looking to get fit fast you would be better off – and perhaps more comfortable – going for a walk or jog. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the true benefits could be psychological. Women with signs of depression,