Those of you who attend classes regularly at Harmony Yoga of Ann Arbor know that I was on vacation earlier this month (July 10 - 17), to Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. The trip was wonderful! The scenery was spendid, we saw a variety of wildlife (including grizzly bears!), and we were there while the spring wildflowers were blooming. (To read an overview of our trip and to see a few photos, check out Visiting Glacier National Park.)
We did a lot of hiking, from 4 - 10 miles each day (the photo below is of me on the Highline Trail) under many different hiking conditions -- flat and even, steep and rocky, across snowfields, across glacial-melt streams. I don't hike particularly often around town, and expected to be sore from our extensive hiking in Glacier National Park, but that didn't happen. I attribute that to my regular practice of the yoga asanas. I did have some trouble hiking uphill, especially at the higher elevation -- I became out-of-breath very quickly and needed to rest often. I figure a stronger pranayama practice would've helped (I do practice, but maybe more is needed) or doing more of a vinyasa practice for aerobic conditioning would've been useful. But muscularly, there was no problem!
I've mentioned this before, from another vacation. During our cross country ski vacation in February, even though I was physically much more active than usual, I had very little muscle soreness (but again, the uphills were....difficult...).
Of course yoga is much more than just physical conditioning, but keeping our bodies well-conditioned is a good start to bringing about an overall greater health and sense of well-being.
The regular practice of yoga asanas helps to keep our bodies "in shape" for whatever other physical activities we choose to do. The practice of yoga, as you've all heard me say, helps you to develop more strength and flexibility, more stamina and balance. Yogic breathing (pranayama), helps to center and quiet the mind, keeping us present within this moment.