02/26/2013 03:57 pm ET Updated Apr 28, 2013

Yoga, Stretching and Dance: A Mind-Body Fitness Routine That Combines All Three

Can combining workouts give us complete mind-body fitness?

The components of a complete workout are:

- Flexibility
- Balance
- Strength training
- Aerobics

Can yoga be a complete body-mind workout?

It can, if you add yoga dance moves to traditional yoga poses to create a complete body-mind workout that includes flexibility, balance, strength and aerobics. When we think of yoga, we think of holding poses, breathing and meditation. But if we look a little deeper into the philosophy of yoga, we will find dancing and movement as well as stillness.

The Veda, or the earliest form of Sanskrit language recorded, is the foundation of Hinduism and yoga philosophy. In it are names of gods, goddesses, lords and divas dancing wildly to the energy of the universe. Life (health) is meant to be a combination of static and flowing moves, which both tax the body-mind and at the same time allow it to flow finding balance and quietude.

The basic idea of combining is to get all the benefits of yoga and aerobics in one hour. Most people don't have the time to do both a yoga class and an aerobics class each day. Yet what we all need to stay fit and healthy is a combination of stretching, strengthening and energizing the body-mind. It is not enough to do one without the other. Yoga builds flexibility, balance and strength. Aerobic dance supports weight management and cardiovascular health. Combining the two, we maximize our workout.

Exercises examples, such as the Dancing Ganesha, moving the arms and the legs in a fast rhythm with aerobic level music, raises the heart rate, pumps the blood, burns calories and makes us sweat. Poses such as down dog and plank are weight-bearing and therefore strength training, while Standing Mountain and half lord of the fish teach us balance and flexibility.

The American Journal of Physiology reported that a study of Danish men found that those who did 30 minutes of aerobics as opposed to those who did 60 minutes of aerobics actually lost more weight. Researchers are not exactly sure why, but they surmised that the 30-minute group had more energy for other activities throughout the day. This is called balanced energy.

This would lead us to believe that combining workout components such as yoga and dance and shortening the duration for each maximizes our output of energy without overtaxing the system. When we add in the time factor (most people do not have two hours a day to do both yoga and aerobics), combining makes perfect sense.

Hybrid classes such as yoga dance classes are becoming the new fitness craze. Blending dance, yoga and strength training into one-hour classes solves the dilemma of not enough time, and not enough variety in order to get a full body workout. But there is something more: Hybrids also exercise the mind.

On a physical level, the yoga moves open the body and create flexibility and balance, while adding strength and toning. Every part of the body is gently worked to instill the many benefits of yoga, which include a more flexible, balanced, strong and centered body. The aerobic dance improves cardiovascular ability, burns calories and enhances the release of the feel good endorphins. Body resistance poses are used to build strong bones and strengthen the muscles. It is a total and complete body workout.

On a mental level, combining yoga and dance moves the mind from static to flowing and back to static. It reminds us that life is ever-changing. Sometimes we need to be flexible or balance and still, and sometimes we need to simply get up and dance!

Doctor Lynn

For more by Lynn A. Anderson, Ph.D., click here.

For more on yoga, click here.