Melanie Potiaumpai is a graduate assistant at the University of Miami who specializes in rehabilitation medicine, sports medicine, and cancer research. Together with her colleagues at UM she compared the effects of high-speed and standard-speed varieties of yoga in the study “Difference in muscle activation patterns during high-speed versus standard-speed yoga: A randomized sequence crossover study.” Ms. Potiaumpai explained the ins and outs behind her study and how quickening your yoga sessions might improve health benefits.
BTRtoday (BTR): What’s the difference between high-speed yoga and standard-speed yoga? Is there a line of demarcation to divide them?
Melanie Potiaumpai (MP): Standard speed yoga is the type of yoga that people have the preconceived notion about. [It’s] more traditional with the stretching, meditating, and breathing. High-speed is like HIIT [high intensity interval training] for yoga. You’re not so much in the stretch as you would be in standard-speed. You’re speeding up the process from one pose to another, which speeds up the aerobic pace.
The line of demarcation depends on the practitioner and the studio. It really depends on what you want to target. It’s similar to resistance training: tailor it to how you want. In our study, standard-speed is 12 breaths and high is five. [In high-speed yoga] the transition is more taxing than the actual pose itself.
BTR: Why were you interested in finding the difference in muscle activation patterns between the two [high-speed and standard-speed yoga]?
MP: At the University of Miami, we’re the one of the first to use yoga as a clinical treatment. We’ve used yoga in studies with patients with Parkinson’s and diabetes. We were curious as to whether high speed yoga was more beneficial than standard speed, and in what aspect it might be.
BTR: HIIT is becoming more popular and it’s fantastic that yoga is following that.
MP: Everyone has a preconceived notion that yoga is ethereal and nice and easy, which it definitely can be. But that might not be for everyone, which is why we asked: How do we take an ancient exercise and modernize it to fit with current lifestyles?
BTR: Were the results what you expected?
MP: They weren’t. We weren’t expecting to see such a difference [between the two speeds]. Some people might be skeptical to extrapolate from our study (since we only asked our subjects) to perform for eight minutes to an hour. We were happy about how significant the difference was, and we were surprised about transitions being more difficult than yoga poses themselves.
BTR: How could average yogis employ your research to improve their performance on the mat?
MP: It depends on their goals. Don’t do high-speed yoga if you’re not looking for an intense aerobic activity. It’s finding comfort in speeding up a little bit. If you’re doing standard speed at 12 breaths and cut down a little bit each time to 10, then eight, and so on. You change in small increments to see what works best for you. See how you feel about it and come up with your own prescription, just like any other exercise.
BTR: Are there any other major takeaways from your research? Or anything else that you’d like to address?
MP: It’s a matter of what you make it. What I tend to see with patients and subjects is that research studies dictate that it works…but it might not work for them. You have to find what works the best for you and not trash studies with results that don’t work for you. Every subject in our study was a different level of practitioner (20 in total). Some kept up with the poses and transitions whereas others did not, but this depends on the level at which you practice. The practitioners’ performances shouldn’t speak to the quality of the study. You should find your own middle ground using the research.
Thank you to Ms. Potiaumpai for an illuminating talk and fantastic research!