Yoga is making inroads everywhere, from trendy urban locales to small rural towns. New studios are opening every day, and many fitness gyms include yoga classes with their standard membership fees. It’s also very easy and cost-effective to do yoga at home. Yoga can even be fun for kids, who will enjoy poses that are named after animals such as puppy, cat and cow poses. You may be an absolute yoga beginner, or you may have a regular practice. Perhaps you have done it a few times but stopped. If so, it’s never too late to start again. There are four key ways yoga can help your efforts to improve your overall health.
Greater Physical Strength and Balance
When thinking about strength training, most go straight to weightlifting. However, yoga offers great toning and training without expensive equipment and home gyms by using the body’s own weight. All that is needed is a yoga mat, some blocks, and a strap. Poses can be held for increasing periods of time, strengthening muscles isometrically. Yoga can strengthen core muscles like the abdomen and spinal muscles as well as the arms and legs. Standing poses such as tree and dancer pose can also increase balance. There are several different types of yoga, and each will allow strength to be built in a different way. Talk to an instructor at your local studio to find out which type of yoga can help you achieve your personal fitness goals.
When we think about the flexibility requirements of a typical yoga instructor or a regular practitioner, we may picture double-jointed, circus-type contortionists that are able to bend their bodies effortlessly. However, there are poses that can be used by those with ordinary flexibility or even the terminally inflexible. A good instructor always encourages students to listen to their bodies and avoid overstretching. A great instructor will give several options, allowing more flexible and less flexible individuals to deepen their practice at a pace that is right for them. When poses are done safely, the risk of injury is extremely low. One form of yoga is practiced in a very warm setting in order to allow deeper stretches.
A less obvious benefit of yoga is that it can help the body’s various systems function more effectively. Some may not know that yoga improves digestion and can help remove toxins from the body. Be sure to drink plenty of water after your session to flush out any released toxicity and rehydrate.
Yoga can be an excellent complement to a cardio program, allowing the body time to rest and restore. It can accommodate all ages, from gentle movements to intense practice. You can even do simple yoga poses at your desk to relieve the back, neck and shoulder tension caused by sitting in an office chair all day.
Many types of exercise create endorphins that increase happiness levels. Yoga is no exception, and a good session can be a spiritual experience as well. Mindfulness, which is the ability to stay in the present moment and notice what’s happening around you and inside you, can be increased through yoga practice. Yoga is also an ideal form of self-care, with its breath-focused movement and body-loving intentions. Most classes will end with a few minutes in corpse pose or savasana (poses typically have both English and Sanskrit names), during which the breathing slows and the instructor plays soft music. This is accompanied by the feeling of a job well done, and it is often in this moment when the yoga student is rewarded with positive, clear thoughts and increased mental clarity. It can also be a good way to combat the stresses of everyday life. The beautiful, mind and body balancing effects of yoga are available to everyone who is willing to give this modernized practice from ancient India a chance.