Yoga. People either love it, or hate it.
But no matter your age, gender or flexibility, yoga really is for everyone. Just like no person is the same, no style of yoga is either, and each style has different effects and health benefits on our bodies.
Not yet convinced?
Here are 11 reasons (if you are not already convinced!) that will have you running, not walking, to your local yoga studio.
This is the most obvious benefit of yoga. And if you can’t touch your toes, then all the more reason to take up this wonderful ancient art.
By improving your flexibility and range of motion, your body is less susceptible to sustaining injuries, both during workouts and in every day life.
Even after a few classes, your body will start to open up as the muscles & connective tissue gently release. You will feel lighter, more flexible and you will also notice that certain aches and pains will start to disappear and your posture will improve.
2) Improves Cardiovascular Health
The proof is in the pudding – or in this case, in the 37 studies conducted on the health benefits of yoga recently analysed by researchers.
An analysis of these studies concluded that improvements in heart conditions such as high blood pressure from yoga were on par with those seen in patients who performed conventional exercise such as walking or cycling.
In some cases, regular yoga improved blood pressure even better than prescription medication. So get stretching people!
3) Increases Strength
There are several types of yoga that are particularly beneficial in building strength, including Dynamic Yoga, Power Yoga, Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga.
So put down the dumbbells and strike a pose! Believe it or not, yoga poses require positions and orientations that engage our muscles, making them stronger.
4) Helps to Protects your Spine
The 9-5 grind has the majority of us sit slouched at a desk in front of a computer for hours on end, immobile and stiff.
Our backs are designed to bend backwards, forwards and twist, therefore we need to regularly move our spines in these ways to keep the spinal discs healthy. These discs act like shock absorbers between the vertebrae and just like we crave chocolate at 3pm, they crave movement.
Yoga is a great way to stretch and lengthen the spine after a long day of sitting, so move it or lose it!
5) Improves Blood Flow
Yoga gets your blood flowing, boosting circulation, especially in the hands and feet. Inversion poses, such as headstands & shoulder stands, allow blood to flow in the opposite direction from the legs back to the heart, where it can be pumped to the lungs and freshly oxygenated.
Oxygenated blood is enriched with vital nutrients, which improves the general functioning of our bodies and subsequently, our health.
In plain terms – certain yoga poses promote blood flow to the heart, where it can be purified and sent back to other organs to ensure optimal function.
6) Releases Connective Tissue/Fascia
Connective tissue wraps around every muscle, bone & joint in the body & it is responsible for up to 40% of our flexibility.
The stiffer you are, the tighter your connective tissue.
Yin Yoga in particular, where you hold the poses for 2- 10 minutes, releases deep into connective tissue. This ultimately makes you much more flexible & prevents back pain, arthritis and other injuries linked to tight hips & hamstrings.
As we mentioned earlier, improving your flexibility will make your body less susceptible to sustaining injuries, which is especially important for people suffering from arthritis or other bone diseases.
Yoga postures (known by yoga goers as, asanas) & yogic breathing techniques (pranayama) are scientifically proven to improve the immune system response in the body, helping it to fight disease from the common cold to chronic diseases, such as cancer.
This is because yoga helps to lower stress hormones, such as cortisol, that comprise the immune system, whilst also stimulating the lymphatic system to get rid of toxins from the body.
8) Improves Energy Flow
Ancient Chinese Medicine states that where there is tension in the body, energy cannot flow efficiently to the different organs of the body.
By releasing tension, you are opening up your bodies energy channels (or nadis, meridians), creating a healthy energy flow, allowing your organs to function optimally and your overall energy & vitality will improve.
9) Helps Sleep
Yoga helps us to come out of our busy heads and into our bodies, something that most of us struggle with due to the mounting stresses of every day life.
Yoga ultimately relaxes the nervous system and is very beneficial for improving your sleep.
Three types of Yoga: Yoga Nidra, Restorative and Yin Yoga are particularly powerful forms of yoga to help with your sleep.
The ultimate goal of yoga is not to touch your toes or stand on your head, it is to CALM the MIND.
After your practice & final relaxation, known as “savasana” or the “corpse pose”, the body will have shifted from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).
With yoga your breath will slow down, you will be more present and feel calm and restored. This is where the body and mind start to truly heal. The savasana is performed at the end of a yoga session, and can be practiced as often as necessary. Some people claim that yoga can help with mental health including depression & stress.
Eventually the yogi (the person performing yoga), will be drawn to sit quietly in meditation. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Yoga calms the fluctuations of the mind. By opening up the body in yoga practice, it becomes easies to sit still and quiet for a period of time, to be present.
Quietening the mind will help you live a more fulfilling, healthy & peaceful life.
So. With all of those amazing health benefits (and more including helping PMS) , it is impossible to find a reason NOT to take up yoga.
So instead of NAMA-STAYING in bed, unleash your inner “yogi” and start off your weekend with a yoga class!
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