Yoga is a very ancient form of exercise dating back around 5,000 or so years. In fact for many, it is not just an exercise but a way of life.
Yoga is a series of movements or postures (asana) and breathing techniques to boost mental and physical wellbeing by increasing your strength and flexibility.
I have heard people say that you have to be fit and flexible to do yoga but this is incorrect – yoga will help you and inspire you to become these things. You do not have to have any experience to try it out whatsoever. Your fitness level is no matter and will not exclude you. Yoga is suitable for any age and any fitness level.
There are many different types of yoga and each is great for many things, however, I am not going to go through them all (just now). The purpose of this article is just to let you know overall the benefits of doing any type of yoga.
Here are 10 fantastic reasons to practice yoga – benefits are in no particular order 🙂
1) Great form of meditation – as yoga is all about movement and breathing it really is a fantastic way to meditate. You do not have to be sat still and in a quiet room to meditate, all you have to be able to relax into a state of calm. You do not have to clear your mind but in fact use this time to ponder upon things that you have no time for during the day or the rest of the week. Meditation is not all Ohm chanting and sunsets, it is just about allowing yourself time to concentrate on your body and how it is feeling and also your mind. Perfect!
2) Improves flexibility – we are all super flexible as kids however as time goes by, unless you do yoga already or have been doing some form of stretching exercise for years, as you get older, you start to lose flexibility. This could be due to many reasons really from anything to injury to inactivity such as working in an office and spending most of your time sitting down. The reason that yoga is wonderful for flexibility is that it stretches the ligaments and soft tissues in your body which increases your range of motion in those particular areas etc. No matter how tight your muscles, yoga will teach you how to stretch them safely.
3) Improves Strength – now, when I say that yoga improves strength, I do not mean that if you do yoga you will be hench, what I mean is that you will become toned. You will be surprised at how much strength you can have in small and tones muscles. We all need toned muscles as this is what helps to protect us from injuries such as back and neck pains and can even help to prevent arthritis.
Yoga has a great effect on your upper body strength and to be honest, any pose with strengthen the area that you are targeting if of course you practise it safely and do not over stretch yourself.
4) Improves balance – if you are anything like me, my balance is all over the show and I regularly fall over my own feet or walk into things as I teeter around 😉 Ok so it is not quite that bad but, it sure feels like it some days. Since practising yoga, because of the asana and the stretching, my balance has improved rather a lot as my muscles have gotten stronger. Having a strong core can help. Improved balance is a great thing as you get older as it really can help prevent falls.
5) Improved posture – due to our daily lives many of us have bad posture these days. Poor posture can cause a multitude of issues such as back, neck, shoulder and other muscle aches and pains. We get so used to slumping when we sit and not holding our heads up high – I have had to correct my posture several times since starting to write this – which causes those little niggles that we get so used to. The stronger and more flexible that you get you will find that your posture will improve as your muscles will be able to support your weight better. As was the case with me, my natural posture is a slump and when I first started yoga, sitting up straight actually hurt and made by back really sore. This is because the muscles were used to being hunched. Ouch! Through yoga my posture is slowly improving and to be honest, I feel so much better for it.
6) Lowers stress – had a hard day, something really pissed you off then yoga can work magic. With the lovely stretching you can shit it all out and just concentrate on your breathing. Stress is said to cause so many health problems such as migraines and insomnia through to eczema, high blood pressure and in extreme cases heart attacks and strokes. Yoga has specific techniques to help combat stress and ease the chatter in your mind. They say if you can learn to quite your mind or teach your mind to handle difficult situations then you will be likely to live a longer and healthier life.
7) Boosts your mood – yoga increases the serotonin levels in the brain and decreases cortisol levels. Serotonin is happiness and cortisol is stress. Winner right?! The breathing techniques used in yoga help to increase the oxygen levels to the brain which helps to make you feel happier and more content. The breathing exercises can be done anywhere at any time so if you feel a little irked and need a happiness boost then you know what you need to do – breathe! Consistent yoga practice can help to combat depression and studies have shown that those suffering with depression are more likely to be able to come of off their meds quicker if they practice yoga.
8) Lowers blood pressure – calming asana’s and meditation all help to lower your heart rate which in turn lowers your blood pressure. Anything that knocks down your chances of heart disease and strokes is a huge winner in my eyes. High blood pressure can have such huge effect on your body, strokes, heart attacks, kidney disease, heart failure and aortic aneurysms . I think you get the point. Keeping your heart rate and blood pressure down should be a major goal in life for us all.
9) Eases aches and pains – as we lengthen and strengthen our muscles, gain further flexibility and improve our posture, our bodies can relax and stop being so tense all of the time. As soon as you relax, your muscles can start to heal. Yoga has been clinically proven to help ease pains. Often exercise such as yoga is recommended by professional physios and the likes as it aids a great recovery.
10) Fabulous for overall wellbeing – as you can see from the above, yoga is good for pretty much everything. It makes you feel fantastic and happy and wonderful.
Personally, I think that everyone should give yoga a try. If it is something that you have not tried before or is something that you did a long time ago and want to get back into then I would strongly suggest joining a class to get you started. There are so many poses on the internet that you can find and workouts etc however, if you are a newbie then please seek professional instruction as they can help guide you to make sure that you are doing it correctly. Once you are comfortable in what you are doing you can then start DVD’s etc from home.
Yoga at home before bed is magical which is when we do ours however, I have to say yoga in the garden early in the morning is bliss too. Whatever your mood, whatever your location, there is no excuse. Grab a few minutes to yourself and go for it!
From one hippy to another – please try it out. It won’t be long before you start to feel the benefits.
If you liked this article – why not check out 6 Different Types of Yoga and Their Benefits