The Many Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is a moving form of meditation where practitioners and students link asanas, or poses, with the breath. It originated in India and has been practiced for thousands of years, more recently gaining popularity in western cultures. Yoga is best known for stretching and strengthening the entire body and calming the mind at the same time. Long-term results have been well documented. Yoga lowers blood pressure, lessens stress and allows you to better deal with stress in your life, helps control and maintain your weight, improves your fitness and stamina, and the list goes on. After one class you might feel more centered, balanced, refreshed, energetic and even taller! Why not try yoga for health?
A few long-term benefits of yoga are improving sleep and stress reduction. Yoga improves sleep by releasing nervous tension, which helps “turn off your mind” and allows for deeper relaxation. Breathing and stretching are designed to slow down your thoughts and pull you into the present, allowing you to “live in the moment.” This mindfulness carries over to your life because you are breathing through the intensity of some of the postures, you may try taking deep breaths when having to deal with uncomfortable or challenging situations in your own life.
The physical benefits of yoga are gains in strength, flexibility, and endurance, which allow for more toned muscles, stronger connective tissue, and a stronger immune system. During a single yoga class, you stretch and tone many muscles in your body, putting your body back into its natural alignment. These movements also help “wring out” your organs and tissues, improving circulation while helping your body naturally detoxify and heal itself.
There are many yoga classes out there that are beneficial to people with concerns about exercise including pain, health issues, elderly populations, sports injuries, and pregnancy. In fact, many yoga classes are fine for beginners, since you go at your own pace and always have the chance to rest in restorative “child's pose” at any time throughout the practice. For beginner to intermediate classes, most teachers will offer modifications for most yoga poses. If you are a beginner or have contraindications to exercise, look for classes with the words “gentle,” “restorative,” “beginner,” “all levels,” or “level 1” included in the title. If you would like a more challenging workout, look for names such as “power yoga,” “vinyasa,” “flow,” or “ashtanga,” which can be more rigorous forms of yoga. These yoga classes can be such a powerful workout, that it can actually be utilized as your primary form of strength training.
So many different forms and classes exist that you should be able to find the right class for you. You will see so many gains by practicing only 20 minutes per day, or taking a one hour class per week, that you won't want to stop. Check out local yoga studios in your community and don't forget to breathe!