Yoga as a form of mental and physical healing has been around for over 5,000 years. Although it’s transformed over time; the basic principles, poses, and benefits are deeply rooted in the Hindu and Buddhist religious culture. But aside from the religious or spiritual beliefs that surround yoga, the physical practice itself offers yogis countless benefits including increased flexibility and strength. If you’ve never tried yoga, are a seasoned yogi, or are planning a weekend getaway with friends and want to know more about the practice; read on to discover 6 ways that yoga can improve your health and your life.
1. Improved Posture and Bone Health
Whether you work a desk job or stand on your feet all day, maintaining good posture can be difficult. When your body is tired or you’ve been in the same position for an extended period of time, your shoulders and neck naturally slouches. Maintaining good posture takes effort. You need to be aware of how you carry your body and mentally remind yourself to adjust your stance. Yoga can help with this by promoting healthy alignment of your spine and the bones in your back and neck. When your skeletal system is properly aligned, it prevents bones and muscles from straining or compensating in an effort to maintain good form and posture. The discs in your spine are responsible for absorbing important nutrients and yoga can help keep these discs healthy and functioning properly.
When it comes to bone health, yoga is a great workout for not just your muscles but your bones and joints as well. Yoga poses maintain a healthy range of motion in your joints and can reduce the risk of arthritis from joint deterioration. The cartilage of your joints is similar to a sponge and soaks up nutrients in your body (similar to the discs of your spine). When you move and work your joints, old nutrients are purged, making room for new nutrients to be absorbed. This is a normal and healthy process in the human body that yoga helps facilitate.
2. Increased Flexibility
We’ve all seen impressive yoga poses where people have their legs wrapped behind their heads as they balance on their elbows. This doesn’t need to be you (though it can be). Regardless of your age, gender, or weight, regularly practicing yoga can greatly improve your flexibility. Yoga poses are all about stretching your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Over time, these areas with become more malleable and you’ll soon discover you can do advanced versions of some of your favorite yoga poses. You may also notice that areas where you once experienced tension or tightness are now less sore and move more easily between poses. Hot yoga is another great way to help warm and loosen your muscles, giving way to increased flexibility and range of motion.
3. Reduced Risk of Injury
Whether you’re training for a marathon, have recently experienced an injury, or are simply an athlete looking to reduce your risk of getting hurt, yoga can help. The more flexible, mobile, and agile your entire body is, the less likely you are to get hurt. Tight muscles often result in strains, sprains, and pulls. Yoga helps keep these ligaments and tendons flexible, allowing them to move and bend with the movements of your body, rather than stiffly resist movement, causing pain and discomfort. Yoga also strengthens your muscles, making you less susceptible to injury.
4. Improves Circulation
Circulation and blood flow are important functions in the human body. Blood contains oxygen and carries it throughout your body to all the important organs, including your heart, lungs, and brain. Poor circulation can cause heart related issues, digestive problems, fatigue, swelling of the extremities, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. Yoga keeps blood flowing smoothly throughout your body, delivering adequate oxygen to your major organs. Each yoga pose effects circulation in a different way. For example, inventions (head and hand stands) deliver blood to the heart, where it is then pumped to the lungs. Yoga may also help increase your body’s production of red blood cells, which have the primary job of carrying oxygen to body tissue throughout the body. Yoga may even thin your blood, reducing your risk of heart attack.
5. Reduces Stress and Improves Mental Clarity
One of the biggest reasons claim for doing yoga is that it’s “relaxing”. With a mix of controlled breathing and a calming, peaceful environment, yoga is a physical exercise paired with mental clarity. Yoga sessions are designed to be completely relaxing. Yogis are encouraged to follow a series of breathing exercises and techniques to help quiet their minds and focus on how their physical body responds to these prompts. During yoga, you should completely clear your mind of any outside thoughts and focus strictly on the practice and poses. Many yoga studios are dimly lit and provide calming music to help you enter a state of relaxation. This can help you rid your body of outside stress that causes both physical and emotional distress. People also report feeling more focused following yoga. When yogis focus on the present, they experience improved memory, reaction time, and coordination.
6. Builds Muscle
Many people associate yoga with extremely thin and petite people who can easily bend themselves in half or put their feet behind their head. While yoga can improve flexibility, boost your metabolism, and may result in weight loss, gaining toned muscle mass is another surprising benefit. You don’t need to lift heavy weights to increase your muscle. Many yoga poses including planks and arm balances require core and upper body strength. Lunges and other balancing poses strengthen your leg muscles. This increase in muscle may not be obvious to the naked eye, which is best for those looking to tone instead of bulking up. In time, your strength will increase and you can try more advanced versions of your favorite poses.
With over 36 million Americans doing yoga, the benefits are no secret! Not only will yoga help you strengthen your body, but your mind as well. If you’ve never tried it or are nervous to do so, sign up for a beginners class at you local studio. You can research basic yoga poses beforehand and practice. All you need to enjoy the many benefits of yoga is a mat and an open mind.
Article Submitted By Community Writer