Improve your flexibility, increase your strength, and lose weight with just a few simple yoga poses. How very Zen!
Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and millions of people worldwide incorporate yoga poses into their everyday healthy lifestyle. Yoga entered our mainstream health and fitness culture as a way for individuals to find calm and balance.
But there are so many more benefits to yoga than its meditative powers. Yoga exercise routines strengthen the body, creating long and lean muscles. There are poses to help you sleep, to help you wake, to lower anxiety. For anyone doubting yoga as a form of exercise, now is the perfect time to take a second look at the health benefits of yoga.
Yoga Improves Flexibility
For anyone afraid to try a yoga class or buy that workout DVD because they are not very flexible, now is the time to turn that thinking on its head. Yoga is one of the best ways to improve your flexibility. You do not have to start out being able to gracefully tuck your ankles behind your head.
Yoga poses work to improve flexibility in all participants, even those with restricted mobility. Traditional yoga poses can be modified for inflexible people, and you can work your way towards doing the standard poses. There are also entire yoga routines devoted to improve the flexibility of inflexible people.
A recent study showed that after only eight weeks of doing yoga, 35% of participants see a significant improvement in their flexibility. As an added bonus, yoga improves the flexibility of your muscles, but also of your tendons and ligaments.
Yoga Helps You Increase Strength and Lose Weight
There are many different styles of yoga, all of which focus on flexibility, balance, and strength to differing degrees. Many people are drawn to yoga for meditation and relaxation, but certain styles of yoga are quite vigorous and are a great workout for strengthening the body, and losing weight. For instance, power yoga is an extremely athletic style of yoga, and is practiced widely in gyms and by athletes in training.
While certain yoga poses, such as Downward Dog and the Plant pose, focus on strengthening the upper body, standing poses that are held for an extended period of time strengthen the lower body. And when done properly, all yoga poses develop and strengthen your core muscles.
Once you have progressed to a level where you are comfortable with the subtleties of each yoga pose, you may want to take it up a notch and try Bikram, or “hot” yoga. Each class consists of doing the same 26 moves, in a studio heated above 100 degrees F. Just be sure to check with your physician before starting this intense yoga program.
Improve Your Posture
An added benefit to the increased flexibility and core strength from yoga is improved flexibility. A strong core pulls you into proper alignment, and you will stand and sit up taller and straighter. Because yoga also develops an increased awareness in your body movements and posture, you become more likely to correct poor posture, such as slouching.
Yoga Reduces Stress
Yoga involves deep breathing exercises and meditation. The goal is to perform the poses with your mind “quiet.” Besides the immediate effect of not letting your mind wander to things like work, bills, and other possible sources of stress, there are many biochemical reasons why yoga reduces stress levels.
Research has shown that yoga boosts levels of oxytocin, the hormone often associated with the relaxed feeling we have when bonding with other people, or being involved in a trusting relationship. Yoga also decreases levels of the hormone catecholamine, which is released by the adrenal glands as a response to stress.
Series of poses can be done just before bed to help quiet your mind, put you in a state of relaxation, and unwind before falling into a deep sleep. And in the mornings, there are yoga routines designed to start you off on the right foot and in the right frame of mind, which could be just the key to managing stress throughout the day.
Yoga and Your Heart
Numerous studies have shown that yoga lowers blood pressure and slows your heart rate. It is therefore has great benefits for those with heart disease and hypertension. Medical programs have even been developed that incorporate yoga into a healthy diet and exercise regime, as an alternative to heart surgery.
The studies on the specific psychological, physiological, and biochemical benefits yoga can have for your health just seem to be scratching the surface. Introduce calm, poise, and strength into your life by trying a “yoga for beginners” program.