Yoga, an ancient practice and meditation, has become increasingly popular in today’s busy society. With many forms of exercise and training coming and going, yoga is one that has stood the test of time, having been around for more than 5,000 years. The word yoga means ‘to join or yoke together’. It brings your body and mind together, and is built on three main elements – exercise, breathing and meditation.
The benefits of practicing yoga go beyond burning calories and toning muscles, with many other physical and mental benefits gained from the total mind-body workout. And while you might be thinking ‘yoga isn’t for me’, ‘I’m not flexible enough’, ‘I have no balance’ or ‘it’s a bit gentle and slow’, there are over 100 different forms of yoga practices out there, so you’re bound to find a style that suits you.
If you’re still not convinced, read these 7 evidence-based benefits of yoga:
1. Improves Flexibility
One of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga is improved flexibility. Whether your goal is to touch your toes, reduce the tightness in your hamstrings, or to simply feel less stiff, the stretches and poses performed during yoga will help with this. Developing greater strength and flexibility in your muscles will consequently reduce your risk of injury and will allow greater movement in your body to help you perform better physically.
2. Improves Posture
Studies have shown that yoga exercises help improve bad posture. Posture is an important dimension in staying healthy throughout life. The spine is the central channel of the nervous system, so when your spine is healthy, pathways of the nervous system are strong and clear and vital energy flows more freely. Correcting posture imbalances will also help to prevent and relieve chronic back pain.
3. Increases Strength
While strength-building is probably not a benefit that immediately comes to mind, spend a few seconds in the downward dog pose and you’ll realise how much strength yoga requires. The benefit of building strength through yoga is that you balance it with flexibility, compared to just lifting weights at the gym.
4. Improves Sleep Quality
Studies have shown that incorporating yoga into your routine can help promote better sleep. Yoga can help you relax and unwind, helping you to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and feel more rested when you wake up. Yoga has also been shown to increase the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.
5. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
It is well known that regular exercise has a positive influence on mental health and can help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Yoga has been shown to act as a self-soothing technique, and can help to manage stress response systems by reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and easing respiration. Multiple studies have also shown that yoga can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone.
6. Improves Concentration and Focus
The practice of yoga requires physical concentration as you learn to bring your focus to your breath as you move through a sequence of poses. Bringing in an awareness of your body and breath is a useful tool that can be used off the mat as you increase your concentration in your day-to-day activities.
7. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Yoga poses rely on holding muscle tension for a short period of time, helping to improve cardiovascular fitness and circulation. This can help to reduce blood pressure and decrease risk factors for heart disease.
Multiple studies have confirmed the positive benefits yoga has on our health. Incorporating yoga into your workout routine will not only see you reaping the rewards from the workout itself, but will also complement the other weight, cardio, and/or sport specific training you are doing.
Why not give it a go!