There are lots of reasons to roll out your yoga mat, not least the wide-ranging health benefits that yoga has been proven to offer. More medical professionals than ever are suggesting the practice of yoga as an alternative or supplementary treatment for an ever-increasing number of health issues. Suitable for all ages and all abilities, yoga can have a really positive effect on your health within just a few classes.
The benefits of yoga include:
One of the main health benefits associated with yoga is a vast improvement in flexibility. Whilst you may find yourself struggling to touch your toes in your very first class, you will soon find that you are able to manoeuvre your body into an ever increasing number of poses as time goes on.
Although improved flexibility allows you to perform more postures with better efficiency, the health benefits reach far beyond this. Increased flexibility helps to eradicate aches and pains caused by the misalignment of the body, something that is all the more common as our lives become more sedentary. As our bodies become more flexible, they become less susceptible to strain from overexertion.
Increased Muscle Strength
The cosmetic benefits of yoga are obvious but those long, lean muscles aren’t just great to look at. One of the most prominent benefits of yoga is an increase in strength, which in turn leads on to better posture, lessening of back pain and even the prevention of arthritis. Many doctors suggest yoga as an effective but gentle exercise for older people and those recovering from injury, thanks to its ability to strengthen the muscles, prevent degeneration and even help prevent falls.
Increased Blood Flow
The glow that many attribute to yoga has lots to do with the increased blood flow that comes with regular practice. Relaxation, meditation and controlled breathing increases the amount of oxygen reaching your cells, which in turn improves the way the blood flows around your body.
Breathing exercises in yoga are especially beneficial to circulation in the hands and feet, whilst the physical side of yoga is known to encourage venous blood to flow from the extremities and back to the lungs to be freshly oxygenated. Yoga is also proven to boost haemoglobin and increase the number of red blood cells, decreasing the risk of blood clots regularly associated with heart attack and strokes.
A More Focused Mind
The modern world puts more pressure on our minds than ever before and countless health professionals are now advocating a more mindful approach. The meditation component of yoga is a powerful tool in becoming more mindful on a day-to-day basis, thanks to its ability to focus the mind, encourage greater presence and awareness of your surroundings, and even calm the nervous system.
Yoga encourages discipline in breathing and movement, which can in turn be channelled into daily life; issues can be approached more thoughtfully and the mind will remain steadier when faced with bad news or troubling situations.
Meditation is also an incredibly effective tool for the management of stress, as well as improving other ailments including migraine, insomnia, high blood pressure and depression.
When we quieten the mind, it becomes far easier to focus on becoming a better, more motivated version of ourselves, away from the distraction of our own negative thoughts.
Yoga is a fantastic tool for steady and controlled weight loss, with a number of factors contributing to its success.
The more mindful approach encouraged by the breathing and meditation aspect of yoga can also be adapted to encourage a more conscious approach to eating. In addition to this, yoga’s ability to lower stress levels has a positive effect on the way the body stores fat.
When we are stressed, the body releases cortisol, which in turn increases our blood sugar. Today’s sedentary lifestyles result in this blood sugar turning to glucose in our bodies, which is stored as fat, particularly around the stomach area. Through lowering stress levels, yoga helps to reduce the production of cortisol and in turn reduce fat.
The physical component of yoga can also contribute to weight loss, especially if you practice a vigorous method such as Ashtanga or Bikram. These classes in particular are known to burn as many as 600 calories per hour, thanks to the continuous movements involved.
Whilst we have mentioned several of the benefits of yoga here, there are many more besides. Given the positive effects yoga can have on both our mental and physical wellness, it is unsurprising that an increasing number of sports professionals and athletes are factoring yoga practices into their fitness programmes.