Yoga offers the best of many worlds, providing a little bit of something for everyone. It’s a mindful, stress-relieving, flexibility-enhancing, strength-building workout that anyone can participate in.
But why should you be doing it? Well, if you don’t already know your down dog from your cobra, here are 8 reasons to consider yoga for your next exercise pursuit!
1 – Yoga can decrease stress
All forms of physical exercise can help to lower stress levels. But yoga is particularly effective. Its combination of physical exertion, concentration, and focus on deep rhythmic breathing gives it myriad stress-busting properties.
The mental effort that goes into holding and perfecting each yoga pose also helps clear the mind. It’s a mindful activity which requires an active awareness of body and breath. And the focus you’ll put into maintaining this awareness can help to eliminate all other thoughts from your mind.
2 – It can also relieve anxiety
Studies have shown that yoga may contribute to relieving symptoms of anxiety. One particular study which focussed on woman suffering from anxiety revealed that those who participated in yoga classes showed a “significant decrease” in state anxiety and trait anxiety. The study’s conclusion suggested that “yoga can be considered as a complementary therapy or an alternative method for medical therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders”.
3 – Improves flexibility
Age, inactivity, and extended periods of sitting all contribute to poor flexibility. As we get older, our bodies naturally become less supple. And in day-to-day life we’re rarely required to perform feats of extreme flexibility. So, over time, our joints become stiff and rigid.
Yoga, however, exposes us to movements that work underused areas of our bodies. This, in the long term, will help to loosen our joints, elongate our spines, make us more mobile, and increase our overall flexibility.
4 – Builds strength
Yoga is an amazing tool for building core strength. And core strength is important because it’s functional. Not only does it improve balance, but it helps us in performing daily tasks. From walking stairs to lifting boxes.
During yoga practise, many of the poses are held for extended periods of time. So we’re essentially performing a bodyweight exercise and an endurance exercise at the same time. In this way, practising yoga on a regular basis can help to improve our core strength.
5 – Corrects posture
Poor posture can cause many physical problems, from back and neck pains, joint issues and headaches, to poor digestion and improper breathing.
Because yoga elongates the spine, a natural side-effect is that it also improves posture. This is understandable considering that our spine is what keeps us upright. So fixing the spine = fixing posture.
In this way, yoga could be especially beneficial for office workers, or anyone who sits down for extended periods of time. This is because it can help to reverse the effects of slouching and sitting, and as a result relieve back and neck pains.
6 – Teaches better breathing
Proper breathing is such an important, yet often overlooked, component of good health and wellbeing. The problem is that many of us develop poor breathing patterns as a result of being stressed and overworked. When negative emotions abound, our breathing can become shallow and constricted. And if we experience lots of stress, all the time, our bodies will become accustomed to that kind of breathing.
Yoga, thankfully, encourages us to focus on our breath. And by focussing on the breath we can become more aware of bad habits and restrictive breathing patterns.
Yoga teaches us to take deep breaths and synchronise our inhalations and exhalations with our body movements. The benefits of proper breathing are manifold, and include pain relief, increased immunity, and detoxification. And regular yoga practise has been linked to improved lung function.
By learning to breathe properly, we can become more relaxed, healthier, and happier in our day-to-day lives.
You can take a look at some yogic breathing techniques here.
7 – Can improve quality of life
Yoga is also believed to improve overall life quality in those who practise it regularly. This could be particularly noticeable in senior citizens.
One study assigned 135 generally healthy seniors to one of three groups. One group participated in 6 months of yoga, one did 6 months of walking exercise, and one was a control group. The quality-of-life measures that the study focussed on related to sense of well-being, energy, and fatigue. And it concluded that the seniors “in the yoga group showed significant improvement in quality-of-life and physical measures compared to exercise and wait-list control groups”.
8 – Encourages better sleep
Yoga can offer an excellent path to better sleep. There are, of course, particular types of yoga that might be more suited to an evening routine (such as yin). But as a general practise, yoga is widely believed to promote healthier sleep.
When done with the specific intention of preparing for sleep, yoga can help us to slow down, focus on our breath, and enter a state of deep relaxation.
There are also some quick-fix bedtime yoga poses for those who may not have time for a longer pre-sleep class. Three go-to evening postures to try are: legs up the wall (if you have a spare 15 minutes you could also this excellent qi gong routine for better sleep, which features a ten-minute legs up the wall section), lying butterfly pose, and corpse pose.
Where’s the yoga, please?
So, is it time to get into the studio and onto the mat? Why not come along to Jesmond Pool, where we offer 2 classes a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays. For more information, visit our yoga class page.