7 Health Benefits Of Yoga
Is yoga right for you? The simple answer is YES! Yoga comes in all shapes, styles, sizes, forms, skill levels, and there are modification for most things that can allow you to participate at the right level for you. Yoga is supposed to be a personal challenge within yourself and you should not be looking at what the person on the mat next to you is doing (but lets be honest, that really advanced person in class is pretty amazing to watch). Yoga means “to unite,” generally referring to the mind-body connection.
I’m not a devote yoga practitioner but I do practice my own version of yoga on a regular basis. I’ve come to rely on it for many things and my body tells me when I have taken too long of a hiatus from my routine. I use yoga to help manage my upper back and neck pain, maintain my overall flexibility, stress relief, to work on my posture, and for total body strengthening.
If you have never done yoga before I highly recommend starting with a few classes. The guidance of a qualified teacher is so important to make sure you are doing the movements correctly and they can offer on the spot modification for you. Once you have the basics down then picking up a tape or following along with TV program is acceptable if you prefer to do things in the comfort of your home. There are a lot of types of classes out there so I also recommend talking with the instructor/gym/yoga studio to make sure you are in the best class for your skill level, medical condition, and personal goals.
Everyone says you should try yoga but why? Well, yoga offers a wide range of health benefit that you can start to notice with as little as 6-8 weeks of regular practice same as any other exercise program.
1) Improves flexibility:
That’s an easy one, yoga poses, asanas, work by stretching your muscle into various positions. You don’t have to be able to touch your toes to start yoga and the truth is you might not be able to after but you will move more comfortably in your available range of motion.
2) Improve strength:
Holding poses helps to strengthen your arms, legs, and core/abdominal muscles, you can further work on strength and you can even make yoga an aerobic activity by trying power yoga (Ashtanga)
3) Improve balance:
Holding poses, doing standing poses, and single leg poses all work to get your brain and body connecting and sending better signals to each other (proprioception), which leads to better balance.
4) Better posture:
By working on that mind-body connection, flexibility, and strengthen all lead to improved posture. You are more aware of you body and can bring yourself out of poor postures. Improving posture can aid with back and neck pain and also has been shown to help with migraines.
5) Lower stress:
Yoga teaches you how to relax, control you breathing, you may learn some meditation techniques in certain types of yoga, lower blood pressure, and can help your mind slow down. All these things can help lower your stress and improve your quality of sleep/rest.
6) Maintain healthy cortisol levels:
Cortisol is a hormone in our body, known as the “stress hormone.” It is meant to heighten our awareness, however chronic high levels of cortisol have a detrimental effect on our body and brain. If the level of cortisol is too high it can lower our immune system, mess with our long term memory, cause us to gain weight especially in or abdomen (or not be able to loose weight), has been linked to depression, increased blood pressure, and increases our overall stress level.
7) Improve circulation:
Yoga improves the overall amount of blood flow to our muscles and back up to our heart, it helps lower blood pressure, and improve heart rate
Now you are ready to try yoga but as always, if you have never done yoga you should consult with your healthcare provider (MD, PT, etc) prior to starting any new exercise program.
Here are just a few examples of how yoga poses can be modified using a chair:
– Katie L