On 21 June the world celebrates the International Day of Yoga. As many people know, yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on breathing, flexibility, and strength to boost both mental and physical well being. The practice originated in India around 5,000 years ago but is now popular all over the world, including in hospitals, schools, health clubs, and leisure centres. This blog post reveals everything you need to know about yoga, including the key health benefits.
Why is yoga so good for you?
There are numerous health benefits associated with yoga, and here are just seven reasons you should consider taking it up today:
- Improve your posture – Yoga can help to significantly improve your posture through improved back and abdominal strength, which enables you to fully support your body weight and stand and sit tall.
- Lower blood pressure – The deep breathing process in yoga can help increase your lung capacity, boosting your endurance and stamina, and enabling you to achieve more when engaging in intense sports.
- Improve strength and muscle tone – The poses used in yoga are designed to strengthen specific parts of the body, helping give more definition to your muscles. For example the well-known ‘Chair pose’ strengthens your legs, including your glutes and quadriceps.
- Increase flexibility – Many people believe they are not flexible enough to do yoga. However, you don’t need to be flexible to practise yoga, but by doing so it will help improve your flexibility. This is because yoga ‘asanas’ (or postures) work by stretching your muscles safely, enabling you to practise a deeper stretch. Yoga also increases the range of motion in your joints, improving mobility.
- Lose weight – It is well known that stress is a key contributor to weight gain, so yoga can help you to lose weight naturally by providing you with a a deep sense of relaxation for both your body and mind.
- Lower the risk of injury – Other forms of exercise such as running usually require a series of forceful and rapid movements, heightening the risk of injury and leading to increased muscle tension. Conversely yoga is an activity that focuses on balance which can help to prevent injury. It’s worthwhile combining more intense workouts with low-impact yoga to help lower your risk of injury.
- Improve your mood and lower stress – Meditation can help to reduce anxiety, relieve tension and improve your mood. By helping you to establish an internal connection with yourself, many people feel that yoga can boost their self-confidence. Breathing techniques used in yoga also increase oxygen levels to the brain, helping make you more content and happier with everyday life.
There are many different types of yoga available…
Now you know some of the great reasons to begin your yoga journey. If you're unsure where to start, here’s a quick guide to the many variations of yoga you can try:
- Vinyasa – Vinyasa is a relatively popular form of yoga which focuses on the dynamic flow between yoga postures, combined with mindfulness and breath.
- Ashtanga – Similar to Vinyasa, this style of yoga is energetic and involves synchronising the breath with a progressive series of postures.
- Yin – This is a meditative, and slower form of yoga which focuses on lengthening the connective tissues. The poses are held for longer periods of time, so your muscles are meant to relax and let gravity do the work.
- Bikram – A hot style of yoga, classes take place in a a room heated to 35–42 °C (95–108 °F) and with 40% humidity, enabling you to work up a sweat!
- Yoga Tune Up – Next we have yoga tune up, which integrates self-massage, corrective exercises, and yoga poses,with the purpose of strengthening and healing the body from chronic pain. It focuses on the three Ps - addressing performance, posture, and pain - to locate the blind spots of the body that can cause discomfort.
- Sivananda – This is an unhurried yoga practice that focuses on the same 12 basic asanas (‘postures’) each time. It incorporates positive thinking, exercise, diet, relaxation, and proper breathing as part of a healthy lifestyle.
- Kundalini – Moving and invigorating poses are used in this type of yoga. The fluidity of the practice has the purpose of releasing the Kundalini (serpent) energy in your body.
- Kripalu – This is a yoga practice that features three parts, teaching you to learn, know, and accept your body. It all begins with understanding how the body works in a variety of poses, and then moves towards holding postures for an extended period of time.
- Jivamukhti – This form of yoga attempts to reintegrate the spiritual, psychological, and physical aspects of yoga for Western practitioners, and includes chanting and meditation.
- Prenatal – As you may expect, prenatal yoga is specially tailored for women at all stages of their pregnancy, including those that have given birth and are looking to get back into shape.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of yoga – the benefits of it and the different options that are available. There are many forms to choose from, so why not give one a try today?