For well over five thousand years, yoga practitioners, instructors, and seasoned followers have sung the praises of yoga and what it does for your mind, body, and soul. Through the years, new positions and new classes have been created, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the healthy emotional boost and the raw, physical power of the practice.
Countless people worldwide have gravitated toward yoga for various reasons. Some of the most well-known physical (health) benefits include things such as: aiding in fertility, easing back pain, treating anxiety, treating symptoms associated with depression, easing joint and muscle pain for people with chronic health conditions and people with autoimmune conditions, hangover relief, and so much more.
What might surprise yoga newcomers is how flexible their body becomes after mastering yoga. It enables the body’s muscles and joints to reach a greater range of motion, making their entire body suppler and less prone to injuries. Yoga is essentially a stretching exercise to the umpteenth degree, depending on what kind of yoga you do.
The practice has proven to decrease blood pressure, increase circulation in the body, and lower bad cholesterol levels. Those benefits alone reduce the likelihood of someone developing heart disease. The poses and deep breathing exercises that accompany them help the heart to do what it’s supposed to do. Yoga increases blood flow throughout the entire body and helps the circulatory system to do its job more efficiently.
For those who are not familiar with yoga, it is a stretching exercise like no other you’ve done before. It literally allows you to stretch overused and often underused muscles and joints. Each position concentrates on different parts of the body. From Pelvic Tilts to Cat-Cow Stretches to warm up your spine to the infamous Downward Facing Dog pose that benefits your entire body from head to toe. If you have problems with mobility in your lower limbs, yoga can help reduce the tightness and encourage blood flow to the area. Poses like lunges, the Mountain Pose, or the Standing Forward Bend work the hamstrings, hips, and calves.
In addition to stretching the body, yoga also helps you to regulate your breathing because each pose dictates that you hold it, counting three to five breaths or more. You can see how that simple practice of holding and counting will immediately calm you and lower blood pressure. How long you hold a pose and how many breaths you take will depend on what type of yoga you’re doing and what feels right for your body.
One benefit that might surprise you (It surprised me!) is how well you’ll sleep after you’ve started practicing yoga. With all that we are up against during the day, our minds get clouded with an endless to-do list and nonstop stressors. Those things feed into our psyches and disrupt our sleeping patterns. Yoga’s ability to ease tensions also eases back those endless worries and virtually wipes out our insomnia. How cool is that?
Unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga requires minimal to no equipment. It can be done in the safety of your own home, or you can venture out at practice at any yoga studio in the world. Many places offer yoga retreats. What’s not to love about that? All you need is to schedule a few minutes of your time and begin practicing your moves. As with any exercise routine, you’ll want to consult your physician. Once you receive the go ahead, you’re set to begin with fifteen minutes of stretches – similar to what you’d do in any exercise class – then, a full yoga routine. You can start slow and simple and build up from there. (That’s what I’d recommend.) Or go full-throttle and join any of the fun, new yoga classes available in your area. Some cities host yoga in the park activities.
Others have a yoga studio on every corner. Or, if you’re a homebody, you can always practice in your living room. The location or type of class doesn’t matter, as long as you’re trying. No special equipment. You don’t even have to wear shoes! The right mindset, the desire to learn, and the ability to follow simple instructions can take you from a novice to a pro in no time flat. Who knows? You might find yourself standing at the head of the class one day.
“Life balance awaits you, if you’re willing to train your mind, your body, and your breath.”
Life balance awaits you if you’re willing to train your mind, your body, and your breath. Go online. Find your local yoga class and take the first step in getting healthy and feeling better by joining the yoga movement. What do you have to lose besides stress and pain?
By Sylvia Morales – Yoga Instructor