The many benefits of yoga

Yoga is arguably the oldest organised exercise system in the world. It dates back thousands of years and while it originated in India, yoga is now practiced all around the world. There are numerous of different yoga styles which differ in terms of moves performed, equipment used, class duration and workout intensity, but all yoga styles can be extremely beneficial for both men and women

1. Yoga increases flexibility and mobility

The postures, positions, and exercises of yoga invariably involve stretching. Sitting down all day can leave muscles short and tight and yoga is the perfect antidote for inactivity. While stretching at the end of a workout IS beneficial, it is seldom enough to deliver noticeable increases in flexibility. In contrast, a yoga class is an hour or more dedicated to stretching and that will have a big impact in your flexibility. 

To make getting into these stretched positions easier, many yoga practitioners wear yoga pants but you don’t have too – a comfortable pair of shorts or a pair of leggings will be just as good. 

2. Yoga is relaxing

Modern life can be pretty stressful; work, finances, relationships, commuting, family – these are all common sources of stress. Yoga provides a great way to unwind and de-stress and most classes end with a dedicated relaxation section. 

To avoid cooling off too fast and losing out on the benefit of relaxation, make sure you put on a hoodie or sweatshirt before the final part of your yoga workout. 

3. Yoga develops strength 

Contrary to popular belief, yoga is a good way to develop strength without using heavy weights or resistance training machines. Chair pose, warrior pose, and the various arm and handstands all require and develop strength and muscular endurance. 

Wear a slim fitting workout vest or fitted t-shirt so your movements are free and fluid and so you can keep cool while you work out. 

4. Yoga can improve your balance 

Many yoga exercises involve standing on one foot or in positions that challenge your balance. Balance is an important fitness component but, if you mainly exercise sat or lying down or use a lot of resistance training machines, your balance might not be as good as it should be. 

If you play sports or simply want to make sure that you are generally more stable on your feet, the balance benefit of yoga is something you’ll quickly appreciate. 

5. Yoga teaches you to breathe properly 

All yoga styles place a big emphasis on breathing – especially through the nose. Proper yogic breathing is done using the diaphragm and not the upper chest; imagine breathing into your belly. Chest breathing is linked to stress while belly breathing is linked to relaxation. Learning to breath with your diaphragm can help you manage stress and also means you can inhale more deeply, delivering more oxygen to your hard-working muscles. 

6. Yoga teaches body awareness 

Many yoga poses require very precise limb coordination while you are stretching yourself into position and trying to remember to breathe! All of this coordinated effort means you quickly learn to be more aware of your body which means your movements will become more fluid and coordinated. 

To ensure your mind is free to concentrate on your yoga practice, you should wear clothes that are cool, comfortable, and unrestrictive such as a fitted tee-shirt made from wicking, technical material. 

7. Yoga can protect you from injury 

Better balance, enhanced coordination, greater flexibility, improved strength – this combination of physical attributes can reduce your risk of injury during sports and other demanding activities. Many athletes turn to yoga after an injury so it makes sense that practicing yoga can prevent injuries too. 

8. Yoga can improve circulation 

Stretching, contracting and relaxing your muscles has a beneficial effect on your blood vessels, heart, and general circulation. Sitting for extended periods of time can make circulation sluggish which reduces blood flow to your muscles and organs. Yoga is an excellent way to boost circulation which will, in turn, speed up recovery from other forms of exercise and also increase energy levels. 

9. Yoga improves immune system function 

When you contract and stretch your muscles during a yoga class you increase the movement and drainage of lymph which is a viscous fluid rich in immune cells. This helps the lymphatic system fight infection and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular metabolism. The healthier your lymphatic system is, the better your body will be at fighting infection and the less frequently you will suffer illness. 

10. Yoga can lead to better sleep 

By relaxing your body and mind and helping to rid you of stress, yoga can enhance sleep. Too little sleep and/or poor quality sleep can undermine your motivation and willpower for exercise and eating healthily and also make even the easiest task more difficult or stressful than it needs to be. 

Sleeping pills only address the symptoms of disrupted sleep while yoga addresses many of the causes. If you struggle with sleep, yoga can help you to get a good nights’ rest. 

With its many benefits, it’s no wonder that yoga is so popular. Yoga makes a great add-on to almost any workout schedule. Whether you join a yoga class or simply add a few yoga poses and exercises to your current workout routine, you can be sure that yoga will do you good!