Yoga literally means to UNITE and is all about relationships between the body and the breath, the muscles and the skeletal structure, your physical self and your emotions, your mind and your body.
Some great benefits for all:
The concentration required in a yoga class, (unlike the treadmill in the gym for example, where your mind can wander and think about the day) means that you can be present, an activity found difficult for so many working in a corporate environment, as there’s always some task to focus the mind on. The increased oxygen to the brain also helps alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety.
Balanced Body & Mind
The connection between mind, body and breath practiced in yoga, helps promote a more balanced and calmer outlook, making it easier to cope with pending project deadlines and stresses and strains of everyday life.
Good for your Heart
Stress is a well-known factor that can increase the risk of heart disease, so again, by helping to calm the mind and nervous system, stress levels can be reduced. The breathing techniques used also increases the amount of oxygen in the blood and makes it easier for circulation with less stress for the heart.
YOGA FOR YOU
Many people spend far too much time at their desks, this can lead poor posture and back, neck and shoulder issues. Yoga works on strengthening of muscles that support the spine and also helps to bring relaxation to tired and tense muscles.
A ridged body (from exercise or stress), is more prone to injury and so by increasing the flexibility of the joints and muscles, the more fluid the body will be. A more supple body can cope with stress on the muscles, such as landing awkward fall or landing in sport or a general fall. This also helps promote healthy joints and helps to alleviate the pain or onset of joint problems such as arthritis or RSI.
Improved Muscle Tone
Most yoga poses improve strength and endurance for the body, as they work to build core strength and deepen abdominal muscles.
Yoga stimulates the secretion of enzymes that help us break down carbohydrates, protein and fat. Many of the yoga postures compress and release the digestive system. This stimulation of the abdominal organs, serves to increase the flow of blood in these areas and improves digestive problems.
The physical benefits are great, but the additional feelings of happiness are even more wonderful. There are generally blocks in energy through the body, which can build up meaning we can't use our body and mind to its full potential. These blocks are worked on through the physical postures and breathing practices.
The breath-work and concentration of mind makes for a calmer, more relaxed body and mind, helping to promote a better night’s sleep.
We are very rarely aware of our breath, but we tend to only use a proportion of our lungs (around half) in everyday life. The deep breathing during yoga and yogic breathing techniques increase this significantly, opening up areas of the lungs that we don’t usually use, making a much more efficient system, increasing oxygen flow around the body.
NOT JUST FOR GIRLS
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Yoga is a great way to stay healthy and happy for women and men alike, however yoga often gets seen as a women-only environment. Here are some of the key reasons that yoga is fantastic for men too:
Men often state their lack of flexibility means that they can’t practice yoga, however yoga is about more than this, strength, balance, breath-work, joint suppleness, increased body awareness and so on are also on the cards. Joint and muscle tightness is a great reason to actually attend yoga classes regularly, as the movements and postures work on increasing flexibility and opening the joints to help lengthen and stretch muscles out. This is even more apparent for those who already attend the gym/run/cycle, as these activities impact the muscles and joints, so yoga is a great way to release this tension and strengthen the muscles (i.e. cyclists can benefit from strengthening the core and supporting muscles in the lower back, to help them improve posture and avoid lower back issues).
Yoga widens range of motion and increases access to more muscle fibres, allowing for more substantial hypertrophy* in any given muscle group to aid the growth of muscles with weight training.
*Hypertrophy is when a muscle is enlarged because its cells are enlarged (it's basically muscle growth on a cellular level).
Deep abdominal breathing is a huge part of yoga, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone that forces your body to hold on to belly fat, so it helps you to stay leaner. Training yourself to breathe deeply through yoga can reduce stress and cortisol levels in your daily life.
Another giant benefit of yoga is lowering your heart rate. More intense yoga routines will challenge your heart and breathing rates, which strengthen your cardiovascular system and can lead to a reduction in overall heart rate. Your breathing volume can also improve, providing more oxygen for your body to work as efficiently as possible.
If you’ve trained for years either weight lifting, running or cycling, the body responds a certain way, setting up particular neurological and neuromuscular patterns that stay the same and serve us in that sport. We breathe a certain way; we move a certain way. We often injure the same muscles or ligaments in the same way. Yoga brings the body back into balance, into its natural alignment to help counteract old or persistent injuries to help strengthen the body and improve physical weaknesses from other forms of sport.
If you aren’t a regular gym-goer, yoga will offer a way of keeping physically healthy without the sometimes competitive environment of the gym.