It’s 2017 now and many of us have already started on our new year’s resolutions…right? An infamous goal that usually appears on everyone’s list is working out. We want to be more active, but finding time in our already hectic lives to drive all the way to gym, work out, drive home to make ourselves presentable again…It isn’t always possible.
But what if I told you there is a something you could do that promotes self-love, community, better sleep and is a great, low-impact exercise? Oh, did I mention you could do it for almost no cost? If these sound like something you’ve been looking for, keep reading to discover why practicing yoga could change your life.
1 Self Love
If you ask anyone who has taken a yoga class before–whether virtually or in person–they will tell you the same thing. There is no pressure. Yoga isn’t a competitive exercise. You aren’t comparing yourself to the dude next to you who is doing ten more reps with four times more weight. Every time you step on the mat, it is about loving yourself and listening to your body.
Practicing yoga will teach you to be comfortable in your skin. Practicing yoga will make you feel powerful, because the more you practice, the more you realize those poses you couldn’t manage when you first started are attainable and fun.
2 Meditation Training
Meditation and yoga go hand in hand. As you learn different yoga flows, you begin to discover your breathe and learn to meditate deeply. In 2014, a study set out to discover how meditation may help people with anxiety, and the results were very hopeful. Out of the 15 participants with no prior meditation experience, all 15 said they experienced significantly less anxiety after receiving four days of meditation training. This could be a big breakthrough for anyone who lives with anxiety who don’t want to take anti-depressants.
Also in 2014, a study performed at Wake Forest reported users who meditated during painful episodes after four days of meditation training reported 57% less unpleasantness and a 40% reduction in pain intensity.
Whether you practice yoga at a local class, gym, or at home with your favorite youtube instructor, you will be able to engage with a community of loving, inspiring, and genuinely happy souls. Yogis are some of the kindest and most encouraging group of workout-addicted people that you can meet. They don’t want to compete with you, or make you feel lesser. They want to bring you up, and help you have the best practice you can have–every time.
If working out regularly has been put off because of the people who inhabit your gym are not exactly welcoming–then see if they have any yoga classes on schedule. The friends you make while practicing yoga will be a whole new breed.
4 Great Workout
A difficult aspect of working out involves scheduling. Whether it be scheduling to find time to make it to the gym, or scheduling what sort of work out to perform that day, it is time consuming and stress inducing. With yoga, those issues are of the past. Yoga allows you combine a total body workout (Have you tried doing inversions?) that connects your body and mind, while strengthening and lengthening your body.
You had to stay at work and missed that cycling class that started thirty minutes ago? No problem. As long as you have your mat, you can practice yoga anywhere. If you flow through some sun salutations while matching your breath to your movements, and you will find yoga is a great cardio exercise as well!
Stretching is meant to be more than a five minute span of time before your other workout. Yoga involves many poses that promote muscle elasticity and help prevent muscle soreness that you may have gained from other exercise. When your muscles are more flexible, it helps prevent injuries because your body is prepared to undertake the stress of difficult motions.
However, yoga is amazing because it doesn’t only stretch your muscles, but also your joints, which are pretty difficult to stretch otherwise. Practicing yoga will leave you feeling looser, and will recharge your muscles. After a few days of practicing yoga, you will feel a difference!
6 Improves Sleep
After a good yoga session, your body is in a state of bliss. You are limber and stretched, and your mind is often settled due to the meditation component. Recent research suggests that performing exercises or purposeful tasks such as meditation can lead to more restful sleeping — the participants were more likely to receive a full seven or eight hours of rest.
There are specific yoga moves that lead to better sleeping: Moon Breathe (Chandra Bhedana), Fire Log Pose (Agnistambhasana), Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana), and the Supine Twist. Performing these moves before bed are natural ways to kick start your body into getting ready for sleep.
7 Improves Posture
This next item on our list relates back to the flexibility. When we were babies and first learning to stand, we innately have incredible posture. We learn to stand when our muscles are strong enough to keep our spines straight. However, over the years our backs lose their strength — partially due to desk jobs, but mostly due to our poor posture. Brilliant news is yoga can correct this issue.
Two poses that can help correct your posture are Locust Pose (Salabhasana) and Cobra Pose(Bhujangasana), both of which are good for strengthening the muscles that run parallel your spine and encourage your shoulder blades to remain in the proper position.
8 Low Impact
If you were to make a list of the health benefits of yoga, it may include: reduced blood pressure, a weight-bearing exercise with low impact on joints, better posture, less stiffness, decreased tension, fatigue and anxiety–the list could go on, and on. Studies have shown that some weight-bearing exercises may lead to beneficial bone remodeling.
For people with bone disease in their genetics, this is a beneficial exercise that allows for weight-lifting without the weights! In yoga, you are moving your body, and your muscles grow stronger as you learn to support your own weight in a variety of poses, such as inversions or arm-balancing poses like Crow Pose (Bakasana).
9 Improved Circulation
One of the founding principles of yoga is guiding your breathe. You breathe in tandem with the movements of your body, which leads to an increase in the flow of oxygen-enriched blood throughout your body. Inversions are poses where your head is lower than your heart, such as a forward fold, or headstands.
Because blood flow increases, your body is also receiving more oxygen, which is beneficial to your muscles and your brain–it is vital for your brain to function properly. Many people suffer from cold hands and feet, both of which could be targeted by improving your blood flow through practices like yoga.
10 Learn Breathing Techniques
Living in our fast paced world, it is easy to develop anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping. How many nights have you lied awake thinking about everything under the sun? Probably too many. Also, probably on nights when you need to sleep more than anything. Well, yoga has a solution for that. It is called “Pranayama,” which literally translates as “to extend the vital life force.”
Pranayama, or Prana, is a set of breathing techniques that have a range of benefits, including: helping manage depression and anxiety, aiding in sleep disturbances, and chronic pain. If any of these issues are present in your life, and you would like a more holistic approach besides prescriptions, then do some research online and find the right technique for you. You may be surprised with how well it works.