No matter where you are on the Yoga spectrum -from thinking about trying a class to seasoned practitioner- the benefits of this particular type of exercise are seemingly endless! It's one of the few types of exercise that has a little something for everyone (chair yoga, gentle, power, etc.) and has proven to be helpful for not only your body but, your mind as well.
How does Yoga Help my Body?
For starters- yoga can help reduce muscle and joint soreness. Whether that soreness is from other types of exercise, yard work, fibromyalgia, or even arthritis- even the shortest of sessions of yoga can make a significant difference and also help reduce stiffness/tightness in your body.
Although there is nothing better than strength training for getting stronger, yoga can also help to improve strength. This is because some types of poses require long hold times, which activates different types of stabilizer muscles. Because of this activation, balance can also be improved, in addition to better posture.
Probably the most obvious benefit to your body from practicing yoga is an improvement in flexibility. Not only are you holding poses for periods of time, but you're also constantly striving to get a little bit deeper into your own range of motion with each pose. Each push increases your body's flexibility in everyday life. Besides balance, strength, and flexibility partaking in a regular yoga practice can also help aid in weight loss and sleep.
Combined with cardio and strength training, yoga can help you lose weight by adding in additional exercise (more activity = more calorie burn) and by reducing your stress hormones. Staying in a consistent state of stress can make it difficult to lose weight, yoga has proven to greatly reduce stress, which may be a huge help if you're trying to shed pounds.
Certain types of yoga have even been shown to help with sleep! According to John Hopkins Medicine, it's important to pick the right yoga if you're using it before bedtime, "better styles for pre-sleep are hatha yoga (which focuses on body position) and nidra (which focuses on breathing and more restorative poses, such as lying and sitting postures). Just like with exercise, you wouldn't jump on a treadmill right before bed, so steer clear of any types of power yoga that will cause your heart rate to jump and make it even more difficult to fall asleep.
How Does Yoga Help my Mind?
Besides physical benefits, yoga also holds many mental health benefits. You already know that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep and lose weight. But, the reduction of stress and anxiety can also improve your daily quality of life by helping you feel more at peace and content throughout your day.
A more recent benefit that is coming to light is how yoga affects brain health by reducing brain fog and increasing mental clarity and sharpness. According to a study published in 2019 by Brain Plasticity many areas of the brain that experience neurodegenerative decline can be reduced by the regular practice of yoga. It's still not entirely clear how yoga mitigates this decline, but studies like this offer more hope for effective brain health interventions through exercise.
So, How do I Get These Benefits?
When you first start yoga, you may feel like a fish out of water! Holding poses, trying to not fall over, and just generally doing something you've probably never tried before can all be intimidating and even a bit disheartening. First things first, do not immediately throw in the towel! No one became an expert in something overnight, and this is certainly true for yoga. One of the best parts about yoga, whether you're in a class or trying it in your living room, it allows you to be fully present in a safe space. Yoga doesn't care how perfect you nail your downward dog. Once the initial discomfort dissipates, you'll start to notice all the benefits. Your body will start to feel stronger, you will feel more confident and calm, your sleep and mood will improve, etc. Talk to any long-time practitioner and they will probably tell you that once the benefits start, they don't stop! Why else do you think yoga is one of the most popular exercise modalities in the United States and growing?
Where do I Start?
If you're new to exercise, a gentle or chair yoga class will probably be best. If you have been exercising for a while and want to add yoga into your routine, you can most likely experiment a bit more with different types of practice. St. Andrew's Family Fitness Plus has several different types of yoga available to our members and guests. No matter where you are on the yoga spectrum, we can help you find the right class! To get started, fill out this online questionnaire or call 843-518-6635.