Yoga is a spiritual, mental, and physical practice that’s been around for centuries. Today, there are several types of yoga that vary in difficulty and speed. While different yoga types feel different, yogis and scientists alike will tell you they are all extremely beneficial for your mental and physical health.
The great thing about yoga is there are very few limitations to start. While colorful yoga pants, support blocks, and fancy mats are nice, you don’t necessarily need any of that stuff to get started. Instead, simply pick a basic yoga routine that has beginner poses and follow along. You’ll notice your body and mood change in no time. To find out the health benefits you can expect when you begin yoga, check out the following 27 benefits of yoga:
1) Better Flexibility
Have you ever watched an experienced yogi twist herself into pretzel-like poses? Seriously, who knew the human body could even bend like that?! The truth is, if you don’t keep your body conditioned to do such movements, then it won’t be able to. Overtime your muscles will atrophy and your joints will settle into a limited range of motion. So when you take your first yoga class, you may not be able to touch your toes let alone tuck your feet behind your head. Stick with it, though, and you will gradually notice your body loosening up.
2) Better Posture
Has anyone ever told you to stop slouching or to sit up straight? Poor posture doesn’t only look bad, it also has a negative impact on the body. Bad posture has been linked to backaches, neck pain, joint problems, and muscle fatigue. Luckily, there are a few things you can do right now to improve your posture, with yoga topping the list. Yoga is one of the best ways to fix poor posture since each pose aims to get your body back into proper alignment without forcing you into unnatural positions. By the way, I’m not just talking about a straighter back. Yoga poses require your entire body to work together, which means everything from your neck to your shoulders, back, and lower body needs to be properly aligned.
A word of advice – before you take your first yoga class, snap a photo of yourself. Then, keep documenting your progress with more photos. Pretty soon you will notice a huge difference in your posture. Before and after photos are extremely useful since improved posture generally isn’t something that you’ll notice by looking in the mirror. That isn’t to say your friends and family won’t notice the difference, though!
3) Better Balance
From easy beginner movements to more advanced stretches, you will need to concentrate and focus in order to hold yoga poses. Overtime, though, you will notice that you don’t have to concentrate quite as hard. That’s because your balance has naturally improved. Every yoga pose helps improve your balance, even the ones that don’t appear to require any balance. When you are sitting or leaning you are still required to center your body.
4) More Strength
Unlike other types of workouts where you pump iron or pull on resistance bands, with yoga, you only use your own bodyweight as resistance. Since yoga requires you to enter into and hold various positions, you will naturally strengthen your muscles. Don’t worry about your muscles getting bored with the same old poses, though. As soon as one pose becomes easy for you there is always another, harder, pose for you to begin working on.
While just about every yoga pose helps your body to build strong muscles, some of the best include planks, bakasana, and various headstands.
5) Tones the Body
One really great aspect of yoga is that it works to tone your body without using weights or exercise equipment. Like a push-up or a pull-up, yoga only uses your own body weight as resistance.
One worry a lot of women have when they hear the terms “resistance training” or “strength training” is: “Will it make me bulk?” Take a sigh of relief ladies because yoga won’t make you bulk up. Rather, it will give you a nice, lean figure.
The poses that work best are the ones that pit your body weight against you, so go for any pose that has you lifting any body part in the air and holding it there. You’ll definitely feel the burn.
6) Better Sleep
While sleep experts recommend getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, millions of Americans are getting nowhere near that. Rather, many people are suffering from sleep problems. If you are someone who has trouble sleeping, scientists recommend trying yoga. In a recent study conducted at Harvard Medical School, researchers investigated how a daily yoga practice might affect sleep for people suffering from insomnia. After eight weeks, they found significant improvements in participants’ sleep quality and quantity. This isn’t the only study that reached those findings.
Yoga helps to relax the nervous system, which is the part of your body responsible for a restful sleep. Additionally, yoga’s meditative aspect comes into play to quiet the mind. So if a racing mind is what keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep then performing yoga at any point during the day may offer you some relief.
There are specific poses you can do that are known to help people sleep more soundly. Try uttanasana, halasana, or savasana before tucking yourself under the covers. These should put your body into a relaxed state, making it easier for you to drift off into dreamland.
7) More Energy
Yoga does a few things for the body that result in a boost of energy. For one – a better night’s sleep makes for a more energized day. Second, studies show that some yoga poses adjust the hormone cortisol. Too little of this hormone can drain your body of energy. Although, you don’t want too much of it either!
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