For a practice that dates back to 5,000 years ago, it's amazing how yoga has managed to maintain its popularity and widespread use up to now. Over 11 million Americans do yoga and that number shows no sign of letting up; more and more are choosing yoga as their preferred routine for fitness and meditation. Among the main reasons for this popularity are yoga's versatility and the wide range of benefits it offers. Read on to find out what these benefits of yoga are.
Stretching is a major component of yoga poses, whether it be yoga for beginners or the more advanced types. Yoga increases flexibility because yoga poses stretch the muscles, which releases the lactic acid that cause muscle pain, stiffness, and tension. It's also known to increase joint lubrication which results to wider range of motion in the joints. Aside from muscles, yoga poses also stretches all the soft tissues in your body. One study showed that participants gained up to 35% increased flexibility, especially in the trunk and shoulders, even after only 8 weeks of doing yoga.
Improves Lung Capacity
Yoga isn't just about being able to do the yoga poses, and it sure as hell isn't just about shedding fats to look good in yoga clothes. Proper practice of yoga means also making sure you're doing deep and proper breathing. This is why it comes as no surprise that regular yoga practice improves lung capacity so you can take deeper and longer breaths. Your oxygen intake when you do poses even in yoga for beginners classes can be compared to other aerobic exercises such as running and cycling. With a regular yoga routine, your lungs will be conditioned to expand to increase capacity.
A lot of yoga poses require not just flexibility to bend and stretch, but also a sense of balance and inner focus so you can hold the positions while you inhale and exhale. There are even specific ways on how to do yoga that will employ techniques to calm the mind and get rid of mental clutter, which is often the source of stress. Combine that with calming patterns of breathing, you will get to clear your mind by focusing on your breathing. This lowers the levels of hormone neurotransmitters and boosts oxytocin, a hormone that's responsible for creating a feeling of relaxation.
Builds Strength and Endurance
Some people think that yoga is all about meditation and inner peace. This is not true. Certain types of yoga are vigorous and are just as physically challenging as other types of fitness routines. There are many yoga poses that strengthens the knees and ankles, and tones the muscles – all of which add up to increased endurance and strength. Even professional athletes are known to do pre-workout and pre-game yoga stretches for better body conditioning. There are yoga poses that require engaging the core, arm, and leg muscles so you can hold the poses while you inhale and exhale.
Promotes Proper Posture
If you read up on how to do yoga, you will notice that a lot of the poses require that you stand tall or sit with your back straight. This is partly based on the concept of keeping the energy flow within the body unrestricted, which is easier to do when the body is at its natural alignment. By doing yoga regularly, your mind and body becomes conditioned to maintain proper posture even when you're not doing yoga. So not only does yoga promote proper posture, it also consequently improves spinal health by helping the spine retain its alignment.
Improves Heart Function
Another thing that yoga is famous for is its ability to lower cholesterol and keep blood pressure at a normal level. In addition, yoga also slows the heart rate because it relieves stress, calms the mind, and teaches deep and steady breathing. For those who don't know, a slower heart rate also means there is less chance of high blood pressure, stroke, and other heart diseases. Yoga is also known to contribute to lowered levels of cholesterol among those who practice it. With lower cholesterol levels, you are less prone to develop heart diseases and have improved cardiovascular health.
Promotes Weight Loss
This is one of the benefits of yoga that draws a lot of people to its practice. Many start doing yoga as a way to get fit, tone muscles, and shed off pounds. As mentioned, yoga has been proven effective in lowering the body's cholesterol levels. So if you combine this with the physical exertion and exercise involved in yoga, and you will be on your way to having a healthy lifestyle. Will yoga alone help you lose 15 pounds in 2 weeks? No. But what it can do is provide you with a healthy fitness routine that simultaneously works your muscles and calms the mind and soul.
Improves Mood and Concentration
We already know that the practice of yoga has holistic benefits; meaning, it's not just a fitness routine because it can be meditative as it is physically challenging. So how exactly is improved mood and concentration counted as one of the many benefits of yoga? For one, you're gonna need a sense of inner focus and balance to be able to do yoga poses. This practices your ability to concentrate and have better mental focus. Second, yoga has the biochemical effect of normalizing and maintaining hormone levels. This in turn stabilizes the mood, in addition to managing stress and calming the mind.
Helps Relieve Menstrual Cramps
Yoga is known to relieve pain and tension in the lower back, an area where a lot of women experience pain when they're on their period. Some women also experience cramps because of poor pelvic health, which yoga addresses with positions that open the hips and exercise the pelvic muscles. Some positions also work for pelvic and abdominal compression, which relieves cramps and helps in cases of heavy bleeding. Examples of specific yoga poses that help relieve cramps and pelvic discomfort are the Forward Bend Pose, Crow Pose, Head to Knee Pose, Upward Turned Staff Pose, and Supported Bridge Pose.
As mentioned, one of the benefits of yoga is improved lung function and capacity. And because yoga promotes and teaches students to do deep and steady breathing, they eventually learn to have better control which comes in useful when dealing with the breathing symptoms of asthma. Aside from this, yoga also enhances awareness on how your body works, which includes breathing. With enhanced awareness on your breathing patterns, you will be able to detect right away when your breathing is not on a normal level.
These are just 10 among the countless benefits of yoga that you will get on a physical, mental, and spiritual level. Studies are even continually being done by the medical community on how it can be effectively used as an alternative medicine. So if you're thinking of signing up for a yoga for beginners class, whether for stress management or fitness reasons, you can rest assured that the benefits you'll reap will be no less than holistic healing and be more than what you had hoped for.