Practicing yoga can improve your health and flexibility.
Dating back over 5,000 years, yoga, which means “union” or “to join,” is considered by many to be the oldest defined practice of self-development. To the more than 36 million Americans who practice yoga, it’s a perfect union between body and mind that enhances their quality of life.
The beauty of yoga is that almost anyone can do it, regardless of age or fitness level. “Yoga is fluid in the sense that your individual practice may change day-to-day based on how you are feeling physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually,” says J. Gulinello, a Wellness Coach at White Plains Hospital.
Sport a Better Lifestyle Though Yoga
Improved energy, strength and flexibility are some of the best-known benefits of practicing yoga. Over time, your ligaments, tendons and muscles lengthen, increasing in elasticity. “With regular training, you’ll strengthen the muscles in your core, back, arms and legs,” says Gulinello. “You'll also probably notice that aches and pains caused by bad posture start to disappear.”
A testament to yoga’s effectiveness is the number of athletes who have added yoga to their pre-game workouts and training routines. Basketball player LeBron James, football quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former Olympic goalkeeper Hope Solo are regular practitioners of yoga.
A key reason why is that yoga promotes self-discipline while improving concentration and blood circulation. Other ways yoga can have a positive impact include:
Less Stress. Studies have shown that yoga may help reduce stress and anxiety. Stress can manifest itself in the body in many ways. Muscles can become tight, which can lead to back or neck pain or headaches. By incorporating yoga’s breathing and meditation techniques, you can develop skills that will help reduce your level of stress and improve your physical and mental state.
It Promotes Deep Sleep. Quality sleep is essential for good health. Research conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine has shown that practicing yoga daily can reduce insomnia. A consistent bedtime yoga routine can help you get in the right mindset and prepare your body to fall asleep and stay asleep.
You Can Breathe Easier. Most people don't pay much attention to how they breathe. (For the record, a lot of us are shallow breathers.) Yoga breathing exercises, called pranayama, can teach you how to take deeper breaths, which benefits the entire body. They also have some great side benefits, including increased lung capacity.
It Can Take Away Your Pain. Gentle forms of yoga like hatha or Iyengar have been effective in the treatment of chronic back pain. It has also reduced pain in people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other chronic conditions. When you relieve your pain, your mood improves, you're more inclined to be active, and you don't need as much medication.
"The different styles of yoga are easily modifiable to all different skill levels and physical conditions,” notes Gulinello. “For example, Hatha yoga is the most popular and is ideal for newcomers. It teaches them how to breathe, stretch and relax. Vinyasa yoga is good for active people who prefer quicker movements. Vinyasa improves lung capacity and promotes concentration and self-control. Ashtanga is among the most challenging and physically demanding because of its constant movement and the emphasis on daily practice. It is ideal for those who are trying to lose weight and are trying to reduce stress.”
Set aside half an hour three or more times a week to practice yoga, and you’ll soon notice an improvement in your physical well-being, which ultimately could add years to your life.