The Power of Yoga: 10 Reasons to Roll Out the Mat
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the pressure to stay healthy, yoga is for you. While plenty of other sports can improve your health in one way or another, yoga is the jack of all trades of active living. Studies have shown that a regular yoga practice not only benefits your body; it does wonders for your mental and spiritual health, as well.
Unfortunately, many still remain uneducated on yoga’s benefits, despite the tons of research that shows its multifaceted nature. If you’re still on the fence about it, or simply haven’t found a good enough reason to start practicing, here are 10 incredible ways yoga can better your health.
It improves your flexibility. So many beginners try a yoga class once or twice and then give up because they can’t mold themselves into the shape of the instructor’s body. But pushing yourself further than your limits is what’s going to improve your flexibility. Sure, you probably won’t notice differences right away. But if you keep at it, you’ll find yourself steadily getting closer to your goal.
It builds muscle. It goes without saying that some of those poses are hard, if only because you’re trying to balance your entire body weight on muscles that are not trained to hold that weight. As you grow in your practice and attempt more difficult poses, those smaller muscles are strengthened, allowing you to push yourself even further.
It helps to correct posture. Poor posture generally comes from back, core and shoulder muscles that are weak or inflexible. Although there are some exceptions (such as scoliosis or a back injury), posture usually will begin to correct itself naturally as you strengthen those muscles. Especially if you work at a desk job or spend hours out of your day sitting, budgeting time to improve that muscle growth is vital to your health. Bad posture can cause a lot of discomfort and even pain, so taking up yoga as a means of combating that is a great place to start.
It improves your balance. As your strength and flexibility increases, so does your ability to balance. Core muscle growth and better posture lends itself to improved stability, so you can perform better in your favorite sports. Skateboarding, surfing or scuba diving — pretty much all sports depend on your ability to balance. By fitting a regular yoga practice into your schedule, you’re also working to get better at your favorite active hobby!
It prevents joint degeneration. Joint cartilage needs to be compressed and wrung out to allow room for new nutrients in the joints. In essence, you have to use your joints to keep them healthy. When you’re stuck in the same position for a long time, your joints become stiff and painful. Practicing yoga helps you maximize joint mobility, keeping them healthy and agile for a long lifespan.
It strengthens your bones. One study conducted at CSU Los Angeles found that practicing yoga actually improved bone density and overall strength. Plus, it helps lower levels of cortisol in the body which may help retain calcium in the bones. Not only does this help to prevent bone fractures and is better for overall health, it can also prevent osteoporosis in later life.
It’s good for your heart. Not every style of yoga is going to get your heart rate up in the way that other forms of exercise can, but certain styles like Ashtanga yoga are more physically demanding than others. These forms of yoga can help to improve your endurance and strengthen your cardiovascular health overall.
It helps you focus. Yogic philosophy emphasizes mental focus and concentration on the present moment. This practice of honing in on a precise time and space teaches your mind how to focus on a single idea, task or project. Some studies have found that yoga practice even helps to improve coordination, reaction time and memory.
It helps you sleep. The practice of concentration also helps calm your mind and keep thoughts at bay when you’re trying to fall asleep. Rather than letting your thoughts run wild, using the same mental strategies from your yoga practice can help to ease your mind and fall asleep faster.
It encourages self-care. Setting aside time to focus on yourself and your own well-being is crucial to healthy living. In a society where bigger, better, and faster are keywords, yoga forces you to take a small moment, look inward and take stock of how your own health.
Credit: Photo by Matthew Kane on Unsplash
- Lifestyle Staff