Studies show that practicing yoga can help improve flexibility, strength, posture, breathing, and heart health. It can also help control stress, and perhaps the best news of all is this: Yoga can help put you in a better mood.
Fitness regulars always stretch at the end of a workout, but is that really enough? Your everyday movements plus your workouts each week cause a build-up of lactic acid in muscles causing stiffness, pain, and fatigue. Yoga safely stretches your muscles which causes a release in the lactic acid build-up. Yoga also increases the range of motion in your joints by increasing the lubrication around the joints (beneficial to those of you with knee pain, shoulder pain, back pain, you get the idea!) It doesn’t stop there. Not only does yoga stretch your muscles, but it also stretches your ligaments, tendons, and fascia sheaths that surround the muscles. WebMD cited a study that revealed participants had up to 35 percent improvement in flexibility after only eight weeks of yoga, with the greatest gains coming in shoulder and trunk flexibility.
All yoga, when done correctly, is geared toward core control and abdominal strength. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to stand tall and maintain proper line and balance through your head, neck, and spine. Yoga also encourages body awareness, which allows you to recognize when you’re slouching or compromising your posture.
While some practices of yoga are focused on strength, the basic practices help target specific areas of your body as well. Poses such as down dog, up dog, and plank help target your upper body. Standing poses, especially if held for a longer time with longer breathing, help target the quads, hamstrings, and abdominals. Up dog and chair pose can help improve lower back strength.
One of the most studied areas in yoga And health is the correlation between the exercises and heart disease. Yoga is known to naturally lower the blood pressure and slow the heart rate. This is beneficial to those suffering from high blood pressure and heart disease. The practice of yoga also encourages you to work on deep, mindful breathing. This often leads to an increase in lung capacity which can in turn improve endurance during your other workouts.
Between work, family, friends, workouts, travel, and whatever else we have going on, endurance is a good thing, but sometimes it’s nice to just stop and slow down. The combination of meditation and deep breathing during yoga helps to quiet the mind, which often is the cause of stress. Most people come out of a yoga session feeling more relaxed and calm than they did before they started. Medically, the practices of yoga decrease the levels of hormones that are released by the adrenal gland to respond to stress. On the flip side, yoga also causes an increase in the hormone oxytocin. This trust hormone, as it is called, is associated with a feeling of being calm and connected to others.
To me, this sounds like a no-brainer! With all of the benefits of yoga, how could you not want to participate (especially after a long week’s work and your regular workouts!). I encourage you to look into yoga, or add yoga to your workout. What do you have to lose?