It goes without saying that yoga is good for your health. Everywhere you turn, wellness warriors and professional athletes alike have turned to it for various reasons. Whether you’re practicing daily or just once a week, yoga comes with a myriad of benefits that will strengthen your body, mind, and soul. Here to tell us more is yoga teacher and blogger Joanna Thomas.
Pull on your favourite pair of yoga pants and fill up your water bottle, because once you find out what yoga can do for you, you’ll be running for the mat.
1. Perfect Your Posture and Improve Strength and Flexibility
Many of us live sedentary lives. It’s not because we choose not to be active, but rather it has more to do with that fact we work at a desk. While smartphone apps like 5 Minute Yoga can get you through the work day feeling fine-tuned and a bit more flexible, the benefits of a daily yoga practice can help whisk away those pesky desk job side effects.
Hunched shoulders, tight back muscles, and headaches are all common ailments of people who work at a computer all day. Yoga poses, when performed consistently, will help you straighten and strengthen your spine. In fact, yoga will strengthen every muscle on your body, from your shoulders to your calves. And because repeated practice helps to loosen and strengthen your muscles, flexibility will soon follow. You’ll find that those pesky tension headaches you deal with will start to fade away as your muscles find relief in the movements. Not only will you look amazing, but you’ll feel it as well.
2. Improve Your Cardiovascular Health
Who can say no to improved heart health? No one! Yoga lowers your risk of high blood pressure, increases your heart rate, and gets your blood pumping. Even if you don’t take an aerobic class like Ashtanga or Vinyasa, regular yoga will still condition your heart. Yoga increases your blood flow as well. The twists and turns of yoga bring oxygenated blood to your internal organs, boosting your levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells. Along with increased blood flow and freshly oxygenated organs comes thinner blood. Yoga helps to kick out the proteins present in your blood that are responsible for creating a clot. Hello, lower risk of heart attack and stroke!
3. Help You Relax, Focus, and Reach a Better Mental State
All three of these factors are important, and you can’t have focus or a better state of mind if you don’t start with relaxation. That’s where yoga comes in, because it holds the key to quieting the mind. The poses and the slow, gentle flow (or constant, depending on what type of yoga you choose to practise) will shut out distractions and help you to focus on your movement and the mat. Turning off your mind for even just ten minutes a day can help you to relax into life, taking everything in stride. Yoga is a moving meditation, and you’ll find a boost in your mental health immediately after your practice. If you keep it up, focusing on finding mindfulness will become easier, and you’ll be less distracted in every situation, whether it’s work or time with your kids. Anxiety will lift as you learn how to be present in the now.
4. Improve Sleep and Boost Immunity
Science has proven more than once (like over and over again, actually), that better sleep gives your immune system a boost. Those of us who don’t dabble frequently in the art of restorative sleep tend to get sick more often than those who do, but yoga has got you covered. Not only does it promote intense muscle and mind relaxation that leads to a good night’s sleep, but partaking in a Restorative Yoga class has the same benefits as a nap! If you still can’t sleep well at night (whether you have insomnia or restless kids), then yoga can still help you coddle your immune system. Coming in and out of yoga postures forces you to contract and stretch your muscles over and over, causing your lymph to drain. This is a very good thing, because the fluid in your lymph is made up of immune cells, and when it drains, your lymphatic system has an easier time ridding your body of toxins, fighting infection, and even destroying cancerous cells!
5. Encourage Self Care and Kick Depression to the Curb
It sounds cheesy, but you’re not going to be able to enjoy life to the fullest if you’re not taking care of yourself. We get so bogged down with work, kids, and family that it’s easy to lose ourselves in the jumble. After just one yoga practice, however, you will feel wonderful. Yoga reduces the stress hormone cortisol, and increases feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin. This causes a desire to repeat the behaviour – and that folks, is how yoga addicts are born.
All joking aside, though, it’s clear that yoga can relieve the symptoms of depression through the promotion of self care, as well as through regular practice. You’ll start to become a version of yourself that you truly love and respect. And in my opinion, there is no better benefit than that.
Ready to hit the mat?
Yoga can help anyone and everyone begin a path to better health. You’ll cushion your joints to prevent injury that comes with playing sports or simply ageing, you’ll find strength (mentally and physically) and most of all, you’ll discover balance. You’d be surprised how the balance you achieve while practicing a simple pose like Warrior III will carry over into every other area of your life. Your mind affects everything else. Take care of it. Not to mention you’re getting an amazing body in the process! It’s a win-win.
Check out the best drop-in yoga classes around Hong Kong.
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