Yoga is an ancient physical and spiritual exercise that has stood the test of time. After all, it has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. Though it originated in India, it is becoming popular worldwide. Today, approximately 11 million Americans regularly practice it.
Although there are many different types of yoga, the one most dedicated to the body is called Hatha. Perhaps not surprisingly, this is the one that most Americans prefer. Indeed, there are many health benefits of yoga.
Many injuries occur due to muscular inflexibility, especially as you age.
One of the major components of yoga is a series of postures, called asanas, which are designed to gently stretch the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This not only improves flexibility, but it also releases the lactic acid in your muscles. This will reduce muscular stiffness and pain which, itself, improves flexibility.
Although yoga is not like weight lifting, it is a weight-baring exercise. For that reason, yoga is excellent at increasing strength. In fact, it has a pose for every body part:
Upper body: Try the plank pose or the downward or upward dog pose.
Legs: Any of the standing poses are excellent leg strengtheners. The longer you can hold the posture, the better it will be for your legs.
Lower back: Try the chair pose or the upward dog.
Abdominal area: Good news! Almost all yoga exercises strengthen this area (as long as they are done correctly).
If you improve you strength, you decrease your risk of developing diseases such as osteoporosis.
Pranayama is a yogic form of breath work. In yoga, there are almost as many different types of breathing exercises as there are asanas. This is because the breath is an important function. Just think about it for a minute…if you couldn’t breathe, you would die within minutes. Yogis recognize the sacredness of the breath in three ways:
1. Focusing on it while moving into, out of, or during postures.
2. Using specific breathing exercises
3. Concentrating on it during meditation practice
Specifically for health, however, are the breathing exercises which increase lung capacity. Although yoga is not an aerobic sport, such increased lung capacity can help you when you are engaged in an aerobic activity.
Although the improvements in flexibility, strength, and breathing that yoga offers may not seem like a lot, they actually help improve many health conditions. In fact, the health benefits of yoga have shown positive effects on:
• Blood pressure
• Cholesterol levels
• Heart disease
• Multiple sclerosis
And many more.
Not only does yoga improve your health, it also positively affects your emotions and mental state. In fact, most people feel happier after a yoga session.
So what are you waiting for? Take up your mat and join your nearest yoga group. But check with your doctor before starting this or any physical fitness program.