It seems that you can’t go anywhere these days without seeing people carrying yoga mats under their arm or sticking out of their bags. Although the Indian art of yoga is thousands of years old and has been practised in Europe since the eighteenth century, it has seen a massive growth in popularity in the past decade, with most modern gyms and fitness centres offering yoga classes of different levels, as well as the plethora of yoga DVDs available. So what’s so special about yoga? Here are a few of the benefits of practising yoga regularly.
Flexibility, Strength and Balance
As yoga involves a lot of stretching, as well as slow movements from one posture to the next, which require strength and balance, attending a yoga class or practising yoga at home will improve your levels of flexibility, strength and balance. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you’ll feel the difference, even as you go about your daily life. For those looking to tone up, the build-up of strength will tone your muscles, leaving you with a more toned body.
Stress and Breathing
Many people practise yoga in order to reduce stress levels. As yoga requires intense concentration on body movements, to the exclusion of all else, worries and stress melt away, leaving you feeling calm and at peace with the world (ideally!) Reduced stress levels can improve your skin, your happiness levels and reduce the likelihood of a heart attack. In addition to that, certain types of yoga places a great emphasis on breathing, encouraging you to breathe deeply and regularly, which can have both physical and mental benefits.
Yoga has also been shown to slow the signs of ageing, such as loss of bone density and stiffness. There is also evidence that yoga can help people with high blood pressure, depression, back pain and even heart disease. Plus, many people claim that they became more conscious of their diet and their body after taking up yoga, becoming more conscious of how much junk food they consumed.
Yoga is for Everyone!
You can probably think of at least one reason why yoga wouldn’t suit you; you think you’re not flexible enough, too old or too unfit… None of these are valid excuses! There is a yoga class for everyone, with different styles of yoga being more or less physically demanding. Beginners’ yoga classes will build up your fitness and flexibility over time, allowing you to progress slowly towards more complex or demanding postures. So grab yourself a yoga mat and get your Zen on!
This article was written by William Montcalm, a yoga fitness instructor.