Yoga emanated from India over 5000 years ago. It focuses on flexibility, strength and breathing. Yoga practitioners do so by forming postures (a series of movements sometimes called asanas) and concentrating on their breathing. It’s an ancient practice that has since filtered out across the world. It has spawned revered leaders, committed acolytes and countless variations over the years.
There’s pre-natal yoga, which helps pregnant women maintain their physical fitness, there’s hot yoga where practitioners work out in heated rooms and vinyasa flow – the most popular form of yoga – that is more fast-paced and fluid. That’s a just a glimpse into the many branches and off-shoots of yoga. From professional footballers to expectant mums, Yoga is prized for its wide range of physical and mental benefits. And the beauty of it is its accessibility. Wherever you are, as long as you have a mat, you can practice yoga.
One of the most widely publicised advantages of getting into yoga is improved flexibility. The asanas as they’re known involve warping your body into unorthodox positions – testing the boundaries of your range of movement.
It’s also what makes it popular with older age groups. The risk of falling increases as you get older and you lose some of the strength you might have had when you were younger. Yoga postures will test your range of movement slowly and gradually without putting too much strain on the body. The increased mobility and improved strength help guard against the threat of potentially damaging falls.
In the west, yoga is primarily seen as physical exercise and its meditative aspect is often overlooked.
By twisting and sculpting your body into different positions and holding them there, you use muscles you wouldn’t ordinarily. It’s a great way to develop muscle tone, test your limits and reduce fatigue – which is what makes yoga so beneficial for cancer patients.
Don’t go into yoga expecting it to be a walk in the park. Of course, the intensity of the workout is determined by the branch of yoga you opt for but you shouldn’t be naïve about the difficulty of some of the practices.
Yoga is seen by many as a spiritual practice. It’s one of the six orthodox philosophical schools of Hinduism, which makes its meditative aspect so ingrained. Its focus on breathing, ignoring the outside world and taking control of your body and mind gives you the tools to block out any external noise and thoughts that may be bothering you.
The positive influence yoga can have on your mental health is also a by-product of the physical activity involved. Strenuous exercise causes the body to release endorphins like serotonin and dopamine that boosts our mood. It’ll give you a little spark of positivity that can turn your day around or at least give you a few hours respite from any anxieties or worries.
Flexibility, strength and improved mood are just three of many benefits yoga can bring to your life.
*This is a collaborative post. For further information please refer to my disclosure page.
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