Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. It involves doing a series of movements, postures and breathing exercises. Some people believe you have to be young and flexible but in fact, it’s a simple form of exercise and you can never be too old or unfit to enjoy the benefits of yoga. You can find yoga classes in a number of leisure centres and health clubs, and here are a few reasons why you should:
Health Benefits of Yoga
It Makes You More Flexible
Yoga poses safely stretch your muscles, releasing tension and stiffness, and increasing the range of motion in your joints. These poses also stretch the various soft tissues of your body, including ligaments, tendons and the fascia sheath that surrounds your muscles. The result is improved flexibility and a sense of fluidity throughout your body.
It Makes You Stronger
Some styles of yoga are more vigorous than other, with some focusing particularly on improving muscle tone, but even the less vigorous forms help to improve your strength and endurance. Poses such as the downward dog and the upward dog build upper body strength, which is particularly helpful as you age. Standing poses build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps and abdominal muscles, while chair poses strengthen the lower back. Nearly all of the poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.
It Improves Your Balance
By strengthening your lower body, in particular your ankles and knees, yoga improves your balance. This makes it a particularly useful form of exercise for older individuals because it reduces your chances of falling.
It Improves Your Posture
Increased flexibility and strength both contribute to better posture. When you develop your core strength, you’re more likely to sit and stand tall, as well as having more body awareness. This heightened awareness makes you more conscious of any slouching or slumping you do, so you can adjust your posture.
It Improves Your Lung Capacity
Yoga involves deep, mindful breathing. The emphasis on deepening and lengthening your breath helps your lung capacity to improve.
It Helps You Relax
Yoga is a soothing activity which helps you to feel calm. The deep breathing exercises it involves are particularly relaxing, helping you to relieve stress and clear your mind. Yoga also causes stress-busting biochemical responses in the body, lowering levels of hormone neurotransmitters, dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline, which creates a feeling of tranquillity. Too much stress can take a serious toll on your health and wellbeing, so it’s important to find ways to minimise it. If you often feel stressed, that’s all the more reason to try out yoga, which can really help you to manage those anxious feelings.
It Benefits Your Heart
Yoga slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure, making it great for your heart. It can also help you lose weight, cutting down your risk of weight-related heart problems. Last year in the Netherlands, a review of 37 clinical trials found yoga to be linked to a lowering of various heart disease risk factors, including cholesterol as well as high blood pressure and weight.
Remember, most forms of yoga are not strenuous enough to count towards your recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. However, yoga does count as a strengthening exercise – something you should be doing in addition to those 150 minutes. It’s a suitable form of exercise for any age group and it’s easy to find classes so there’s no reason not to give it a try and start enjoying the many health benefits of yoga.
Look out for teachers that have an accreditation from a yoga association such as the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY), the Independent Yoga Network, or the Yoga Alliance UK.
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