Yoga offers physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages, even beginners. Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, yoga is a great way to calm the mind and strengthen the body.
Yoga is a practice that dates back thousands of years, and it is still as popular today as it was then. In the United States alone there are over 20 million people who practice yoga regularly.
Unlike many other types of exercise, practicing yoga only requires enough space for your body. Yoga can be practiced pretty much everywhere, any time of day.
Some less vigorous styles of yoga, such as hatha or Iyengar, can provide strength and endurance benefits, while other styles such as ashtanga and power yoga, are very physical. When done correctly, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.
Most types of yoga focus on learning poses, called asanas, and focusing attention on your breathing. The different types of yoga will be described in detail, in future posts.
Benefits of yoga
Even basic, beginner exercises help build your core strength, balance, and flexibility. You already know that yoga can increase strength, improve flexibility, and ease aches and pains. But what about the benefits that extend beyond your mat?
Improves strength, balance, and flexibility
As we age we start to lose muscle mass around the age of 40, which accelerates by the age 50. Yoga poses work by stretching your muscles to support the weight of your body as you transition into different poses.
Strong muscles also help protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain, prevent injury, boost the immune system and metabolism, and help make everyday tasks easier. As you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility. If you just went to the gym and lifted weights, you would build strength but not flexibility.
Improved flexibility is one of the most obvious benefits of yoga. During your first class, you may not be able to touch your toes, never mind twist yourself into the shape of a pretzel. But if you stick with it, you will notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, you will find yourself doing poses that you once thought would be impossible.
Practicing yoga positions helps you get to know your body and connects you with your center of balance. Just like building flexibility and strength, balance is something that can be practiced and improved.
Helps you focus
Because your mind will be quieter and clutter-free it’s easier to direct the energy to where you want it to go. In yoga, you train the mind to become more aware and present. Research has shown that after a yoga class you are generally better able to mentally focus, process information more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively.
Benefits heart health
Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate, which promotes healthy heart function. A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure or heart disease, and people who have had a stroke. It has also been linked to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and better immune system function.
Studies have found that practicing yoga lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance, and can improve your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise – all reflections of improved aerobic conditioning.
Relaxation equals better sleep
The meditative aspect of yoga promotes relaxation, which decreases stress and promotes emotional and mental well-being. Yoga focusses attention on breathing deeply and feeling peaceful, which can help you feel relaxed and refreshed.
By practicing restorative yoga in the evenings you calm the nervous system, thereby improving sleep quality and helping the digestive system do its job overnight. This gives you the energy you need to get up early the next morning and tackle life, no matter what your skill level is.
More energy and better moods
Breathing techniques, physical practice, poses, meditation, and mindfulness are medicine for anxiety. Yoga is one of the most powerful lifestyles that can truly impact your anxiety and mental well being. It helps you develop control, both physically and mentally, which is important when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety.
Movement is one of the best ways to bring about a good mood, and yoga is an especially effective medicine when it comes to battling the blues. Yoga taps into the nervous system, helping to increase serotonin levels and decrease cortisol – which improves your mood.
Focusing on something positive each time we practice yoga is also an effective way to imprint that positivity into the mind, so the more you practice, the more likely you are to notice yourself smiling.
Yoga teaches you to be present ‘right now’ and develop a higher level of physical and mental consciousness. From the poses and breathing to the meditation, everything about the practice pushes you to be patient with your body and mind, which is worth practicing every day.
Practicing mindfulness can do wonders for anxiety, depression, productivity, and your general wellness by allowing you to be more present, aware and alive in each moment.
When you practice yoga regularly you start to develop a deep connection with your body. Your mind and body are more connected and so you can listen better to your body and understand how it’s responding and why. This leads to developing a better understanding of yourself and developing more inner peace and acceptance.
What Are Some Tips For Yoga Beginners?
Start a routine
Even if you are trying out different types of yoga, you still want to try and start a routine. This should be done at around the same time daily and treated almost like a health ritual like a morning or bedtime routine would be.
This routine should include a few poses that you can do in a slow smooth movement. Ideally, you want to go with poses that are easy to do and easy to remember. Create the routine, make sure you are doing the poses correctly, and then start doing them daily. This will help you learn what works for you and get your body used to the yoga routines.
Figure out what you need – and what you don’t
Whether you are going to a yoga studio, joining online classes, or dusting off your yoga DVD’s, there are some yoga essentials that you may want to have on hand.
A yoga mat can be any style, color and thickness that you like. The most important thing to look for is length. You want it to be long enough for your full body so when you do a pose like corpse pose, your covers the mat and doesn’t spill over onto the floor. You can buy a beginners mat for around $20 at Target, Walmart, your local sporting goods store, or online.
You will want a spill proof bottle with a flip top lid that allows you to keep the water inside the bottle unless you are drinking it. You also want a sweat proof water bottle to keep the floor from getting damp or wet which could cause you to slip and cause injury to yourself. If going to a yoga studio, you may also want to consider a water bottle that has an outside clip that holds your identification and debit card or keys to keep them safe and out of the way.
Yoga Strap and Block
A yoga block or yoga strap can be used to help you with your bends and stretches, but not always necessary.
Yoga Mat Bag and Towel Set
If you are going to a yoga studio, you may want to bring a yoga bag and towel set. This is primarily to keep your yoga mat safe after the class and the towel is to help with the obvious sweat you will have from the class. If you are practicing hot yoga, then you will need the special towels for the hot yoga to help you through the workout.
You will also find, as you try different styles of yoga, that there may be gear for one type of yoga and not for another. It is completely up to you to determine which gear you need, and which items you don’t based on your own personal preferences.
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Yoga is a great way to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. It offers a variety of benefits, including improved flexibility, strength, and balance, helps you focus, benefits your heart, better sleep, more energy and better moods.
All of these benefits lead to better self-care by developing a better understanding of yourself and developing more inner peace and acceptance.
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