Yoga is a low-impact, non-competitive way to exercise and improve your quality of life. Those with health problems that prevent them from doing cardio or weight-training can still experience the health benefits of regular exercise with yoga. Learn 5 ways to improve your body and mind with yoga.
What is Yoga?
In Sanskrit, the word yoga means â€œunionâ€. Its practice is designed to create a harmonious union between the mind, body and spirit. This is achieved by using asanas (poses) to stretch and strengthen muscles and breathing techniques to relax the mind.
I Donâ€™t Follow Eastern Religion â€“ Can I Still Practice Yoga?
No matter your religious or spiritual affiliation, you can still practice yoga. The easiest way to remember it is this: Yoga is in religion, but religion is not in yoga. Meaning you may choose to use yoga as a part of a religious practice but the practice in and of itself is not a religious act.
Yoga doesnâ€™t only stretch the muscles, it also stretches joints. With regular yoga practice, youâ€™ll experience greater flexibility. Increased flexibility means less risk of injury, less muscle and joint pain and increase muscular endurance for other types of work-outs.
2. Increased Muscle Tone
Most people believe stretching is something you do for five minutes before your regular work-out. To get real benefits from stretching, use yoga. Each asana is held during a series of deep breaths that loosen the muscles and release lactic acid, the waste product that accumulates in muscles. This results in improved muscle tone.
3. Improved Range of Motion
There are certain yoga postures designed to improve your range of motion. For example, if you want to improve the ROI of your hip, the posture Leg Cradle may help. Those wishing to improve the range of motion in their knee should try a move called the Crescent Pose. Cow Face Arms or Eagle Arms are two poses you can use to improve shoulder flexibility and range of motion.
4. Improved Immune System Function
Another health benefit of yoga is improved immune system function. The fluid movement of yoga improves the lymphatic system, which is responsible for removing built-up toxins in your body. If you suffer from mystery symptoms or autoimmune disease, yoga may help improve your immune system. Also, regular practice of yoga increases your bodyâ€™s natural production of vitamin C, which can prevent common colds and flu.
5. Stress Reduction
The regular practice of yoga has been proven to reduce stress levels by helping your mind focus on the here and now, instead of the past or future. This improved mental focus also helps combat depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Who Shouldnâ€™t Practice Yoga?
Though most anybody in good or fair physical condition may practice yoga, there are some exceptions. For example, those with glaucoma should avoid inverted postures as they may cause blindness. Pregnant women should avoid backbends, one-leg balancing poses, headstands, handstands, Upward Bow or Camel poses. Those with a serious medical condition should consult their physician before beginning any new exercise routine.
How Can I Get Started?
Getting started with yoga is easy. Look for classes offered at your local YMCA, night classes at the high school or studio classes. If new classes arenâ€™t in your budget, there are some affordable ways to practice yoga. You could rent a yoga DVD from the library or practice along with free online yoga instruction videos.
Yoga is a health-promoting, non-religious practice that has many health benefits associated with it. The regular practice of yoga can help improve flexibility and muscle tone while reducing stress and anxiety. Yoga can be safely practiced by just about everyone. Those with serious medical conditions should talk to their doctor before starting.