What is Yoga?
Yoga is a hot topic nowadays. As the western world adopted the practice of yoga, it quickly became misconceived as solely physical fitness. What most people don’t know is that yoga stretches further than the postures you perform on your mat. Yoga is derived from sanskrit and directly translates to “to join” or “union”. Not only is yoga a physical practice, but it is a mental and spiritual one as well. Below are 5 ways you can benefit from practicing yoga.
- Improves strength/balance/flexibility
When you practice yoga, the goal is to connect your breath to your movements. Specific breathing techniques, such as ujjayi breathing, warm the body up from the inside out. As you make a connection between your breath and body, your blood flow increases and your muscles warm up. This process, paired with slow movements, encourages deeper stretching, strength building, and better body coordination.
Try it: Crescent Lunge
Bring your right foot forward and left foot back in a lunging position. Take your feet hips distance apart (you can take your feet wider for more stability). Square your hips towards the front of the room and lift your left heel. Reach your arms straight up. Hold for 30–60 seconds, then switch feet.
2. Helps with relaxation and reduces stress
The National Institutes of Health has scientifically proven that yoga is a great tool to use for stress management and improving quality of sleep. Performing restorative yoga before bed promotes relaxation and allows you to slip into a deeper night’s rest. Yoga is a calming experience generated by movements in the body and focus on the breath. Ultimately, yoga will help you alleviate your stress and give you the opportunity to re-energize.
Try it: Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose
Position your glutes close to the wall and lift your legs straight up against the wall. Lower your arms next to your sides, and press your back into the ground. Hold for 5–15 minutes.
3. Increases body awareness
Since yoga is all about making connections, you will undoubtedly become more self aware. Yoga makes you mindful of your thoughts and more aware of your body. Stretching and participating in mobility exercises will reduce pain in the body, and according to The American College of Physicians, yoga is a preferred treatment for chronic low back pain. Yoga will even help you be more mindful of your posture off your mat so you can perform your everyday activities in less pain.
Try it: Downward Facing Dog
Start on your hands and knees. Stack your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Tuck your toes under, lift your hips up and back, and sink your chest towards the ground. Keep a slight bend in your knees and press your heels down. Hold for 30–60 seconds.
4. Boosts concentration and focus
Practicing yoga requires your full attention. There is nothing more difficult than standing on one leg trying to balance while also thinking about what you have to check off on your to-do list. Yoga forces you to turn inward and concentrate on just one thing at a time. As you strengthen your focus, you eliminate noise from your mind and enhance your memory as well.
Try it: Tree Pose
Stand tall with your feet together. Shift your weight to your left foot and stamp the sole of your right foot on the inside of your left ankle or thigh. Avoid placing your foot near your knee. Reach your arms up and find balance. Hold for 30–60 seconds.
5. Improves your mood
Physical activity, such as yoga, stimulates the production of endorphins, which are chemicals that make you feel happier. It has also been found that yoga elevates levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a chemical in the brain that is associated with improving moods and decreasing anxiety. Yoga is a great tool to use to move your body and enhance your happiness!
Try it: Rag Doll
Position your feet hips distance apart. Keep a bend in your knees and fold forward. As you fold, lead with your heart and let your chest, neck, and head hang heavily. Grab elbow to elbow or forearm to forearm. Shutter your eyes closed and breathe deeply for 1–2 minutes.
Begin Your Yoga Journey
Starting yoga can be challenging, but it begins with acceptance. Yoga is not about being able to touch your toes or stand on your hands. It is more than a particular pose or a simple exercise. Release your expectations, and start by practicing basic postures like the ones mentioned above. Practice consistently, and before you know it, you will be reaping all the benefits of yoga!
-Danielle Lasky Zero Doubt Club