An introduction to the health advantages and benefits of yoga
Many people ask us “Why do we do yoga?” So, we have put together what we think are the seven key benefits of yoga, or the seven reasons yoga can change your life, or at the very least, help you to address issues in your life. Taking time out of your day to enjoy gentle, stretching exercises is one of the best things you can do for your body.
Why does a cat stretch on waking? After sleep the muscles can tend to be stiff and tight and a few lovely, relaxed stretches loosens them up, makes you feel awake and gives you energy. You are then ready to face the day.
Improve your posture with some simple yoga exercises
If like many of us, you have rounded shoulders and want to improve your posture, why not make it a fun and enjoyable experience and use some yoga poses to get your shoulders rolled back and see what that feels like.
Once you start trying some yoga exercises to improve your posture you will be amazed at how much better your shoulders feel and look.
So as well as making you look and feel better, yoga also creates numerous health benefits for your body and mind, so you get to increase your general well-being and even benefit from some of the many other health benefits that yoga offers.
And did you know… new research has found that good posture is important for maintaining a healthy body throughout your life.
Here is a simple exercise we practice to counteract your tendency to want to slouch and it increases body awareness, thereby improving your posture.
This is one of the yoga postures we do at our camps, it’s called the locust and everyone joins in doing what they can on the day. Sometimes it feels easy and other days not so easy. It doesn’t matter with yoga… every little bit helps and in our camps, you go at your own pace and no-one is judging. They’re all too busy concentrating on getting their own body into the posture. So it’s lots of fun.
Can yoga help with weight loss?
We all know that weight loss is about energy in, energy out… so what’s this about losing weight doing yoga?
You don’t actually burn a lot of calories with yoga so it’s not seen as a weight loss exercise, but it does have a spin off for weight loss. For these reasons yoga may be helpful in managing weight loss:
- it becomes a very effective stress management tool and this reduces stress eating
- it increases your body awareness, specifically relating to hunger and food satisfaction
- it creates awareness and makes you more mindful of what and when you eat
So you can see that by practising yoga, it can lead to you having better sleep, better eating habits, and increased self-awareness.
Good nutrition is essential for weight loss and if you are paying attention to what you eat, you will start to see some results.
With the awareness you get from practicing yoga, you feel more energised and more inclined to eat healthy foods and soon you will be on your way to achieving your goals.
The poses called warrior 1 and warrior 2 help to increase your body’s metabolism and feel really good to do. Give them a try and see how it helps you and makes you feel.
Yoga does increase your flexibility
How often do you hear people say “I’m not very flexible, I can’t even touch my toes”.
The good news is by undertaking even a modest amount of yoga you will be surprised at how quickly you increase your flexibility – you will be well on your way to touching your toes before you know it. Yoga increases flexibility in your shoulders, spine, hips, and hamstrings – all the way down to your toes.
This exercise feels really good and you can do it any time of the day when you feel like a good stretch. A block is a good prop to get you started.
Yoga helps you to breathe properly
The practice of yoga was developed in India and dates back thousands of years. The principles are based around creating harmony between the mind, body and spirit. By practicing yoga regularly it can help you to fight colds and flus and other respiratory ailments as the yoga exercises teach you how to relax and breathe better.
Yoga breathing has become a common way for people to manage any stress going on in their lives. You know yourself if you get anxious or upset, the first thing anyone will usually say to you is ‘calm down and breathe deeply’. This simple act of focusing on your breathing helps your body to adjust to the situation happening and calms your system down and brings your breathing back to a normal healthy rate.
This is a simple but very effective little exercise that takes one minute and can be done anywhere at any time. Find a quiet place to try it and see how it feels for you.
Inhale to the count of two
Exhale to the count of two
Inhale to the count of two
Exhale to the count of three
Inhale to the count of two
Exhale to the count of four
Inhale to the count of two
Exhale to the count of five
You can repeat it several times and then return to your normal breathing.
By doing this regularly (and remember it only takes a minute) it will help to regulate the oxygen flow in your blood thus making you more alert and aware.
This increased awareness helps you to stay on track with everything that your day demands of you, decreases your stress levels and you will find you make fewer mistakes and can go about your day in a more relaxed and calm manner.
Release stress and anxiety with yoga practice
We all experience stress, fear, anxiety at various times throughout our lives and some of us suffer with anxiety problems on a more regular basis. We can get anxious about an exam at school, nervous about a job interview, or fear about social gatherings where you don’t know anyone – these are some of the more common reasons.
What yoga does is helps you to stay calm and relaxed in your daily life and this calmness gives you the strength to face something that would normally be a stressful situation for you. By bringing yourself into the present moment you can release stress and anxiety.
When you do a yoga session you are able to let go of all the worries that you may have before coming to the session. By being in the present, you are not thinking about the past, which can create stress, or the future, which can create anxiety. And for this short period of time the worries of the world just fade away.
How Yoga can improve balance
As well as doing wonders for stress and anxiety yoga has been shown by research to improve our balance and confidence – two things most of us could use more of.
How does yoga do this?
Being balanced helps you to stay centered. With better balance you can improve your fitness levels and this also helps you to prevent falls and injuries, as it improves your focus and concentration.
These balancing skills are very helpful and even more important as we get older in order to decrease the risk of falling.
TIP: When you are doing a yoga balancing pose, just keep your eyes focused on one spot and it really helps you to maintain stillness and balance. Just keep practising this and the more you do it the easier it gets.
As you focus on one spot, you should bring your attention inward and keep your mind on the sensation of your body in the yoga pose.
The tree pose is a good one to start with.
Yoga can help with sleep problems
If you have trouble sleeping you’re not alone. There are millions of people all over the world who suffer from sleep deprivation for many different reasons. Not only does it make us tired, grumpy and irritable the next day, but research has shown we are more likely to experience health problems such as anxiety and depression if we don’t get the required amount of sleep every night.
We all need different amounts of sleep and while some can exist on 4-5 hours, it seems that most of us need at least a good 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
People who practice yoga say that it definitely improves their sleep time and sleep efficiency. Stretching and breathing properly has a calming effect on your body and this all helps you to have a wonderful night’s sleep.
As you feel more balanced, clear minded, free from pain and able to breathe better, so too you will sleep better.
The child’s pose is such a lovely yoga pose and if you do it before you go to bed, it helps you relax and prepare you for better night’s sleep.
So there are some simple, gentle and effective poses if you want to try them for yourself. If you practice them on a regular basis it won’t be very long before you start to feel the benefits.
At Live Life Get Active we offer a combination of the different styles of yoga. Everyone can benefit from yoga, young and old. It doesn’t matter what level you are at because you always get something out of a session.
The best thing of all is the fun we have at our yoga sessions and everyone feels great afterwards. Unlike the gym, you don’t have to worry about anyone watching you as they will be so busy focusing on their own poses.
For more information please contact us here.
If you practice yoga outdoors you get the benefits of being close to nature and we all know how good that feels – not like exercise at all.
Why not come along and give it a try?
You can find out more about where our camps are and the times they run here. We look forward to seeing you!