It is probably a fair thing to say that most of us have heard of Yoga – may even have had a class or two, if it’s not something you have seriously taken up, then perhaps it is time to have a second look at the unexpected benefits.
For those that aren’t acquainted with Yoga, it is an ancient form of spiritual and ascetic discipline now widely practiced involving the adoption of specific body postures – alongside breath control and simple meditation it improves health, flexibility and body fitness whilst also bringing relaxation.
It is widely reported that those regularly practicing yoga experience a reduction in aches and pains, better sleep patterns, a deep sense of relaxation and increased muscle strength and flexibility.
There are also lesser known, hidden benefits of regular practice.
The Hidden benefits:
1. Improvements to your Mental Health.
The meditation aspect improves your concentration, clears the mind, and brings a more positive outlook. It is also now widely accepted that regular meditation helps relieve pain and painful symptoms, bringing focus into your life. The mental benefits and positivity that disciplined, regular Yoga practice brings really encompass all aspects of your life.
2. Increases Energy and Stamina in all areas of your life.
As with all exercise, practicing Yoga causes the release of endorphins, those ‘feel good’ hormones that give you a lift. Yoga uniquely though focuses on breathing, flooding your body with oxygen and creating a mindful space. This gives you an energy boost as the blood flow increases throughout your body as different areas are targeted.
3. Benefits to your Relationships.
Yoga is so much more than just assuming and holding postures. Yoga focuses on self-awareness and being in the moment, bringing patience and compassion to your life. The exercise of being in the moment gives quiet time in your day, allowing you to focus on yourself. This brings confidence and compassion into your day, benefiting all those you interact with.
4. Physical Benefits to Improve Existing Medical Conditions.
Yoga has been shown to improve existing medical conditions from Asthma and Arthritis through to improving the outcome for those finding it difficult to conceive. Yoga is accessible to everyone, no matter the restrictions or disabilities you face a qualified Yoga teacher would be able to work within your limitations to improve your quality of life.
5. Yoga Flushes the Toxins from Your Body.
The practice of Yoga stimulates the Lymphatic system, flushing everyday toxins from your body and improving your ongoing health. In today’s society, we all worry about the toxins that are unavoidable – those with health concerns will be even more concerned. The exercises and breathing adopted during practice flush out your body and leave you feeling refreshed and clean. Do be sure to drink plenty of fresh water as you practice
Where do I start?
Yoga is now popular throughout the world, so classes are accessible almost everywhere. If you are looking for a local class go along and meet with the teacher and discuss any particular health issues or concerns that you have. You should feel confident and comfortable with your Yogi.
If you cannot get to a local class or would like to explore some basics before joining in with a group, there are many resources online, with step by step guides and exercises that you can try.
What do I need to Start Practicing?
The beauty of Yoga is that it is very readily accessible to everyone – and as you improve, you can invest more.
For many years and in many Countries yoga would be practiced with no specialist equipment at all. However, for those of us looking to practice from home, or join a class a basic start can be achieved with the following:
- A yoga shoes: This is your shoes for exercise. There is a wide variety available in all price points.
- A mat towel: You will want to be able to dry yourself, and your mat if necessary.
- Comfortable clothing: There is yoga specific clothing available – which is stretchy, and seamless. This really is a good investment and makes practicing much more comfortable, although any breathable sports gear will get you started.
- Extra Layers and Socks: In the end, during your relaxation, you can be very quick to cool down – many people like to pop on a jumper or hoody, and socks, to keep warm.
- A hair band: You will want to keep long hair under control as you exercise.
- One or two folded blankets can be used both as body supports or as coverings during warm-down.
- There are a number of options on the market – blocks can usually be used in three different ways offering different height options. Blocks can raise the height of the floor, give you support to work from and help to improve posture during poses.
- Yoga Straps. Essential for those of us with less flexibility! These are useful in poses where you need to hold your feet when they are too far away at the moment (don’t worry, they will get nearer as you practice).
- Bolsters are similar to blankets in supporting your body.
- Yoga wheels. A way to support yourself whilst extending your stretch to your maximum limit.
Benefits of Practicing Yoga:
Hopefully, you are convinced of not only the obvious benefits, but also of the 5 benefits of Practicing Yoga that you didn’t know already. Regular Yoga practice brings many unexpected benefits, both mentally and physically, and crucially can be taken up by anyone, even those with existing medical conditions. It can improve the quality of life in unexpected ways, and also decrease existing pain levels.
Whilst Yoga can be practiced formally in a class, it is also possible to start at home with classes or videos on the internet to begin with.
There is a wide variety of equipment available to support your exercise, but Yoga can be started with a very few, well-chosen items, and your commitment to practice.