This post is sponsored by Mambo Sprouts and prAna.
Over the last 25 years I’ve tried just about every fitness trend thats come out. Heck I’ve taught most of them too. However the one staple that always remained in my program no matter whether my program involved weights, running or rebounding was yoga. Yoga just makes me feel good. Even bad yoga is good yoga. I walk out of every class feeling taller, and my joints feel like I took oil to a squeaky hinge. There are so many other benefits of yoga I’ve experiences I thought I’d share twelve of them.
This post is sponsored by prAna and Mambo Sprouts. The outfit I’m wearing is by prAna: Filament Tank (black) and Juniper Pants (coal). On a comfort scale of 1 – 10 these feel like I’m not wearing anything! Seriously so comfortable. The pants are made from hemp, organic cotton and spandex and are super soft. The leg length is a little long for me (I’m only 5’4″) but this makes them perfect for winter in cool yoga studio! I like my tootsies warm! The tank has a lace up back that is adjustable, and the bra has modesty cups which I appreciate as we head into fall. The prAna active wear is so comfortable and great for yoga workouts. PrAna have generously offered a discount coupon for my friends! Get 15% off with code MSF17DH at www.prAna.com until 25th October
12 benefits of yoga
Personally releasing stress is the biggest reason I do yoga. I tend to be quite an anxious person by nature so practicing yoga helps ground my pitta controlling personality. Letting go, being in the present moment and learning to trust my body have all been things I’ve learned through my practice. It’s important to remember that just sitting in silence, and using the breath is practising yoga. It’s not all about the poses. There is an old zen adage that “you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day – unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour”. The busier you are, the more you need to slow down, sit, and de-stress
Improve heart health
Less stress means a healthier heart, but yoga can also help improve heart health by simply being a form of low impact activity. Remember that the CDC recommends “activity” everyday not a “workout”, and yoga can definitely count as moderate-intensity exercise depending on the class. A medium paced vinyasa flow class can be pretty challenging and can definitely work up a sweat. If sweating it your thing, and you want to try something a little more challenging maybe try hot yoga or Bikram.
Decrease Blood Pressure
As mentioned above yoga can reduce stress, which in turn can lower blood pressure. Along with the decreased stress and increased activity levels yoga creates a mind body connection. Pranayama and meditation can enable us to deal with stressful situation more easily, and in studies has shown to reduce anxiety and blood pressure. My personal experience has shown that keeping active I am able to keep my blood pressure stable. I have a hereditary kidney disease which usually leads to high blood pressure by my age (oh jeez I sound old). Well, my blood pressure is perfect. Huzzah!
Improve Joint Mobility/stability
Due to our daily lives being more sedentary we are finding ourselves lacking in the mobility of joints. It really is a case of move it or lose it when it comes to joint movement. Ask anyone with arthritis. The key to keeping joints mobile is to move. My own personal experience has shown that with some gentle movements my joints are able to move better, and the body responds holistically. If you are seeking mobility I suggest a gentle like AIM, Feldenkrais or Hanna Somatics.
On more than one occasion I’ve had people tell me that they can’t do yoga because “they aren’t flexible enough”! Yep, not kidding. This is one of the reasons we do yoga, to stay limber and flexible. This is often a double edged sword though as people tend to overstretch some muscles and not stretch others. As the saying goes “train your weakness”. Mine has always been my hamstrings so I try to pay more attention to them. Heron (below) used to be a challenging pose for me, but working on it regularly it’s definitely improving. You don’t need to be flexible to do yoga, that’s part of why we do yoga!
One undertrained part of most fitness programs, and life, is balance training. When you do balance poses, you work all those little stabilization muscles, the ones that wake up in warrior 3 or tree pose, causing you to wobble as they fight to hold you in gravity. This means more strength, and better ability to correct yourself when falling, or when you roll an ankle. Plus holding a balance posture is psychologically satisfying. Being a naturally clumsy person, balance isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I work on it. A lot.
As mentioned above our daily habit patterns are creating muscle imbalances, and can cause poor posture. Rounded shoulders, poor hip and shoulder mobility, and head forward just to name a few problems. Yoga can help to ease those postural problems by creating balance in postural muscles of the body. On vacation I was suffering from low back pain from condo beds, long car rids and generally not moving on the flight for 10 hours. By just doing some gentle moves for the lower back helped so much!
Increase blood flow
Ever been told that to counter all the sitting we do to get up every hour and do 5 minutes of activity? Usually people suggest chair exercises, or things like squats and jumping jacks. I’d suggest something a little less intense like 1/2 sun salutations. Inhale arms up, exhale fold forward, inhale half way, exhale fold, inhale and come all the way back to standing. I’m not kidding when I say that this can get the blood flowing back into your body. If you have room for a full sun salutation then even better!
Promotes better sleep
There is a yoga tank that says “I’m just here for the savasana”. Seriously if you’ve never taken 5 minutes to just lay on the floor in silence, then take time out of your day today and try it. Learning to remove stress, and simply lie in silence focusing on the breath is so soothing. Last weekend at our RYT300 training we did some breath exercises and I am not ashamed to say I totally napped during one of them, but I woke up feeling completely refreshed. The power nap is totally underrated!
When people think of yoga they generally think of flexibility, but yoga is excellent for strength too. Ever done squats in a fitness class? That’s a yoga pose called chair! Planks, and side planks? Yep yoga poses! Many pilates exercises are yoga poses also. Lots of exercises we commonly use today in fitness are from yoga poses. Still not convinced and not feeling the strength? Slow down! Hold poses for 8 breaths (approx 45 seconds). I suggest trying this in: chair, boat, plank, side plank, warrior 3, tree and… handstand.
Aid in digestion
In my yoga training I learned that twists area amazing at aiding digestion. It makes sense right? It all comes back to our physiology, and specifically our colon. Visuals help me alot, and I envision a dishcloth being wrung out. That is what twists do to our digestive system, effectively assisting in pushing things gently along. I’m currently training for my RYT300 and looking at human dissection videos you definitely get more of an appreciation of how the muscles impact the internal organs. It’s fascinating!
We’ve already established that the average person in today’s society is stressed, and has some postural issues but did you know that this can impact your breath? The very thing you need to do to survive! Many people have turned into upper chest breathers as we’re in a constant state of hyperawareness. Using the diaphragm for “belly breaths” filling the lungs allowing for full inhalation.
So there are twelve benefits of yoga practice, I’m sure there are many more too. We know that exercise and activity is important but it doesn’t have to be running or lifting weights it can simply be movement to be beneficial. Yoga is a great way to gain the benefits of movement while being kind and gentle to your body. The benefits of yoga go far beyond the physical body. After years of running, cycling, lifting and thinking more is better I have found something that truly incorporates all aspects of health; body, mind, heart and breath.
Don’t forget to check out prAna for your yoga wear. Get 15% off with code MSF17DH at www.prAna.com until 25th October
Why do you do yoga?
If you don’t do yoga already why not?
Do you practice meditation or breath work?