You’ve heard it a million times before, you should be doing yoga! It’s a common recommendation that comes from friends, family, physicians and even strangers – and for all of the right reasons. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, despite only recently becoming mainstream in the Westernized world1Contesting Yoga’s Past: A Brief History of Āsana in Pre-modern India. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://cswr.hds.harvard.edu/news/2015/10/14/contesting-yoga%E2%80%99s-past-brief-history-%C4%81sana-pre-modern-india. But it’s a long-time overdue because yoga presents a plethora of benefits on a physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health level2Benefits of Yoga | American Osteopathic Association. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/benefits-of-yoga/, and it can be done right in the comfort of your own home, sans an expensive gym membership and equipment.
You’ve heard it a million times before, you should be doing yoga! It’s a common recommendation that comes from friends, family, physicians and even strangers – and for all of the right reasons. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, despite only recently becoming mainstream in the Westernized world. But it’s a long-time overdue because yoga presents a plethora of benefits on a physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health level, and it can be done right in the comfort of your own home, sans an expensive gym membership and equipment.
What is Yoga?
Yoga can be described as a type of exercise that uses your body in a variety of positions and oftentimes, in sync with your breath. There’s a vast array of different styles to choose from – from intense, heart-racing power yoga to therapeutic, gentle restorative yoga that puts you right to sleep. The options are endless, just as the benefits are. But before we move onto that, here’s a quick look at some popular styles of yoga ideal for beginners:
- Ashtanga yoga
- Bikram yoga
- Hatha yoga
- Hot yoga
- Iyengar yoga
- Restorative yoga
- Vinyasa yoga
- Zen yoga
What Are The Top Benefits of Yoga?
You know that carefree attitude that ‘yogis’ often have? Well, it isn’t just because they were born with it. This is a common mindset that is achieved after practicing yoga.
Improve Strength, Flexibility and Balance
Yoga is a fantastic style of workout that shapes and tones every muscle in your body while also improving your balance and flexibility with slow, deep breaths. The breathing techniques used in a typical yoga session are super therapeutic and designed to increase blood flow to warm up your muscles without having to do intense cardio39 Benefits of Yoga. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/9-benefits-of-yoga.
Exercise Your Mind and Body
One of the many amazing things about yoga is that it exercises your mind and body. While there’s no denying that all forms of exercise have benefits for both the body and the brain, yoga is one style that consciously incorporates your mental health into the practice through breathwork, meditation, and visualizing4Yoga – Benefits Beyond the Mat – Harvard Health. (2021). Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat.
Improve Physical, Mental and Spiritual Health
Yoga doesn’t fall short when it comes to the vast array of benefits it offers – for your physical, mental and spiritual health.
Natural pain relief
Since yoga combines a variety of therapeutic movements with basic stretches, it can be an effective way to alleviate pain naturally as it acts as a self-massage for your internal and external health. Yoga also improves mobility and flexibility to help prevent injury or pain moving forward5Yoga eases moderate to severe chronic low back pain. (2017). Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/yoga-eases-moderate-severe-chronic-low-back-pain.
Alleviate Mental Health Symptoms
The practice of yoga is highly focused on silencing the mind and focusing on your breath. This makes it a mindful activity with many therapeutic benefits for your mental health, including decreased anxiety and depression, and a healthier mindset for dealing with stressful situations.
Yoga is also known to increase mental energy and enthusiasm, resulting in fewer negative thoughts and feelings.
Improve Heart Health
Practicing yoga regularly has been shown to reduce levels of stress and inflammation, both of which are huge contributing factors for a variety of health concerns and illnesses. It’s particularly beneficial for your heart health and can help you manage heart-related conditions, such as high blood pressure, naturally and without the use of prescription medications6Bubnis, D. (2019). The research-backed benefits of yoga. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326414.
Everyone Can Do Yoga
Unlike other forms of exercise, yoga is one of the few that can be safely used by absolutely anyone, regardless of age, gender, mobility, flexibility, and fitness. Since there are so many different styles to choose from, such as gentle and therapeutic zen or restorative yoga to fat-blasting classes and everything in between, everyone can find one that works for them. You can narrow in on a specific type of yoga to cater to your personal goals, desires, limitations, strengths, weaknesses, injuries – you name it. There’s yoga for kids and yoga for the elderly, chair yoga and water yoga, and everything else you can imagine.
Basic Yoga Poses You’ll Thank Us For Later
Despite what you see on social media, yoga doesn’t have to be all fancy, acrobatic and upside down. In fact, many of the most therapeutic and versatile yoga poses are the simplest ones. These are the types of poses you typically find in absolutely every style of yoga out there.
A good basic yoga pose to perfect is the child’s pose. It’s a nice, gentle stretch that promotes blood circulation and relaxation, and serves as a nice break in between other poses when you need a rest. To do this post, simply kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width apart and your big toes touching. Fold over your thighs and extend your arms in front of you, with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders and breathe.
The tree pose is a basic, easy, yoga pose that can improve your balance, strengthen your core and increase stability in your lower body. To do this pose, you’ll want to focus on proper weight destruction and posture as you balance on one foot and place the other foot on your calf or above your knee.
Synchronic your breath with your body and improve blood circulation, focus and mental stability with the cat-cow pose. This yoga post is super beneficial for your spine, helping to relieve all kinds of back pain naturally. It’s also a super calming pose that helps with mental health. To do this pose, go on all fours, ensuring that your palms are underneath your shoulders and knees are aligned with your hips. Inhale and curve your back slightly at the hips to allow your stomach to drop. Stretch your head up and back. On your exhale, draw your navel toward your spine and arch your spine from your hips, letting your head hang.
Just 15 minutes in this pose is said to bring many therapeutic benefits that can relieve a tired lower body and relax an overactive brain. It’s also one of the easiest poses requiring next to no effort. Simply lay on the floor and place your legs straight up on a wall, keeping your sitting bones as close to the wall as possible.
Traditionally called ‘Savasana’, this yoga pose is often used to relax and unwind the body at the end of a session. Unfortunately, though, it’s often said to be one of the most difficult ones to do correctly, as the key is to relax your mind and body completely. To do this post, simply lay down with your legs and arms comfortably stretched out and your palms facing up. Breathe.
The most important thing to do when choosing a yoga pose to practice or a yoga class to start is to pick one that aligns with your skill level. If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to focus on beginner yoga poses and only advance to the more difficult ones once you have practiced and perfected the basics. If you have an injury or underlying health condition, it is best to speak with your healthcare provider to discuss specific styles of yoga to do (or to avoid) for your health, specifically.
- 1Contesting Yoga’s Past: A Brief History of Āsana in Pre-modern India. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://cswr.hds.harvard.edu/news/2015/10/14/contesting-yoga%E2%80%99s-past-brief-history-%C4%81sana-pre-modern-india
- 2Benefits of Yoga | American Osteopathic Association. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/benefits-of-yoga/
- 39 Benefits of Yoga. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/9-benefits-of-yoga
- 4Yoga – Benefits Beyond the Mat – Harvard Health. (2021). Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat
- 5Yoga eases moderate to severe chronic low back pain. (2017). Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/yoga-eases-moderate-severe-chronic-low-back-pain
- 6Bubnis, D. (2019). The research-backed benefits of yoga. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326414