Don’t be alarmed by the girls sipping coffee with yoga mats squeezed between their chairs, when you look in the window of the local Sunday brunch spot. Or the ones on their heads busting moves you’ve never seen before, on the sidewalk, without a mat. Yoga is for you, too – I promise! Yoga is for everyone. Stick with me and I’ll walk you through just how beneficial yoga can be for you.
Created over 5,000 years ago in India, with intentions far further than just “a good old stretch on a comfy mat”, yoga transcends the gap from a workout to overall health and wellness. With so many types of yoga it can be intimidating to find a place to fit in. Try and remember, there are so many rivers, but they all reach the sea – all types of yoga have overlapping benefits.
The Top 5 Benefits of Yoga
Often overlooked, our mental health is equally as important as our physical well-being. Practicing yoga helps to reduce the body’s level of cortisol, which is the stress hormone found in the adrenal gland. By relaxing, and moving the body, a great amount of tension is released from the large muscle groups, ultimately flushing out all parts of the body and brain. This gives way to fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients through the body. This clean, fresh feeling alone helps to regulate and diminish stress.
Many studies have proven the benefits of reduced pain through yoga. Yoga eases pain conditions from cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases, to arthritis and chronic conditions. It is not entirely clear whether the alleviated pain is caused from relaxation and release of endorphins, a reduction of inflammation, or maybe a mix of these.
By stretching the muscles, there is an increase in mobility and range of motion for our muscles, so because of this yoga is incredible for athletes. Yoga helps to prevent muscle soreness and promote a faster recovery between training. This is largely due to a build up of lactic acid, which is a waste product that accumulates in the muscle cells during intense exercise. Further, a build up of lactic acid can cause fatigued muscles, due to extra pressure within.
Yoga has been known to reduce asthma, as well as just improving lung function. This benefit is reached primarily through pranayama which is a breathing practice used to control the breath – this controlled breath is a key factor in yoga practice. The “prana” means “vital life force” while the “ayana” means to regulate and lengthen. Practicing breathing techniques is believed to clear chakras, leaving the practitioner more energized and positive.
Due to deep movements, yoga moves fresh oxygen rich blood throughout the body replenishing the body’s cells. In addition, yoga helps to lower one’s resting heart rate which leads to an increase in endurance and oxygen intake during a workout.
Top 5 Types of Yoga
As mentioned earlier, practically all forms of yoga will reap the above benefits. If you still want some guidance on how to choose a class that might be right for you, I’ve got you covered on just a few practices you should give a shot.
Looking to relax with nothing too challenging?
New to yoga: Hatha Yoga
Focuses on learning the postures, which is great for beginners. It doesn’t focus as heavily on breath. The style combines multiple types of yoga to give a blend of
postures; great for learning the basics.
Connecting body and mind: Kripalu Yoga
This type starts off very slow and goes at your own pace. It focuses mores on meditation and looking inward. It is a great way to work on yourself spiritually while being gentle on your body physically.
Looking to detox?
Internal cleansing: Ashtanga Yoga
This form focuses heavily on breath with synchronized movements. This heats up the blood, cleaning it so it can flow more freely. It also helps to reduce joint pain, removing toxins and disease from the organs.
Detox from outside in: Hot Yoga
Done in a heated room, above 100 degrees, the body is able to go deeper into postures because of such warmed up muscles. Heavy sweating from a mixture of
heat and intensity helps to flush toxins from the skin and improve strength. In addition, it is a great cardiovascular workout.
Looking to build strength: Power Yoga
The most athletic form of yoga, power yoga is great for building upper body strength, balance and flexibility. The poses are done in a sequence, flowing from one to the next, based on Ashtanga yoga.
Try to remember, just because one form didn’t work out for you, it doesn’t mean all forms of yoga don’t suit you. It really comes down to personal preference and goals. With so many options, do not limit yourself to the first type you try. Experiment and find what really works best for your body and mind.