As the sun grows warmer heading into spring, our bodies begin to crave movement and awakening from the winter months.
Yoga is a fabulous way to ease out of hibernation and into a more energetic frame of mind.
As a teacher and long time practitioner of yoga, I am often asked about the benefits of yoga. I have decided to share my top 10 reasons for continuing with my daily yoga practice. May this inspire you to explore yoga and its many healing qualities.
- Improves Strength. Yoga involves balancing strength with flexibility. Yoga poses are achieved by using your own muscles to support your body weight against gravity. Because of the many different muscles that are used in poses as well as transitioning to other poses, yoga conditions the body as a whole.
- Improves Flexibility. Strength and flexibility work together in yoga. You do not have to be flexible to start yoga. This comes with practice. Flexibility comes as opposing muscle groups work together to lengthen. Stretching regularly offers joint lubrication, improved healing, better circulation, and enhanced mobility.
- Improves Concentration/Memory. Yoga (and meditation) require an increased focus on long, deep, slow breathes along with the coordination of mental concentration in conjunction with an activity (yoga poses). This has been proven to increase the body’s ability to relax and decrease adrenaline, which can cause the anxiety and mental chatter that can be so distracting.
- Improves Self-Esteem. Yoga helps you build self-awareness by helping you get in tune with your body and mind. You begin to discover you capabilities and potential. The longer you practice, the more you become aware. This in turn helps you gain confidence. As yoga helps you gain clarity by clearing mental clutter, your confidence increases because there are less negative thoughts.
- Reduces Risk of injury. Yoga increases strength flexibility and body awareness. This, in turn, helps reduce the risk of injury. Using yoga as cross training can help prevent injury by balancing muscles out that have been over developed and focused on by repetitive use in other sports.
- Improves sleep. Researchers say that having a routine before bedtime helps promote restful sleep. Gentle yoga poses before bed can help ease the tensions of the day. By stretching the muscles and focusing on the breath the mind and body come into a more relaxed state in preparation for sleep.
- Improves Athletic Performance. Yoga is known to improve strength, flexibility and mental focus. It can help improve lung capacity. Allows for longer, leaner muscles, which means improved endurance. Yoga offers greater body awareness, mental endurance and can help with a quicker recovery. All of this will improve anybody in any sport.
- Helps maintain healthy body weight. Yoga has helped me make healthier choices about my eating habits. The better I eat the better I feel, especially when I am practicing. Some poses help specifically with internal organs. Yoga can help cleanse and detoxify your liver for better functionality. It can help balance PH in the body which helps with clear out unhealthy fat buildup. It also helps reduce stress, which helps with weight management. Yoga helps build strong muscles which helps burn away fat stores even when you are resting. Yoga can get the heart rate up in a burst which helps with weight loss. Yoga can even help with cleansing the colon.
- Improves Energy levels. By simply focusing on deep breathing the nervous system is stimulated to generate more energy. Through the conjuncture of breathing and yoga poses, the body releases toxins through sweat, and then the body is triggered into releasing energy that may be lying dormant in the body.
- Improves Peace of Mind. Researchers have proven that yoga (and meditation) has an effect on the body that resembles the benefits of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. It can decrease dopamine and increase Oxycontin which essentially results in an overall feeling of well being and trust in others.
The health benefits of yoga are in abundance. Yoga is a fantastic way to balance your mind body and spirit. Spring is a great time to get a start on the exercise you have been thinking about to get ready for the summer months and swimsuit weather. If you are still skeptical, I encourage you to get in touch with a teacher near you, they will be happy to answer any questions to help you get started.
Nichole Gould is the founder of Barefoot Warrior Yoga in The White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a Student of life, yogini, yoga teacher, landscape gardener, single mother, organic pizza waitress and lover of all board sports, she considers herself a jack of much and a master of none. She can also be found dabbling with guitar playing, singing off key, reading from her many stacks of books or writing poetry. Feel feel to peruse her Facebook page or contact her via her website for more insight into her ever curious mind.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel