The Benefits of Yoga
Originating in India, around 5000 years ago, yoga is a form of exercise that focuses on flexibility, strength and breathing. According to a national survey conducted in the Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance, the number of people practicing yoga in the US alone grew by over 50% from 2012 to 2016. If you’re debating taking up yoga, here are a few of the benefits.
It’s a great way to improve flexibility
Yoga can improve flexibility as holding yoga stretches and poses for a period of time allows muscles to go deeper into the stretch. Yin Yoga tends to hold poses for longer so that the deeper tissues feel the positive effects of the stretches. Vinyasa flow yoga is also said to promote flexibility, as although the poses are not held for as long as those in Yin Yoga, the poses are linked together in flow, which warms the muscles, allowing for a deeper stretch.
It can strengthen the muscles
Yoga is a form of functional fitness. You use both large and small muscles and move in many directions, not just back and forth in one motion. It combines the three elements of muscle growth: passive overload, metabolic stress, and mechanical damage.
To explain these in simple terms, progressive overload is when you keep lifting heavier and heavier over a period of time, which your body facilitates by building muscle. Yoga differs slightly in that you’re lifting your body weight, which isn’t going to significantly change week on week, however the increase is in the pose progression.
Metabolic stress is a physiological process that your muscles undergo during exercise and is caused by the accumulation of waste metabolites, it’s that feeling when you think you can’t possibly manage another rep. This process has a positive effect on muscle growth. Vinyasa is great for metabolic stress, as there is no rest between poses, which encourages the build-up of waste metabolites, usually caused by anaerobic respiration.
Mechanical damage involves microscopic tears in the muscle fibres which are caused by the eccentric contractions involved in performing yoga poses. Any yoga pose that involves lowering your body can be eccentric training and you can increase the intensity by slowing your descent.
It can improve your posture
Research has found that yoga exercises can help with bad posture. The spine is the central channel of the nervous system, so it’s crucial to keep your spine healthy and happy. The core integration sequence of yoga exercises helps by building a strong core foundation to support your posture, helping with alignment. Yoga encourages increased awareness of the body through pose positioning and movement.
It’s a brilliant way to de-stress
Yoga is great for clearing the mind as it focuses on breath work, drawing our attention towards our breathing rather than our thoughts, a common practice in meditation. Yoga sessions will usually conclude with five minutes spent relaxing in corpse pose, lying flat on the back, which allows for the release of tension in the mind and the body.
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