Yoga and Good Health
Do you yoga? Have you ever tried to?
I first tried yoga when it was offered as a choice in physical education in high school. It didn’t feel like exercising at first, just some easy stretching. Then we got into some of the harder or more intense moves and I really felt the burn. But because I felt so good afterward, I continued to do some yoga. Now I am not one of those folks that can put my feet behind my head or balance on my hands while holding the rest of my body in a straight line, but I do enjoy the practice of the breathing and stretching to clear my mind and de-stress.
The goals of yoga are physical and spiritual health. Not everyone starts practicing yoga with the goal of spiritual health in mind, but through the daily sessions I have found that just concentrating on the breathing improves how I look at my day. The benefits from yoga are not limited to just physical health. Yoga is being used to treat some sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). UPS started using yoga therapy to help prevent injuries to its drivers. Their drivers reported feeling more energetic and having a general sense of well-being after their yoga sessions.
5 Health Benefits of Yoga
1. Greater Flexibility
Yoga poses called asanas work by safely stretching your muscles. The poses cause your muscles to release the lactic acid that builds up with muscle use which causes stiffness, tension, pain, and fatigue. Yoga also increases the range of motion in your joints, maybe increasing lubrication in the joints. The outcome is a sense of ease and fluidity throughout your body. That increased flexibility means less risk of injury, less muscle and joint pain. You will also notice an increase in your muscular endurance for other kinds of work-outs.
2. Increased Muscle Tone and Upper Body Strength
A lot of people think that stretching is something you do before you start exercising. But to get the best effect from yoga poses, you hold them for at least five breaths. Poses like the plank help to increase your upper body strength, something we can all use as we get older.
3. Benefits of Improved Breathing
Part of the practice of yoga is to concentrate on your breathing. Yoga instructors will often lead the class in breathing exercises. Once you learn to control your breaths, you will start to see the benefits in stress reduction. Just paying attention to the inhaling and exhaling relaxes the body and mind.
4. Improved Range of Motion
Because you become more flexible as you work through your poses, you will realize an increased range of motion. I find that my knees do not creak and my hips are not sore when I get up in the morning. I noticed that when I skip yoga at night, I have a little bit of soreness in the morning that is quickly corrected when I do my morning warm-up.
5. Stress Reduction
Even beginners tend to feel less stressed and more relaxed after their first class. The regular practice of yoga has been proven to reduce stress levels by helping your mind focus on the here and now, instead of the past or future. This improved mental focus also helps combat depression, anxiety and insomnia.
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