Can Yoga really help you get fit and maintain fitness? People who practice Yoga regularly already know the answer to that, but those who have not yet discovered the benefits of Yoga may need a little convincing. Many people have it engrained in their minds that they have to jog, spin, stair climb, and crunch their way into shape. While this is all good, it is not necessary to torture yourself in order to lose weight and get fit.
You can do all this with Yoga. It combines breathing and a series of positions all of which promote harmony between the mind and the body. When you concentrate on your breathing while assuming the various postures, you are toning your body and building muscle plus getting rid of stress and improving your memory. Yoga is also great for strengthening the back. It can even reduce the amount of sleep your body requires and lengthen your lifespan. To be truly fit, the mind as well as the body must become strong.
Yoga has the added benefit of not requiring any special equipment or expensive gym memberships. The only thing you really need to have is a Yoga mat. Yoga mats help improve your balance and coordination. Some of the poses or “asanas” are based on good posture, and improving your posture as well as your balance help to improve your health. Yoga mats also keep you from slipping on bare floors. They also keep your body warm and ensure that the energy you generate with the poses stays inside your body and does not pass through you to the floor. Cushioning also makes the asanas more accurate.
Here are just a few of the ways in which Yoga can improve your health.
Stretching and Flexibility
Quite a few of the positions in Yoga require stretching. Stretching relaxes the muscles and lessens the tension in them. Stretching helps to make you limber and cuts down on the chances of an injury in areas like your joints, tendons, and muscles. It also decreases muscle soreness and tension and lubricates the connective tissues throughout your body.
The flexibility issue sometimes scares some people off who are thinking of trying yoga. They may think they aren’t flexible enough to perform the poses. But part of yoga is improving flexibility and it’s never too late to do that. Flexibility is one of the major benefits of yoga. The more you repeat the stretches that are part of yoga, the more lactic acid will be released from your muscles. It is lactic acid that causes your muscles and joints to be sore.
Many beginners find that their flexibility has improved within the first two weeks of doing yoga exercises. Better flexibility comes with several health benefits. It reduces the chances of problems with your back, improves the range of motion you have in your joints, gives you better circulation and concentration, and can even relive chronic pain.
Regular yoga practice can help you achieve a body that is lean and posture that is perfect by building core strength. Most of the standing and sitting exercises and poses help to strengthen your core. When your core is strong, you become more aware of your posture. When you concentrate on your core you build good abdominal muscles, which can help you sit and walk tall and straight.
Certain yoga exercises were developed specifically to help build strength and they are usually more intense than the traditional poses. The experts who developed these exercises know that strong muscles can help prevent certain conditions like arthritis and back pain and they can cut down on the risks of falling for older people. Building strength with yoga is balanced with the better flexibility that you develop at the same time. Lifting weights at the gym may build strength but it does nothing increase your flexibility.
You know now that yoga can trim and tone your body and improve strength. Certain styles of yoga can burn calories and raise your heart rate enough to lose weight. But this involves a vigorous-90 minute yoga class that should be done three times a week, at least.
One style of yoga that is best for losing weight is called vinyasa or “flow yoga”. The poses are called “sun salutations” and they are very athletic and really work up a sweat.
Ashtanga yoga is another style that is extremely vigorous and is great for people who want to lose weight. It is taught by very dedicated yogis and beginners will need to take a number of classes to learn the poses before they can start practicing it at home.
There is also power yoga, which is similar to ashtanga and hot yoga, which is done in extra hot rooms and guarantees that you will be sweating buckets.
There is more to being fit than strengthening and toning your body. A healthy heart is a very important part of a healthy body. It has been proven that the deep breathing that is used in yoga exercises lowers blood pressure and slows down the heart rate. People who have high blood pressure, heart diseases, and have suffered from strokes can benefit hugely from a lower heart rate.
Yoga can also be connected to lower cholesterol levels, another important heart-related issue. It can even boost the body’s immune system to fight of sickness.
Another heart benefit comes if you practice the ashtanga yoga that can get your heart rate into the aerobic range and improve cardiovascular conditioning.
Yoga’s emotional effects can be felt almost right away. The meditation and relaxing atmosphere induce feelings of calm and is a great outlet for stress and anxiety. One of the results is lowering cortisol levels. The adrenal glands secrete cortisol as a response to crisis or acute stress. This also temporarily boosts the body’s immune function. But if levels of cortisol stay high for too long even after the crisis is over, it can hurt the immune system.
Temporary increases in cortisol help with long-term memory function, but levels that remain high have the opposite effect and even make permanent changes in the brain. High cortisol levels can account for depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and resistance to insulin. Too much cortisol can even lead to what is known as “food-seeking behavior” that contributes to weight gain.