Have you ever participated in a yoga class or tried yoga at home? If the answer is “no”, I hope that by the end of this piece, you’ll be open to trying it!
Why? Because yoga has many great benefits to offer.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, yoga is an ancient and complex practice, rooted in Indian philosophy. It began as a spiritual practice but has become popular as a way of promoting physical and mental well-being. Several studies have found that yoga can help improve many physiological and psychological functions.
My Yoga Practice
When I was first introduced to yoga, I’ll admit, I was a little intimidated. I believe that is a natural feeling when trying something new. After building up my courage to attend a group yoga class, I reminded myself that everyone has to start somewhere. I unrolled my brand-new blue yoga mat, placed my water bottle and towel next to me, glanced around the room to gain some inspiration, and joined in. As I lay on the ground resting in silence, I prepared my mind and body for the session ahead. I then followed the instructor through a flow of positions while focusing on both physical and mental improvements. With each session, my confidence grew, and I was less intimidated to show up to my yoga class. Slowly, I began to see, feel, and enjoy the benefits of yoga.
Yoga Is For EveryBODY
Not every yoga session will look like mine. There are many different types of yoga, and each type can be modified to be fully accessible. An example of this is chair yoga, where all poses are done with the support of a chair. Chair yoga can provide similar physical and mental improvements without having to get on the ground. Practicing yoga at your own pace can allow you to experience the benefits that your practice is intended for.
As you move through a sequence of positions, you will increase your physical flexibility, strengthen your muscles and bones, and improve your balance, and your cardiovascular and circulatory systems by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.
What Yoga Can Do For You
We know how essential it is to have a happy heart, but have you ever considered how yoga could directly affect your heart health? The Pritikin program encourages regular exercise including yoga to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and also improve your heart rate and immune system. Improving these risk factors by practicing yoga may help lower your risk of heart disease.
We introduce our patients to yoga early in their cardiac rehab journeys as it's an effective way to increase mobility and manage stress. Like some of our patients, you might be skeptical, but I promise that carving out quiet time for yourself where you can concentrate on your movement and breath can make the world of a difference!
Some physical benefits of yoga include increased flexibility and improved range of motion. Think about what this could mean for you; your daily activities might be easier to achieve, resulting in less stiffness and soreness. With fewer physical limitations, you may be able to do things you hadn’t been able to do before! In addition to increased flexibly and improved range of motion, yoga has a positive influence on our posture, core strength, and can even increase our lung function. Wouldn’t it be nice to breathe easier?
The benefits of yoga don’t end there! In addition to all I’ve mentioned already, it also reduces stress, improves sleep, and increases energy. You don’t need me to tell you that after a good night’s rest, and an energy boost, you’re more likely to enjoy a productive, satisfying day. If you are curious to know how yoga actually helps in these areas, let me explain. During a yoga practice, the goal is to be mindful of each movement and every breath taken. Yoga encourages the participant to take slow rhythmic abdominal breaths which signals our nervous system that it’s time to relax and calm our minds. By increasing our self-awareness and attention to our breath, we are developing the tools to help manage our stress.
What Are You Waiting For?
Now that we know anyone can participate in yoga, I encourage you to think about what yoga looks like for you! The benefits of yoga from physical strength, cardiovascular benefits, and mental health improvements prove that yoga is for anyone. Whether you’re on the floor with your own blue yoga mat or sitting up in a chair, I hope you make space and time to give it a try!
If you are interested in adopting a yoga practice yourself, check out my co-worker, Kerri Whitley’s piece where she breaks down the different types of yoga and outlines how you might get started with your own practice!