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And while yoga easily lures in the hard-core fitness crowd keen to sweat, challenge their strength, improve flexibility or enhance recovery, the real benefits that set yoga apart from other forms of exercise lies in connecting movement to breath and the positive impact of mindfulness on mental health which draws back to its ancient roots.
Benefits for the body
Studies show that yoga helps stretch muscle and connective tissue improving range of motion and flexibility. A regular practice, especially of the slower styles of yoga, is found to improve flexibility after as little as 8 weeks which can also help to promote good posture and combat the damaging effect of long “desk-bound” workdays.
From the outside yoga can seem like a relaxing form of exercise. And while that’s true for Yin and restorative styles of yoga, it’s far from the truth with the more active and charged “yang ” styles like Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Bikram. These practices include standing postures, held for a number of breaths and repetitions which, when practiced regularly, have been shown to improve strength, balance, and stability.
Benefits for the mind
The practice of Yoga emphasizes the importance of connecting movement to breath which can help to boost the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ response. Research shows that yoga supports stress management and mental health, specifically, the reduction in severity of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
Studies found that including yoga into your weekly routine can also help to promote sleep quality. Those practicing yoga fell asleep faster, slept for longer and felt more well rested once awake. It’s no wonder that people who practice yoga regularly are found to be happier, more energetic and have fewer negative feelings than those who don’t.
Get to know your styles
Yoga styles vary greatly and it’s useful to be able to look at a class timetable and know what you are in for. Try a few different styles before settling into the right one to suit you.
The combination of benefits for both body and mind has people of all ages and walks of life practicing yoga; athletes focused on recovery and injury prevention, the elderly keen to improve balance and range of motion, the stressed and overworked, those with anxiety and depression and even kids in schools practicing playful movement ~ we can all reap the benefits of yoga.
Studies show that with regular practice you are likely to be happier, sleep better, less stressed, more flexible, stronger and have better balance! So, whether you prefer a Vinyasa flow or chilled out Yin, sweaty Bikram or the structure of Ashtanga, the benefits of yoga are reason enough for us all to roll out our mat in the lounge room and start practicing today.