As an alternative form of therapy, the practice of yoga has grown over the years. Have you tried it yet? Are you curious about it? There are many different forms of yoga and different levels too and each provides many health benefits such as relaxation, improved posture, increased range of motion, mental calming and focus, and all while supporting your breathing.
Now some think yoga can only be done in a group and in a studio...not true! ...you can just as easily do yoga at home too. There are many teaching DVD and internet videos you can try but the most important thing is...you make the time to practice. You may feel awkward and uncoordinated at first and that is normal... but don't give up okay? With patience and practice you will get better.
If you're not sure if yoga is safe for you...check with your doctor okay? It's always best to make sure that any new physical activity you are curious about is safe for you and is within your limitations before starting. Go slow okay?...and work your way up to some of the more challenging poses...you can do this!
Yoga is a great way to work on your flexibility and strength. Just about everyone can do it, too -- it's not just for people who can touch their toes or want to meditate.
Some types of yoga are about relaxation. In others, you move more. Most types focus on learning poses, called asanas. They also usually include attention to breathing.
Yoga for Flexibility
Yoga poses work by stretching your muscles. They can help you move better and feel less stiff or tired.
At any level of yoga, you'll probably start to notice benefits soon. In one study, people improved their flexibility by up to 35% after only 8 weeks of yoga.
Strike a Pose for Strength
Some styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga, are very physical. Practicing one of these styles will help you improve muscle tone.
But even less vigorous styles of yoga, such as Iyengar or hatha, can provide strength and endurance benefits.
Many of the poses, such as downward dog, upward dog, and the plank pose, build upper-body strength. The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abs. Poses that strengthen the lower back include upward dog and the chair pose.
When done right, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.
Better Posture From Yoga
When you're stronger and more flexible, your posture improves.
Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength, since you need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose.
With a stronger core, you're more likely to sit and stand "tall."
Yoga also helps your body awareness. That helps you notice more quickly if you're slouching or slumping, so you can adjust your posture.
Yoga usually involves paying attention to your breath, which can help you relax. It may also call for specific breathing techniques.
But yoga typically isn't aerobic, like running or cycling, unless it's an intense type of yoga or you're doing it in a heated room.
Less Stress, More Calm
You may feel less stressed and more relaxed after doing some yoga.
Some yoga styles use meditation techniques that help calm the mind. Focusing on your breathing during yoga can do that, too.
Good for Your Heart
Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure or heart disease, and people who've had a stroke.
Yoga has also been linked to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and better immune system function.
WebMD Medical Reference
Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on June 24, 2014
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