Stressed out? Feeling stiff all over? Can’t touch your toes anymore? Time to hit the mat and do some yoga stretches and poses. Best to take a class first. You’ll need some expert instruction to keep you from overdoing or pulling something you shouldn’t. Still in denial you need yoga? You won’t be after reading this.
What Yoga Can Do for You
1. Increase strength and flexibility.
Yoga loosens and relaxes your muscles, enhancing your freedom of movement. The poses stretch and strengthen your abdominal, paraspinal, and pelvic muscles (your core) to help maintain a healthy spine. You’ll feel better and reduce the chance of injury in other sports.
2. Re-balance your body.
The poses in yoga force you to use different body parts in new ways. Athletes say yoga helps them “break through the wall” and pass those tough training plateaus. Yoga opens up your hips, hamstrings, back, and shoulders. By aligning your body and stacking your bones, you’ll discover both your weaknesses and your strengths.
3. Re-balance your nervous system.
By bringing your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems into balance, yoga creates a natural calming effect. According to Dr. Timothy McCall, medical editor of Yoga Journal, it also stimulates the “feel-good” brain chemical, serotonin, to stop those food cravings before they start.
4. Detox your body.
Yoga’s twisting moves and poses cause you to perspire, releasing toxins out of your organs. It also regulates your glandular system to decrease hot flashes by 31 percent, according to one study.
5. Detox your mind.
Stretching muscles and tissues can release those toxic emotions you’ve been suppressing. A study from Boston University School of Medicine and McLean Hospital reported that doing an hour of standing, sitting and balancing poses helped avid yoga posers raise their GABA brain chemical levels (low GABA levels are linked with depression) by 27 percent.
6. Gain a heightened self-awareness.
Yoga connects you more acutely to your body — to enhance feelings and sensations. By disconnecting from the ego and listening more closely to your body, you learn to differentiate between complacency and laziness.
7. Gain more confidence.
By opening your body’s vital points (chakras) in a supportive environment, you gain confidence in other areas of your life.
8. Increase your breath control.
By assuming and holding different yoga poses, you learn to control your breath to calm your mind and body. This skill can easily be transferred off the mat to prevent pre-mature exhaustion, boosting your performance in running, skiing, tennis, or volleyball.
9. Sleep better and longer.
After two months of doing 45-minute yoga poses daily before bed, subjects in a Brigham and Women’s Hospital study fell asleep 15 minutes faster and slept an hour longer each night.
10. Make new friends.
Some people meet their significant others in yoga class. Others form lasting friendships. It’s a great way to meet people who are passionate about good health.
Always seek the advice of your doctor before engaging in yoga for any medical, physical or psychological condition you may have.