Yoga may not be the first thing many of us think of when we want to improve our health, weight or wellbeing. It has a reputation for being a bit alternative, perhaps a bit too gentle to have any significant impact on the problems we want to address. But think again. More and more science is showing that it can offer numerous benefits.
Improves core strength
By strengthening your core muscles you are supporting the bones and ligaments of your spine and improving posture. It makes sense, therefore, that yoga is considered a valuable tool in helping lower back pain Of course, if you have back trouble, ensure that your yoga teacher is aware and qualified to tailor your yoga regime accordingly.
Whether it’s the mindfulness associated with yoga, the moves themselves or the group activity, who knows. But studies have shown a benefit to yoga in managing depressive symptoms. Interestingly, though, the same benefit was not seen in those suffering mainly from anxiety.
A large component of yoga is a focus on good breathing techniques. This may be helpful in improving quality of life and reducing need for medication in people with asthma, as well as helping any of us to slow down and relax.
Reduces heart disease risk
High blood pressure and unfavorable blood cholesterol are both associated with an increased risk of heart disease and yoga can positively influence both of those according to some studies.
Cortisol is a hormone related with chronic stress. Too much can make you more at risk of piling on the pounds around the middle, developing diabetes and adds to the risk of heart disease. Several studies have shown that yoga can reduce stress levels, and with it the cortisol that may be doing us harm. Interestingly though, other research has shown it may bring cortisol levels back up towards normal in those with fibromyalgia who seem to have abnormally low levels.
But why would I waste time with yoga when I can do more vigorous exercise with loads more benefits?
You may think that the more high intensity exercise you do, the better, when it comes to getting fit, losing weight and improving health. But actually, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that a mix of exercise is best. Resistance and strength exercises like yoga help preserve muscle – a valuable weight loss ally as it burns more calories even when we are sitting still. In contrast, excessive punishing aerobic regimes can overly stress the body, increasing cortisol with negative rather than positive results.
So, whether you are starting exercise from scratch or already hitting the gym for an hour a day, maybe it’s worth giving yoga a try after all.
Check out this link for a list of yoga lessons you can do from the safety of your own home! But for the social benefits, nothing beats a real-life class with a great instructor.