The benefits of yoga
Hands up if you’d like to improve your flexibility, increase your muscle strength and tone and, while you’re at it, feel a little less stressed? Well, believe it or not, you can reap all of these benefits and more from one simple practice. Ever heard of a little thing called yoga?
Chances are you’re familiar with this popular practice but you may not be aware of the multiple benefits it has to offer. Lucky for you, personal trainer and yoga instructor Emily Mou filled us in! Read on to find out how to do yoga as a beginner, some of the key benefits and why it might be worth adding this exercise to your routine. Downward dog, anyone?
“Not only does yoga benefit your body but it hugely benefits your mind and your health too. There are so many amazing things you can achieve through yoga but here are a few of the key benefits and the reason why I started practising.
What are the benefits of yoga?
During your first few classes, you probably won’t be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend! But if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening and, eventually, things you never thought were possible suddenly are! You’ll also notice that aches and pains lessen over time.
Improves posture and protects the spine
Your spine craves movement - it’s the only way it gets its nutrients and stays supple. Good posture is all about being aware of your body. A regular yoga practice brings increased awareness to your thoughts, feelings and body.
Maintaining good posture throughout the day, such as keeping a straight spine, square shoulders, chin up, chest out and the core engaged – requires a strong spine and engaged core. Regularly practicing yoga poses like sphinx, cobra, locust and boat strengthen core muscles and will improve your posture over time.
Tight chest and hip flexor muscles pull the body forward, forcing the spine into flexion. Yoga poses that focus on spinal and hip extension, like upward facing dog and low lunge, open the front body and counter slouching.
Yoga is known for its ability to ease stress and promote relaxation. Multiple studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone.
Promotes better breathing
Breathing techniques are a very important aspect of yoga. Your breath is intimately linked to the state of your mind. For example, when your mind is happy and clear, your breath is long and easy; when your mind is bombarded with anxious thoughts your breath becomes shorter and shallower. When you work consciously with your breath, as you do with yoga breathing techniques, you automatically create an environment inside yourself that is conducive to clear thinking. Your breath is your most powerful and effective tool for clearing your mind in a short amount of time.
Aids relaxation and focus
The tensing and relaxation of muscles during yoga, along with mindful awareness of physical sensations, helps us relax.
Practised in the right way, yoga can be as soothing as a hug or a massage when it comes to reducing tension and relaxing the physical body. Certain postures have a deeply calming effect on the whole system, particularly forward bends and inversions.
Concentration and focus are improved by calming the mind and getting rid of distracting thoughts.
Yoga Q&A with Emily Mou
How has yoga benefited your life?
My yoga practice shows me a glimpse of the joyful and free person I can be. It’s showed me that I can accomplish things I never thought I could. It shows me possibility and gives me hope.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about yoga that helps me to live a better life, but I know now that I couldn’t live without it.
There’s a misconception that yoga changes you into someone better than you were before but, the reality is that it just helps you to become the best version of who you already are.
Who would you recommend yoga to?
Everyone! There is no one that can’t benefit from yoga. I’ve had children as young as 3 years old to adults in their 70’s through the doors of my studio, as well as complete beginners, fellow instructors and even those who take on yoga as part of their post injury recovery.
Yoga is not just about the physical body. It’s a union of mind, body and spirit. It is so diverse and absolutely anyone can join a yoga class.
What do you need for a yoga class?
I would check before booking into any yoga class to see what equipment they have. Typically, the majority of studios have their own equipment which you can use. Some people prefer to bring their own mat for hygiene reasons.
My advice to anyone going to a yoga class is take a bottle of water with you, wear something suitable and comfortable and leave your ego at the door! Also allow your mind to switch off and try to relax as much as possible!
Can you do yoga at home?
You can do yoga at home, but there can be distractions. If you do practice yoga at home, find a nice, calming space in your house, try and minimise any possible distractions, put on some relaxing music and tell whoever you live with to allow you your 30 minutes or however long you wish to be alone or perhaps ask them to practice with you!
There are so many videos/ tutorials you can follow but be careful and choose wisely. Not everything you see online is correct. Do your research and make sure you’re getting your information from a credible source.”
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