Does Yoga work or is it just an excuse to buy really comfortable pants that are a step up from sweats? The absolute, scientific, honest answer? Hell yeah, it works.
More and more studies are hitting the presses describing the surprising benefits of practicing Yoga. And let’s just underscore the word, Practice. Because Yoga is about the journey, not finishing the race. Which kinda takes the pressure off.
There are many different types of Yoga but this is about the power of practicing Yoga and the benefits it brings regardless of what style(s) you choose.
This photo was posted on Facebook by Heather O’Hara. This is a photo of her grandmother before and after she started practicing yoga. The photos were taken less than one year apart. Her teacher is Rachel Jesien, a Certified Yoga Instructor specializing in Alignment, Backcare & Scoliosis in NYC.
Look at the smile on Heather’s grandmother’s face. That is a woman who is proud of herself. How did practicing Yoga improve this woman’s body?
Well Yoga has been found to do make many changes to your body. This article from Huffington Post links to study after study demonstrating how practicing Yoga positively impacts your body. From lowered stress and improved brain function immediately after a Yoga class to lower blood pressure, reduced chronic pain, and improved sexual function (sounds good) after a few months to stronger bones, lower risk of heart disease and a healthier weight after a few years of practicing Yoga.
And it’s not like Yoga is strenuous in the classical sense of exercise. This is not heavy weight lifting or an aerobics class. You will build muscle with certain poses but you will also develop better breathing techniques which can help reduce stress and anxiety while improving a whole host of other issues – even PMS!
Yoga can be good for your heart too. This article from the Harvard Heart Letter lists the potential benefits of practicing Yoga their studies are beginning to discover:
This body of work suggests that yoga may
reduce high blood pressure
improve symptoms of heart failure
enhance cardiac rehabilitation
lower cardiovascular risk factors such as cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and stress hormones
improve balance, reduce falls, ease arthritis, and improve breathing for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Even the Mayo Clinic has seen the value of practicing Yoga and describes its benefits here, listing improved fitness, stress reduction, and Yoga’s ability to aid in the management of certain chronic conditions. The Mayo Clinic does warn that certain folks should beware if they have the following conditions:
See your health care provider before you begin yoga if you have any of the following conditions or situations:
- A herniated disk
- A risk of blood clots
- Eye conditions, including glaucoma
- Pregnancy — although yoga is generally safe for pregnant women, certain poses should be avoided
- Severe balance problems
- Severe osteoporosis
- Uncontrolled blood pressure
You may be able to practice yoga in these situations if you take certain precautions, such as avoiding certain poses or stretches. If you develop symptoms, such as pain, or have concerns, see your doctor to make sure you’re getting benefit and not harm from yoga.
So, now that you know all the benefits of practicing Yoga, what type should you choose? Well that’s up to you and what physical condition you are in.
This A Beginner’s Guide to 8 Major Styles of Yoga is very helpful and lists: Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Hot Yoga, Iyengar, Restorative, and Vinyasa (descriptions at link). However, this article mentions 14 styles of Yoga and this article, here, lists 20 styles!
Most appear to be to be variations on the eight basic styles (which are really seven). The point is you will find a Yoga style that suits your needs, your body, and your abilities. So get out there, get your Yoga on.
And just so you know.
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