By Suzanne Orfali
I think a common misconception is that yoga is just a meditative practice or is limited to those that are flexible. In reality, yoga works on many different levels. It offers your mind and body a great workout and unlike other forms of physical activity, it can be done anywhere.
Physiologically, yoga has a profound effect on your overall body strength. Downward and upward dog build vital muscles in the arms and shoulders. The plank does likewise for the core. Eagle strengthens leg muscles and the lower back, stretches your shoulders and, opens your hips! Eagle is actually a good example of how one pose can be beneficial on so many levels, as it strengthens, ‘opens’ and stretches more than one area of the body. As yoga works with your own body’s resistance and gravity, it does not put too much stress on any one specific muscle group.
People often say that they are not flexible enough to do yoga, or mistakenly think that flexibility is a goal or requirement of yoga. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how inflexible you are, as you work with your own body’s limits. Unlike weight training, yoga builds muscles without causing tightness to the muscle tissue. It is through your yoga practice, that your flexibility improves. Yoga also stretches other soft tissue in the body such as ligaments and tendons, increasing the range of motion in the joints and allowing you to move around more freely.
Practicing yoga enables you to strengthen key core muscles, become more flexible and improve your overall body muscle tone and strength. This directly benefits your posture enabling your abdominals and back muscles to fully support your weight so you can sit and stand tall. Finally, another great physiological benefit is that yoga helps increase bone density. In the long run that reduces your chances of developing osteoporosis.
Yoga is great for your vitals. When you practice yoga regularly, your lung capacity increases as a result of the deep breathing process used in the practice. This aids other sports and also increases your stamina and endurance. During yoga, the class instructor may take you through various phases of endurance. My classes tend to typically follow the following format (1) warm up (2) strength building and cardio to get the blood moving! (3) slowing down the flow and opening areas of tension in the body (4) final relaxation. The meditative and calming yoga asanas lower students’ heart rates. This in turn reduces blood pressure and medically, this has also been linked to improving the immune system and lowering cholesterol.
Yoga is great for the mind as it helps manage and lower stress and improves your mood. Stress has numerous negative effects and one of these is weight gain. Being overweight can be a sign that there are imbalances in your everyday life and a major contributor to weight gain is excess stress. Practicing yoga enables you to bring a deep sense of relaxation to your body and your mind, helping you to de-stress and in turn enabling natural weight loss.
Some yoga methods use specific meditation techniques to focus the mind on your breathing which in turn quietens the constant ‘mind chatter’. Numerous studies have pinpointed that even 5 minutes of these simple meditative rituals can contribute to alleviating stress and enabling you to feel relaxed. Practicing yoga can boost oxygen levels to the brain, leaving you feeling happier and more content with everyday life.
Various exercises, such as squash, running, or playing football often involve a series of rapid, forceful movements, which means that effort is at a maximum and there is a higher risk of injury and increased muscle tension. Often, strenuous exercise engages an imbalance of opposing muscle groups whereas yoga concentrates on balancing this activity and uniting your body and mind. It is rare to hear of yoga related injuries, but quite common to hear of sporting related injuries. The result of practicing yoga is an injury free, and healthier you.
A very big thanks to Suzanne Orfali for joining us.
Are you concerned about the health risks associated with your sedentary job?
Ask your employer for Yoga at Work! Please see the website for more details www.yawlondon.com or contact at Suzanne@yawlondon.com.