5 Powerful Reasons Why You Should Do More Yoga (Beyond Flexibility)
For an activity that’s the epitome of relaxation, self-love, and being gentle, yoga can be quite intimidating. How do you know if you’re supposed to do Hatha, Vinyasa, or Bikram; and what do any of those words even mean? Should you start with yoga DVDs at home, or jump right in and sign up for a class?
Ultimately, those questions are best answered by you and/or a yoga professional at your local gym or yoga studio. But undeniably, yoga is a great supplemental component to any well-rounded fitness regimen — in ways that go FAR beyond flexibility (although it helps with that, too).
If you haven’t jumped on the yoga bandwagon quite yet, here are 5 powerful reasons to give it a shot and bake it into your weekly fitness practice.
1. Yoga Can Complete Any Fitness Plan
Surely many of you go hard at the gym. But do you go hard on the mat? If you’re doing consistent cardio and weight training routines, that’s great.
But what’s your balance like? How strong are your muscles when doing basic calisthenic exercises like pushups, planks, head stands, or even handstands? Do your muscles fatigue easily? The bench press may test how strong your pectoral muscles are, but it ain’t got nothing on good, old fashioned Chaturangas (yoga ‘push-ups’).
In other words, yoga tests your body in ways that are different from traditional cardio and weight routines. The lateral and standing balance postures require using your muscles, ligaments, and tendons in entirely different ways than you’re accustomed to; often incorporating an isometric, endurance-based element. Whether you’re a marathon runner or a bodybuilder, yoga compliments any fitness plan.
2. It Can Boost Your Metabolism
Cardio and weight-training are well-known for their ability to increase metabolic rate over time. But who knew that simply standing in certain postures could possibly alter our metabolism?
In Ayurvedic medicine, the famous downward dog yoga posture reputedly supports the metabolism. By standing in this semi-inverted posture, fresh blood is drawn to the thyroid — the largest gland in your body, and the one responsible for metabolism.
I once had a sports injury where I couldn’t workout for 5 LONG weeks. My secret (other than a clean diet)? Gentle, but consistent yoga with lots of downward dogs to keep my body active and metabolism going despite a lack of physical activity.
3. If You’re a Woman, Yoga Can Help With Uterine Health
Wouldn’t we all want something to make our monthly bill less ‘expensive’? Yoga may help with many women’s health issues and symptoms. Remember that yoga doesn’t only stretch muscles and ligaments. Various postures also help stretch your internal organs and even massage the joints and bones.
Trikonasana (triangle pose) and other poses are purported to stretch the uterus, ease menstrual cramps, strengthen the pelvic floor, and improve overall uterine health. This is a much healthier PMS remedy than watching Titanic and eating Godiva chocolate.
4. It Improves Sleeping Patterns
An estimated 50-70 million US adults have some variety of sleeping disorder. There’s no doubt that many Americans are sleep deprived. Between work, school, family, relationships, and other stressors, I’m sure everyone has experienced some shade of an all-nighter recently.
When your sleep schedule is out of whack, it seems that everything else gets disrupted. You’re more hungry than usual and your performance suffers. I recommend to some of my clients (especially my night time eaters) to try yoga at night. Not only does it get you into a state of relaxation to prepare for bedtime, but some of the stretches can potentially increase melatonin levels, causing you to fall asleep faster and longer.
Taking a Savasana (final meditation) at the end of your practice is not only a great way to end your session, but can also help you sleep better that night.
5. You’ll Gain Mental Peace and Clarity
Yoga is a great way to kickstart a mental health habit.
It’s pretty typical for most health and fitness journals to focus on physical health; it’s the simplest way to measure overall health, and as a visual culture we tend to associate a healthy body with a healthy person. But your mental health is just as important as any diet and exercise regimen.
When I first started practicing yoga, I absolutely began for the physical benefits — improved flexibility and long, lean muscles. But it was actually the mental clarity and insight I gained that keep me practicing today. Whether it’s 6 minutes or sixty, take some time each day to do something good for yourself mentally and emotionally. Yoga is a great way to kickstart a mental health habit.
Whether it’s a fancy hot yoga class or simply doing sun salutations in your bedroom, yoga can be done just about anywhere for any length of time. And if you can devote the time and energy to formal instruction that’s even better.
If you’re still on the fence, there are plenty of affordable DVDs or even free online tutorials that will definitely get you into a yogi mindset. Most gyms offer free yoga classes, too. Remember that in yoga, no matter how many years you’ve been practicing, we are all beginners. Keep that in mind next time you hit the mat.
is the founder of We're Talking About Food
. Devoted to democratizing health, Taji believes that anyone CAN live a healthy lifestyle regardless of medical condition, career, budget or other secondary factors.
Besides contributing to Lean it UP, Taji has been published for her health and fitness advice in journals like Thought Catalog. Taji has been supported by numerous health and fitness companies such as Navitas Naturals
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