Yoga can be an untapped treasure trove of health, fitness and wellbeing for exercise beginners and seasoned athletes alike. Workout fads come and go, but the ancient practice of yoga (it’s over 5,000 years old) has stood the test of time, thanks to the multitude of benefits it offers and the fact that it can be practised by almost anyone.
To celebrate International Yoga Day, which takes place on 21st June, we’ve taken a look at the top 5 reasons you should incorporate yoga into your routine.
1. There’s a type of yoga for absolutely everyone
Think yoga isn't for you? Think again. There are over 100 different types of yoga practised around the world, so you're bound to find one that suits you. Some of the most popular types include:
Hatha - This is the form most beginners start with. Combining a series of movements with regulated breathing, it’s a way to tone up, improve your balance and practise well-being.
Vinyasa - This form of yoga is slightly more vigorous and requires you to synchronise your breathing with a progressive series of poses. You need to stay alert and focused to keep up with the flow of the practice — you haven't got time for your mind to wander!
Power - Power yoga can be practised by those with a little more yoga experience, and is a great way to build muscle and increase strength. In power yoga classes, you’ll find intense flowing yoga with a minimal amount of chanting and meditation. Get ready to work up a sweat!
Ashtanga - This yoga combines a series of poses that flow smoothly into one another to form a routine. It’s great for realigning your spine, building strength and detoxifying the body.
Iyengar - More advanced than other forms of yoga, Iyengar uses props, like blocks, straps and chairs to help you align your body properly.
Bikram - Also known as “hot yoga”, Bikram yoga is a series of 26 advanced yoga poses that are performed in a heated room.
These are just a few of the most popular types of yoga, but there are even more to choose from. No matter what your goal or fitness level, you’ll find something that perfectly suits you.
2. When it comes to yoga, age really is just a number
There is no upper age limit when it comes to practising yoga. In fact, it’s actively encouraged amongst older generations because it offers a multitude of health benefits, such as increased lung capacity, improvements to your immune system, lowered blood pressure and lowered cholesterol.
On top of this, people over 50 can practise yoga to help improve their balance and core strength. The number of older people being taken to hospital due to falls is set to increase to over 1,000 a day by 2020, so increasing balance and core strength in your 50s and 60s through yoga is a great way to avoid this and stay fit and healthy well into your older years.
3. It can help you lose weight
Yoga can help lose weight, but not in the way you might expect.
It’s true that some forms of yoga burn fewer calories than other forms of exercise (like jogging or cycling), but practising yoga can increase your mindfulness and the way you relate to your own body. This, in turn, can lead to a reduction in stress eating and improvement in your confidence. When combined with nutrition guidance, yoga can be a highly effective way to aid weight loss as you’ll be more in touch with your own mind and body.
4. The mental and physiological benefits are huge
A study by the University of Utah found that when compared to a group of healthy individuals who do not practise yoga, yoga practitioners have a higher pain tolerance. The results show that regularly practising yoga can help a person regulate their stress levels and, as a result, their pain responses.
For many people who are dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, yoga is a great way to help manage their symptoms. Scientific studies of yoga have shown that mental and physical health are completely aligned, so yoga is a low-risk, high-yield way to improve overall health.
5. It can give you an edge over the competition
Strength, balance, power and agility are four key areas in which athletes need to be proficient. They can all be improved simply by practising yoga each day.
Power, strength and speed are related to proper body mechanics: when your body is properly aligned, you can use less energy to generate the same amount of power, leading to a better performance across the board.
Yoga can also increase respiratory capacity, which is invaluable to athletes. It can dramatically increase circulation, digestion and efficiency of movement, which adds to your energy and endurance during games or races. It can decrease the risk of sport-related injuries in both training and competition, leading to better overall performance.
The key to starting yoga is finding a style that suits your fitness levels and lifestyle. Trust your body and don’t push yourself too far at first (it takes a lot of practice to be able to do some of the more Instagram-worthy poses!). With consistent practice, you’ll begin to see both your health and wellbeing improve, no matter what your current level of fitness is.
For more information about how exercise can help in your day-to-day life, check out why exercise could be key to your business success, or how you can smash your fitness goals by forming habits.