Yoga is a great way to relax, but did you know you can also get other health benefits from practicing? From flexibility to weight loss, yoga can help you get a low-impact jump-start on your health.
Learn four ways implementing yoga into your current workout benefits your health.
Flexibility – If you think you’re too old, unfit or inflexible for yoga, think again. There are hundreds of poses, moves and types of yoga for any age that will help you safely stretch your muscles and improve flexibility. The stretching motion helps release lactic acid, a hormone that builds up in your muscles and causes stiffness, tension and pain. Yoga not only makes you more flexible in a short time (in a recent study, participants reported improvement in flexibility after only two months of regular yoga workouts), it also improves your range of motion, making other workouts – like running or aerobic exercise – easier and safer.
Strength – Yoga isn’t lifting weights or working on machines, but you can still strengthen and tone your muscles with minimal impact. Many poses – like downward dog and plank – build your upper-body strength, while standing poses strengthen your hamstrings and quads. No matter what poses you practice or what type of yoga you do, they will all help you build your core strength in your abdominal muscles, which help you stand up straighter and taller. If you want to bump your yoga strength training to another level, try power yoga, a more vigorous type that helps improve muscle tone. Strong muscles lead to less chance of injury and more calorie-burning power when you’re doing more vigorous exercises.
Stress – There is a reason people tell you to take a deep breath when you’re angry! Deep breathing stimulates a relaxation response that counteracts the adrenaline boost of stress, and deep breathing is one of the foundations of yoga. Some types of yoga include meditation, which helps you quiet your mind, while others have been shown to lower hormones associated with stress response as well as boosting the hormone oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes your body. Additionally, when you’re practicing deep breathing regularly (like during weekly yoga sessions) your lung capacity improves, helping you have more endurance and better sports performance. This can be a great thing for long-distance runners or swimmers, especially to calm nerves before a race.
Weight Loss – While it’s difficult (and unadvised) to use a one-size-fits-all yoga plan to drop weight quickly, yoga can help you lose the last few pounds and stay slim.
Although you won’t have major calorie burn while doing yoga (a 150 lb person doing an hour of yoga burns about 150 calories, but can burn twice that much walking for the same length of time on a treadmill), studies have found that some weight loss – and more importantly, no weight gain is possible while practicing yoga. Medical professionals note that yoga creates a better mind-body balance, and weight loss and lack of weight gain may occur due to a change in thinking about food and lifestyle. Yoga also helps you breathe more deeply, allowing your body to burn more calories.
Ken Campbell has written health related articles for over two decades. When he’s not writing, you can find Ken reviewing off ice hockey conditioning products from companies like Ultraslide.