We might have just begun to embrace yoga here in the western world, but the practice has been around since ancient times. The earliest proof of yoga’s practice dates back more than 5,000 years to an ancient civilization in India. There, archeologists discovered soapstone carvings of common yoga poses.
Many years later the trend of yoga made it to North America, where it is now recognized for providing a myriad of physical and even mental health benefits. Why is yoga so popular? Perhaps it is because the benefits of yoga can reach far into other areas of our lives. Even for basketball players, football players, elderly, and young children, yoga has the potential to improve skills beyond what a normal workout can do.
Yoga is an athletic exercise that actually encourages relaxation. Through controlled breathing exercises and precise muscle movements, your body relaxes while producing cortisol – a stress-relieving hormone. After one yoga session, participants had lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, improved digestion, and a more active immune system. Emotional symptoms were also noted to have improved. Those with anxiety, depression, or fatigue often report improvements after practicing yoga.
Flexibility, strength, and balance
Not only is yoga great for stretching and flexibility, but you’ll also notice improvements in balance. In yoga, you’ll go through a series of poses that test the limits of your flexibility and balance. You’ll use every muscle group while simultaneously training them to become more flexible and coordinated.
In aging adults and athletes, flexibility and balance are extremely important. It’s why we often see football teams and senior citizens participating in yoga and joining in on classes.
Through yoga, your entire muscular system will become stronger and more elastic, making you more resistant to injuries. No doubt it becomes a benefit on the field or even in everyday life.
Yoga uses only your own body weight to build mass and strength. When you consider how many free-weights you might typically use at home or in the gym to bench press your own body weight, you can see how using your own body to perform exercises can certainly have its benefit. Many individuals who work with personal trainers at the gym note that yoga is an opportunity for them to exercise and tone hard-to-reach muscles that they can’t otherwise access. Because yoga is a complete body workout, you’ll walk away from each session feeling balanced.
Test your limits
I once heard someone say that yoga is about learning to breathe through the pain. Once you’ve practiced, even just once, you realize the truth in that statement. Through yoga, you test your physical limits with stretches and positions that challenge each muscle group, all while controlling your inhales and exhales. Even your mental limits are tested as you consider releasing into a more relaxed pose. Each time, you have the opportunity to walk away with a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that you have somehow improved yourself through yoga.
Since its inception over 5,000 years ago, yoga has developed and branched out in many ways. You’ll find certain types of yoga to be more strenuous on muscles while other types of yoga focus on breathing and relaxation. Modifications can also be made to accommodate those who wish to focus more on toning, stretching, or healing injuries. Resistance bands are often used to promote flexibility and strength. Yoga can be practiced anywhere at any time: in your home gym, at the park, at a studio, even while watching TV. All you need is the basic equipment and a guide.
Check out the video below to learn how to get started with your own yoga practice: