Yoga has gained immense popularity over the years, and there's no surprise why. Ask most practitioners, and they'll affirm that yoga is more than a typical exercise. Not only does it provide you with a highly effective workout without complex machines and wear and tear on your muscles and joints, but it also promotes harmony between your brain and body. Whether you're looking to sculpt a specific physique or searching for peace and tranquility, yoga is beneficial all around. Not many exercises can offer both wellness of the body and mind, but yoga is diverse and powerful, despite its simplicity.
While some may feel inclined to write-off yoga as just another health fad that will fade into oblivion given time, Yoga Teacher and Fitness Coach, Jolene Cherry, assures you this is not the case whatsoever. In this article, we review Ms. Cherry's list of mind and body benefits readily available to those willing to commit to regular practice.
Have you ever seen a dancer kick their foot straight into the air, their leg nearly touching their ear, and wonder how they could do such a thing? Flexibility allows your body to flow like it was designed to. Unfortunately, many find it hard to reach their toes, so the idea of doing a high-kick or twisting themselves into a pretzel-like shape seems far out of reach, if not impossible. However, with regular yoga practice, improved flexibility becomes a reality. Over time, you'll notice your body begin to loosen and find your body naturally sliding into poses that were once entirely out of reach.
Flexibility does more than allow you to position your body in tricky poses. As stated earlier, your body was designed to flow, but without proper exercise and movement, it becomes stiff. For many, sitting at a desk five days a week for 40 hours is the primary culprit. A rigid body is a strained body. Tight hips, for example, can prevent you from proper alignment and cause damage to your knees. Back pain is also a common side effect of tightness, poor posture, and lack of movement. According to Jolene Cherry, yoga is a remedy for all of the above. As it helps loosen your body, it can provide relief for aching joints, and improve your alignment as well as posture in the process.
Improved Bone Health
Workouts that involve weight lifting are proven to be beneficial to your bone health by increasing your bone strength and helping protect yours from physical ailments such as osteoporosis. Conversely, you might envision a yoga mat and wonder how a peaceful yoga flow can improve bone health or compare in any way to a workout with dumbbells. It's simple. While practicing yoga, several poses you encounter will require you to physically lift your own body, meaning you must carry your weight. Sound easy? Even the most skilled weightlifters may struggle to properly balance and utilize their body weight in more advanced yoga poses. Even if you don't invert yourself fully into a handstand, poses like the crane and downward-facing dog strengthen the bones in your arms.
Less Stress, More Happiness
Yoga isn't only an exercise for the body; it's an exercise for the mind. It involves a lot of deep breathing and focus, which can help center you and quiet a busy mind. During certain yoga poses, you'll be encouraged to set your intentions for the day, be mindful of your mental health, and be grateful to yourself for showing up and doing something good for your body and mind. As a result, your ability to concentrate will improve and even carry over into other aspects of your life, such as work. Yoga is also believed to help with symptoms of depression since it increases serotonin levels, which can help boost your overall mood and increase feelings of happiness and positivity.
Better Blood Flow
If you have a job that requires you to sit for large portions of the day, you might struggle with poor circulation and blood flow. The good news is, yoga can yet again help. Yoga gets your body moving and your heart pumping without causing massive amounts of exertion. The diverse array of poses, especially inverted ones that elevate your legs, can promote healthy blood flow between your lower body and your heart. Regular yoga practice has also been proven to increase the amount of oxygen in your blood and boost levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells. As such, practicing yoga daily, or at least weekly could significantly reduce your risk of blood clots, which will decrease your chances of heart attack and stroke.
Increased Muscle Strength and Tone
Yoga is a full-body workout. It doesn't require you to run around or deadlift weights, but don't underestimate its ability to help you lose weight, tone your body, and increase your muscle strength. With regular practice, you can define your arms as well as your abs, and tighten your thighs. Not only will this boost your confidence during swimsuit season, but it will also help protect yours from conditions such as arthritis and back pain, which are often the result of weak muscles.
Improved Respiration and Increased Energy
Mindfulness of your breathing is one of yoga's core components. With many transitions (switching from one pose to another), you move on the inhale or exhale and concentrate on deep breathing as you feel your lungs expand. By practicing yoga flows consistently, you'll experience improved respiration and gain some excellent breathing techniques that can help alleviate stress. This is especially helpful if you're naturally a shallow breather. Yoga poses also help raise your cortisol levels, which, when low, can leave you feeling groggy and worn out.
Based on Jolene Cherry's professional experience, in most cases, a balanced and diverse active lifestyle coupled with proper nutrition is the ideal structure in the pursuit of health and wellbeing. However, if you only have the time and resources to focus on a single exercise routine, consider yoga. It's fun, rewarding, easy to learn, perfect for beginners, and you can do it at a studio or home. With dedication, persistence, and regular practice, you can truly achieve life-changing benefits, be healthier, happier, and push yourself beyond your previous physical limitations.
About Jolene Cherry: Jolene Cherry is a certified and experienced yoga instructor and personal trainer based in Portland, Oregon. She has always been interested in fitness, meditation, and nutrition and decided to help others reach their desired levels of physical fitness. Her international training and experience, ranging from Hawaii to Thailand, along with her nurturing one-on-one sessions have helped propel her to a prominent personal trainer and yoga instructor in the Pacific Northwest. She excels in a variety of yoga styles, especially Vinyasa Yoga, traditional Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga, as well as meditation-oriented Yin Yoga.
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