yoga body

What is yoga for, how does it help you and your body?

By James Oakley

yoga body

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility, and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. The main components of yoga are postures (a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility) and breathing.

Plus, studies have shown that yoga can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, which in turn can improve your overall health.

Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, it's easy to squeeze in just 15 minutes of yoga practice a day. 

16 benefits of yoga and why it’s worth practising

1. Yoga improves flexibility and mobility

You don't have to be super flexible to practice yoga, the beauty of yoga is that it can be practised at all levels of ability. A few minutes a day practising poses like the warrior or the downward facing dog will soon make you feel the difference in your flexibility, whether you're pretty bendy already or not.

2. Yoga builds strength

When thinking of improving your fitness, most of us think of huffing and puffing away at the gym. But weights are not the only way to work out. Daily yoga practice will help stretch and tone your body muscles. Popular poses like the plank simultaneously work on strengthening your arms, legs, shoulders, and abs.

3. Yoga corrects posture

Daily yoga helps improve your posture, making you walk taller and sit up straighter at your desk. Aches and pains caused by incorrect body posture such as back pain can also be alleviated.

4. Yoga improves all-round fitness

Yoga gives you all that a gym can, but in a peaceful, safe, and more holistic way. It combines aspects of cardio, functional, and strength training all in one. What more could you ask for? The best part about this workout is that it can be done at your own pace, in your own home.

5. Yoga helps weight loss

You don't have to practice Hot Yoga or be able to bend double in a yoga pose to lose weight. An everyday gentle yoga practises will fuel the metabolic system and will help burn fat, leading to weight loss. Daily yoga can also help restore the hormonal balance in your body, which can normalise your body weight.

6. Yoga cultivates self-awareness

Levels of cortisol, the hormone that is released in response to stress will be lowered, leading to less overeating. Daily yoga also strengthens the overall mind-body connection and helps you deal more effectively with unpleasant emotions rather than reaching for food to suppress those feelings.

7. Yoga increases your energy

Just a few minutes of yoga every day will provide that much-needed energy boost in our busy lives and will keep us fresh for longer. Yoga, with its unique synergy of body and breathwork, is perfect when your reserves are running low.

Daily yoga practice will awaken the main energy centres (called chakras) in your body. Great poses for extra energy are those that extend the spine, such as the tree pose, allowing energy to circulate throughout the whole body and poses that open the chest, like the cobra pose, encouraging the intake of more breath.

8. Yoga reduces stress

Many workplaces now offer lunch-time yoga sessions because it's been shown that yoga is an amazing stress buster. Any yoga practice, even a short daily one, should be made up of three elements; poses, breathing and meditation.

Studies have shown that those people who regularly practice all three elements are better able to regulate their heart-rate variability (HRV). This generally means that their heart rate is lower, giving the body the ability to respond to stress in a more flexible way.

9. Yoga improves sleep

Are you coping with so much stress that it's keeping you awake at night? Studies have shown that practising daily yoga can reduce insomnia.

When experiencing insomnia, practise relaxing asanas or postures, such as forward fold (uttanasana) or lying on your back with your feet up the wall.

Relaxing yoga poses such as the forward fold or lying on your back with your feet up the wall can calm both your body and mind.

10. Yoga helps you breathe deeper

Breathing deeply and calmly is an essential part of every yoga practice. Yogic breathing techniques (called pranayama) focus on trying to slow down the breath and on breathing fully from the pit of your stomach to the top of your lungs.

These methods will make you feel more relaxed and balanced and will help you face the day with confidence and calm. They also have some great side benefits including increased lung capacity and more tidal volume (the total amount of air your lungs can hold at any one time).

You can adopt these techniques whenever needed in daily life. They can help you stay calm in emergencies, think clearer in stressful situations and they can help reduce pain.

11. Yoga supports your immune system

Yoga helps lower the levels of stress hormones in your body and calms the nervous system, A recent study revealed that a regular practice decreases chronic inflammation in the body by lowering the level of pro-inflammatory markers, such as cytokines.

12. Yoga improves your mood

Another recent study has shown that practising regular yoga and meditation results in higher serotonin levels (the happiness hormone). The same study showed that long-term yoga practitioners have more mass in the areas of the brain associated with contentment.

Another study has shown that the brain's gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels are higher after practising yoga. Higher GABA levels are associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety.

To put it simply, just 15 minutes of yoga a day can start changing your brain chemistry and improving your mood.

13. Become more mindful with yoga

Yoga and mindfulness go hand-in-hand. When practising yoga, you will shift your awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany a given pose. That awareness will bring the mind back to the present moment – the main aim of mindfulness - where it can stay happy and focused.

Practising mindfulness has lasting physical and psychological benefits that are very much in line with the benefits of yoga. You will feel more calm and relaxed, and less stressed and anxious. You will experience higher levels of energy and enthusiasm and more self-confidence and self-acceptance.

14. Yoga improves concentration

Yoga poses and meditation require you to concentrate on your breathing. This process of observing your breath calms your mind and makes you more mentally relaxed. As a result of this mental stability, you'll be able to recollect and retain more information. Meditating for just a few minutes in the morning can result in better concentration throughout the day.

15. Think clearer with yoga

By reducing mental stress and physical tension, we can recall easier and have more organised thoughts. Improved cognitive function happens when we can clear our minds and refresh them.

From a place of peace and calm, we can use our mental facilities more efficiently. Overall, by reducing mental stress and physical tension through daily yoga, you'll be able to think sharper and have more organised thoughts.

16. Live longer with yoga

As you now know, everyday yoga will help you increase your level of fitness, regulate your heart rate, reduce your stress levels, and make you a happier person. All those elements may add valuable years to your life.

 

How to get started with yoga

If you’re looking for a little ‘me time’ and to indulge in all the benefits of yoga, we recommend starting your yoga journey with our Paws X- Enhanced Grip Longer and Wider Yoga Mat. With our unique and innovative Grip Technology, our mat will be the perfect base for absorbing your sweat busting moves, and support you both physically and mentally.

To get your paws on more information you can read our guides to beginning yoga blogs; Open Letter To A Beginner Yogi and TIPS FOR A BEGINNER YOGI: HOW TO START YOGA (Spoiler you already have).

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