Yoga has been around since as early as 3,000 BCE in India but it’s only in recent years that this tradition has made its way into other parts of the world. Considering the amazing benefits yoga has on the mind, body and spirit it’s really no surprise that it’s spread like wildfire across the west.
In this piece I’m going to focus on the physical benefits yoga can have on the body (we’ll get to the mental and spiritual ones later). If I were to give a complete list of yoga’s advantages we’d be here all year so, for today, I’m just sticking to five. Please feel free to share your feedback and thoughts below
I often hear people say, "Yoga isn't for me - I can't even touch my toes". It's like saying, "Bathing isn't for me - I'm really quite dirty"!
Most yoga poses work to lengthen and stretch some area of the body. Whether it's dynamically moving through poses in a sun salutation or holding postures for 3-5 minutes in a yin yoga class, practicing yoga regularly will increase your flexibility.
So rather than using your tight hamstrings as an excuse not to go, make it your reason to get to class!
While many people may think of yoga as airy fairy flailing and stretching, anyone who's actually been to a yoga class knows how strong and challenging some of the poses can be. There's no denying that 30 seconds in a plank position can feel like an agonising 30 minutes!
As much as yoga poses lengthen and stretch muscles, they work to tone and strengthen them too. There's no denying a regular practitioner's chaturanga arms and yoga butt
The more you practice the more you'll find you can hold balancing poses easier and for longer periods of time.
All that time spent in class teetering on one foot and wobbling on your head slowly accumulates and builds up to develop a really strong sense of balance, both outer and inner (but we'll come to that in another article).
The lymphatic system is a circulatory system within your body that, along with lots of other important functions, filters the blood and transports lymphocytes (white blood cells) around the body to fight infection.
Unlike the circulatory system we all know (the one that transports our blood using arteries and veins) the lymphatic system doesn't have a pump so it relies solely on our physical movement to get the lymph (the fluid of the lymphatic system) where it needs to go.
Yoga poses, inverted ones in particular, are fantastic for getting things moving and flowing around the body. So next time you're in class, don't be afraid to get upside down - even if it's just lying on your back and putting your legs up against the wall
A huge part of any yoga class involves working with the breath. In both vinyasa and ashtanga yoga, movements are coordinated with your inhales and exhales and, even if you aren't practicing these styles, time will always be given to observing and lengthening the breath at the start of class. Some teachers even incorporate pranayama (breath exercises) into their classes.
With a regular yoga practice comes improved respiration and healthy lungs helping to get the oxygen you need into the blood and where it's needed around the body.