Improve Your Balance With Yoga

practice yoga

Like any exercise, yoga improves balance if you practice regularly. But it is important to find a class that is suitable for your abilities, and avoid pushing yourself too far.

Choose a class with a well-trained instructor who understands your physical limitations and health conditions. Also, use props (like a block or a chair) to help you access poses safely and effectively.

Improved Flexibility

When children are young, they seem like little contortionists, able to twist their bodies into strange and unnatural poses. Unfortunately, as we age and start leading more sedentary lifestyles, our flexibility decreases. Thankfully, yoga is an excellent way to improve and maintain our flexibility.

The stretches in yoga encourage the lengthening of muscles and tendons, which can ease tension and pain. It can take time to notice a difference, but keeping up with the stretches and taking advantage of the different styles of yoga (like Bikram or Yin) will help increase flexibility over time.

Practicing yoga can also help us avoid injuries, such as those to the hips and knees from tight hamstrings or the lower back from a flattened spinal column from bad posture. In addition, studies have shown that yoga can help restore “baroreceptor sensitivity,” which is a function that helps the body sense imbalances in blood pressure. This can help prevent high blood pressure.

Reduced Stress

When your body is relaxed, it’s harder for stress to get a foothold. A yoga practice that combines slow movements with deep breathing helps calm the nervous system and provides your brain with the oxygen it needs to function properly.

Studies have shown that practicing yoga decreases the secretion of cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone. It also increases your feelings of well-being and your ability to manage the things that stress you out.

The yogic emphasis on compassion and non-judgmental acceptance may contribute to these effects. It’s also important to note that yoga practices differ, so different types of yoga may have different effects on your stress. For example, Kripalu yoga places greater emphasis on techniques useful for reducing stress reactivity, while Bikram yoga stresses physical fitness and relaxation. Further research is needed to determine the mechanisms by which these different yoga styles reduce stress.

Improved Mood

Yoga’s physical demands and meditative focus calm the nervous system, which can help with moodiness. It can also improve tolerance to stress, as demonstrated in studies on blood pressure and heart rate. An overload of stress can lead to angry, self-destructive outbursts that harm relationships and wreak havoc on the body. Yoga may reduce anger by promoting feelings of compassion and interconnection. It can also calm the mind and the nervous system to increase ability to “step back from the drama,” as yogic philosophy calls it.

Research has shown that yoga can boost mood by lowering levels of stress hormones and increasing production of feel-good chemicals called endorphins. In addition, meditation practice can alter brain chemistry by elevating levels of the chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which decreases activity in the limbic system that regulates emotions. Soothe your soul and lift your spirits with a rejuvenating pose, such as Child’s Pose or King Dancer Pose. Even a short session can lower anxiety and emotional reactivity.

Better Sleep

The regular, focused breathing and meditation in yoga help promote a good night’s sleep. In a study, participants with insomnia who practiced yoga twice a week for six months showed subjective improvements in their sleep quality and quality of life (QOL) compared to a control group. In addition, their objective measures on actigraphy indicated a decreased number of arousals.

The relaxation and mental calming of yoga may also be helpful in promoting restful sleep. In fact, studies show that yoga nidra, a form of guided relaxation, is especially effective in reducing chronic insomnia and other sleep disturbances associated with menopause.

Be aware that not all types of yoga are a good fit for pre-sleep workouts, Rowland-Seymour says. Hot yoga and vinyasa styles tend to get your heart rate up and will not prepare your body for restful sleep, she adds. Instead, she recommends a slower style of yoga like hatha or yin. This will help you relax and get ready for bed.