Yoga poses help shape long, lean muscles in the legs, arms, back and core. The stretches and poses also provide an excellent cardiovascular workout, increasing your heart rate.
For example, Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana) strengthens the thighs and upper body while stretching the back and lower body. Another exercise is Downward-Facing Dog, which builds strength in the back and hamstrings while improving balance.
Whether your muscles are tight from aging, stress or poor posture, doing yoga exercises can help you boost flexibility. Regularly stretching your body with poses like staff pose can help stretch and strengthen muscles. This helps improve flexibility and balance, which can prevent injuries.
In fact, a recent study found that athletes who practiced yoga regularly outperformed those who didn’t on flexibility and balance tests. The researchers suspect that the improvement in those two measures may be a result of whole-body changes rather than a focus on specific components of fitness.
And it’s important to remember that flexibility is only part of the yoga picture. Many people have the wrong idea about yoga, thinking that it’s reserved for incredibly bendy folks who can touch their nose to their knees. But the truth is that you don’t need to be flexible to start. It’s possible to get the benefits of yoga if you ease into it gradually and listen to your body.
Studies show that yoga reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, improves mental flexibility and increases concentration. Yoga also promotes calmness and encourages a healthy attitude toward life.
The slow — and often deep — breathing techniques used in yoga can help lower your heart rate, which can decrease blood pressure and ease anxiety levels. Yoga’s emphasis on mindfulness, a state of conscious awareness and acceptance of your current experience, can be helpful in reducing stress, as well.
For those with physical limitations, yoga exercises that do not increase your heart rate into the aerobic range, such as yin yoga, chair yoga or restorative yoga, can be beneficial. In addition to practicing yoga, it’s important to manage your overall health and wellness with healthy eating habits and regular exercise. If you need additional support managing your stress, consider talking to a licensed mental health professional. BetterHelp can connect you with qualified therapists. Click the button below to get started.
Yoga for breathing improves the respiratory muscles and enhances lung capacity. A yoga practice that involves various poses that engage the back, thigh and stomach muscles can strengthen them, correct bad habits and increase oxygenation.
A simple yoga breathing exercise called Nadi Shodhana can calm an overworked nervous system and improve your breathing by lengthening the exhalation and pausing at the end of it. This can help you breathe more deeply, which can improve your overall health and aid in recovery from conditions like COPD.
The Cooling Breath, also known as Shitkari Kumbhaka, is a simple yoga breath intended to reduce pitta energy in the body by contracting the abdomen and ribs while you breathe out. This can improve your breathing by making it easier to inhale, but is not recommended if you suffer from chronic constipation or have asthma. This exercise can also be a challenge for beginners and is not recommended for pregnant women.
Yoga, as an aerobic exercise, burns calories and can help maintain a healthy weight. But it is important to remember that the benefits of yoga go far beyond the numbers on a scale. It improves strength and flexibility, as well as mental health and mindfulness. It also helps reduce stress, which often leads to binge eating and other unhealthy behaviors.
When combined with a healthy diet, yoga can be an effective tool for weight management. One study published in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine followed patients with abdominal obesity and found that those who practiced yoga experienced a reduction in their waist-to-hip ratio, body weight and body fat percentage.
Try a pose like Chaturanga, which strengthens your abs and triceps. Start in a wide straddle with your right foot to 90 degrees and your left foot to roughly 45 degrees, then bend at the hips to lower your torso over your left leg. Repeat this sequence a few times to build your endurance.