Why You Should Practice Yoga

practice yoga

When you practice yoga, you gain a sense of your own strength and worth. Whether you’re flowing through Vinyasa flow or focusing on breathing techniques, even a 10 minute yoga practice can help you feel better.

Unlike other types of exercise, yoga has a mental dimension that sets it apart from other forms of physical training. This unique element is why so many people find peace in a pose or meditating on their breath.

Increased Flexibility

When kids are young, they’re like little contortionists, able to stretch and twist their bodies in all sorts of strange ways. That flexibility, unfortunately, starts to fade with age, prolonged sitting (thanks, desk jobs), poor posture, and stress.

Regular yoga practice promotes flexibility and increases the elasticity of healthy muscle fiber. The practice also encourages flexibility within the limits of the individual’s personal anatomy.

Many poses help increase flexibility, including the plow pose (upavistha namaskara) which improves shoulder and spine mobility, and the happy baby pose (supta pigeon) which strengthens and stretches the hips, iliotibial band and piriformis muscles. In addition, even and deep breathing enhances flexibility by introducing oxygen to the muscles. This helps relax and loosen them, making it easier to move into a stretching pose.

Lower Blood Pressure

Any exercise that elevates your heart rate over a sustained period is beneficial to overall cardiovascular health, and yoga is no exception. Studies suggest that yoga can decrease high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and strokes.

In one study, participants with mild to moderate hypertension who took hourlong yoga classes three times per week for three months experienced a drop in their systolic blood pressure. They also saw their diastolic blood pressure decline.

The reason for the lower blood pressure relates to yoga’s slow deep breathing, which increases the sensitivity of the baroreceptors in the body that regulate blood pressure. The low-stress lifestyle that yoga encourages may also contribute to the lower pressure. However, people with high blood pressure should consult their doctors before taking up yoga.

Increased Immunity

The immune system is the body’s defence mechanism that protects us from infections and diseases. The innate and adaptive subsystems of the immune system work to remove harmful germs and bacteria, as well as to develop antibodies against specific pathogens that we encounter.

A study has found that yoga has a buffering effect on the stress-induced decrease in cell-mediated immunity. It does this by its ameliorating action on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to create an optimized secretion of cortisol, thus maintaining balance in the sympathetic and parasympathetic limbs in the presence of a stressor.

While holing up at home may seem the safest option during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s important to get out and do some physical activity to keep your body strong. Fortunately, yoga is one of the best ways to do just that.

Stress Relief

Yoga teaches you to take slow, deep breaths that calm the body’s levels of cortisol and supply the brain with more oxygen. This helps you to feel centered and focused, which can help you deal with life’s ups and downs.

Yoga’s twisting, inverting and back bending poses encourage the body to spend more time in the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and less in the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). This is good for the immune system, which can help your body fight off stress and illness.

Child’s pose, a calming pose that stretches the muscles in your back, can relieve tension and stress and increase your sense of serenity. It can also improve your mood and lower your blood pressure. This is because it stretches the spine and releases feel-good endorphins.

Better Sleep

Studies show that long-term yoga practice can improve sleep quality and reduce stress. Whether you’re suffering from insomnia, a chronic condition like high blood pressure or simply need to wind down before bedtime, yoga can help you sleep better.

Unlike energizing sun salutations and other high-energy workouts, gentle nighttime yoga can lower your stress levels and prepare your body for restful sleep. And, because the practice is low-impact, it’s great for people with physical limitations or health issues.

Try a simple pose like Viparita Karani, which combines a backbend with a relaxing inversion. Lie on your bed with your back against the wall and lift your legs up and away from the floor, keeping your feet close to the wall and your sitting bones lifted.