Perhaps you have sometimes considered yoga but believe it is only for people who are flexible and healthy. What's could it do for you?
Yoga has been around for thousands of years and is steadily increasing in popularity across the UK for some very good reasons. As well as the physical benefits that are a given, they also include health benefits that people in today's society might need more than people did 5,000 years ago - stress relief!
That said, the early yoga practice was more about calming the mind rather than the more ‘recent’ physical asana practice. These ancient yogis still had to ‘get through the day.’
Too much stress is never a good thing especially if we don’t realise it may be creeping up on us. Stress releases a chemical called "cortisol" into the body. The stress hormone, cortisol, is public health enemy number one. Scientists have known for years that an elevated cortisol level interferes with learning and memory, lowers the immune function, reduces bone density, increases weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of heart disease...
Cortisol gives you an adrenaline rush to escape a "fight or flight" situations. This is your sympathetic nervous system taking control, influencing your breathing, digestion blood pressure and perspiration and so on.
These days, it’s not so much about tackling a sabre toothed tiger but more about being stuck on the M4 or in the school run.
If you're under constant stress you release too much cortisol.
What can we do about it? There are lots of things scientists and doctors recommend to help lower cortisol levels. Two primary recommendations are physical exercise and meditation. We know yoga combines both physical movement (asana) with mindfulness (dharana) to create a holistic approach to overall wellness. Practicing yoga consistently, at least twice a week, will help decrease cortisol levels.
Consider these healthy benefits:
- Lower blood pressure - Reduced stress and help with anxiety and depression - Promotes muscle relaxation (helping people sleep better) - Increases muscle strength - Improves general fitness and flexibility - Increases lung capacity - Feel-good chemicals are released from your brain - Imbalances can be balanced; repetitive stress imbalances can be straightened out.
Basically, you feel better, breathe better, stand straighter and handle stress better when you practice yoga on a regular basis. The side effects of aging can also be decreased with yoga. As we age we lose muscle strength, we are less stable on our feet and sometimes a little less sure of ourselves. Yoga works on improving balance and building strength. Yoga poses can be adjusted to make them comfortable to your body. The increased confidence on the mat can be taken into your daily living.
Yoga makes you feel younger. It is said in the wisdom of yoga that when we release muscles and the tensions they hold we feel younger.
Some specific health conditions to consider:
Women suffer through menopause: Yoga is a suggested activity to alleviate some menopausal symptoms. Practicing gentle yoga relaxes you, easing some of the changes your body is going through. At the same time, you are building strength and confidence. Since menopause is something our bodies need to go through, let's do what we can to make it easier on ourselves.
Fibromyalgia is recognized by widespread pain, often accompanied by extreme fatigue and multiple other symptoms that can be very debilitating. Yoga can help your body gently move those sore muscles. When you practice Yoga you pay more attention to your body and each part that you are working on. That 'attention' or awareness allows you to ease into positions and adjust poses or movements that are painful.
This information seems a little geared toward women, but men enjoy the health benefits of yoga just as much. The men that come into my classes look forward to a yoga class to address the aches and tightness but especially the relaxation. Some of my clients are athletes and they need the flexibility to be the best they can be in their sport. There are more men attending yoga classes these days than people think and they fully engage with the practice as they really feel the holistic benefits of a balanced asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breath control) class.
For all ages the most needed health benefit of yoga is the stress relief. An awful day of aggravations can melt away in just one yoga class. If you can allow yourself to relax and breathe, you simply stimulate your body and mind while working through poses with awareness and then you consciously relax.
Sometimes all it takes is a little lifestyle change to make you feel good. Take advantage of the health benefits of yoga. People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years. Yoga is now being researched to medically prove the physical and mental benefits.
Of course you should check with your GP before starting any new exercise routine. I find that many doctors encourage yoga, we have a couple of medical professionals on our teacher training programme, but you should still check just to be on the safe side.
If you would like to explore the possibilities further, please drop me a line.