When it comes to working out, there are so many choices available these days, which begs the question, “What workout should I stick with?”
One of the most common exercises gaining popularity today is yoga.
What Is Yoga?
Originating in ancient India, yoga comes from a Sanskrit word which means “to yoke or to unite.” It was brought to the west by Hindu monks in the 1890s, most notably by Swami Vivekanda.
While yoga refers to a group of several different practices, what we mean these days when we say “yoga” is hatha yoga, or yoga as exercise.
Writing on Yoga Journal, Dr. Timothy McCall stated that practicing yoga a few minutes every day can drastically improve one’s health.
One of the most visible benefits of yoga practice is increased flexibility. In the beginning, yoga poses and sequences can seem daunting, if not impossible. But with time, all yogis (yoga practitioners) experience more pliable muscles and joints, which in turn drastically decrease joint and muscle pain.
Another benefit observed in yoga practice is increased muscle tone. As STEPHEN F. LEWIS, LMHC said in his online article, “Today people practice yoga with different intentions, finding their own meaning and usefulness for it. Some use it as exercise to stretch and tone the physical body. Others use it to reduce stress in their lives and others to improve their breathing.” It not only keeps you in good shape but also helps you avoid injuries and stabilizes your joints.
Other physical benefits associated with yoga include better blood circulation, improved balance, weight loss, lowered blood sugar, decreased susceptibility to allergies, and lowered cortisol levels. “Regular practice of yoga, however, has been found to naturally decrease cortisol levels. This natural decrease of cortisol can give the body a chance to return to a state of restful awareness.” Said Tahmi Perzichilli, LPCC, LADC in her online article titled ‘The Benefits of Yoga for Trauma Treatment and Mind-Body Wellness.”
With yoga, you not only get to improve your physical health, but you also get to work on your mental well-being. According to John M. Grohol, Psy.D “Other mental health benefits of yoga are less clear and strong. While it may help benefit your emotional state — what you’re feeling in the moment — and resilience, it may also not do much for these factors.”
A study by the University of Wisconsin’s Dr. Richard Davidson found that the left prefrontal cortex registered higher levels of activity in yoga practitioners. This area of the brain is associated with remembering goals and directions related to these goals. Davidson’s study found a correlation between the increased activity in this area and higher levels of happiness.
Other studies also show that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, and memory, which have links to the meditation and mindfulness advocated by yoga — many report better eating habits, as well as stress coping, due to increased mindfulness.
Time and Space
The edge yoga has over other forms of exercise is that you can do it with minimal space. Yoga requires minimal equipment, the only essential being a yoga mat, and needs as much space as a yoga mat can take up. You can crank out a yoga session in your room at home or your cubicle at work.
A wealth of resources on yoga is also available online. Although there is nothing quite like taking classes with a reputable yoga instructor, the yoga learning materials available on the web can serve as great substitutes.
Aside from requiring very little space, yoga also requires very little time. A few minutes of yoga a day yield positive results. One study shows that 10 minutes of yoga each day can lead to better sleep. A separate study involving 700 participants similarly found that 10 minutes of yoga every day can help prevent osteoporosis and strengthen bones.
So what are you waiting for? Roll out a mat and work toward a better you today.