The pursuit of fitness is not all about losing weight but obtaining optimum health not only physically but also mentally and spiritually. Every now and then workout programs are created to see which are more effective or have more benefits to the body. Nowadays, exercise tends to pull towards vigorous physical activities such from CrossFit and Insanity workouts. Workout trends come and go but none is as enduring as yoga.
Yoga has been around for 5000 years. It is an ancient Indian body of knowledge derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to unite or integrate”. It strengthens and harmonizes both the mind and body. Even if it is considered as a low or no impact exercise, there are over 100 different forms of yoga varying types of intensities like the Hatha and Iyengar yoga which are gentle and slow and the more challenging Bikram and power yoga. Anyone can do yoga. Whether a beginner, a couch potato, an athlete, a bodybuilder even individuals who are suffering from arthritis or osteoporosis. It can be done anywhere with little to no equipment required.
According to studies, yoga helps in improving respiratory health. Breathing techniques or the Pranayama, the art of effective breath control, helps bring more oxygen to the blood and brain. Studies have shown that yoga practice can help drop the blood pressure of people with hypertension. Another health benefit of yoga is that it lowers blood sugar levels, making it an ideal exercise for people struggling with diabetes.Certain yoga poses concentrate in the constriction and release in the abdominal areas that stimulate the pancreas by increasing blood flow and oxygen supply that improves the organ’s ability to produce insulin.
Yoga also improves flexibility and lowers the risk of pain and injury. The postures done during practice also develops better posture by strengthening the core and lengthening the spine.Although no weights or equipment are used, yoga can help build muscles. Certain yoga poses require lifting one’s own body weight. However, it tones both the large and small muscles in balance with each other. Regular practice of yoga improves mind and body awareness. It involves holding different poses which helps improves muscle strength and balance. Yoga also strengthens bones. Studies have shown that weight lifting can help strengthen bones and ward off osteoporosis. In yoga however, certain positions require a person to carry their own weight.
Practicing yoga does not only improve the body’s function but can also change your outlook in life. It can help you become more aware of your own physique having new appreciation of the possibilities your body can do. Although yoga doesn’t burn calories like strenuous exercises can, it can still contribute to weight loss since it helps a person become more mindful of what they are eating.
Yoga also provides emotional and mental benefits. Practitioners usually sleep deeper, making it a great exercise for people with insomnia.Yoga addresses the physical and psychological aspects of insomnia. The deep breathing exercises can put the body in a deeply relaxed state and relieves mental stresses. It also helps in improving concentration.
Stress can hugely affect a person’s overall health. Yoga can help control the body’s stress response system. It regulates the adrenal glands which secretes cortisol which temporarily help improve the body’s immune function. However, high cortisol levels had been linked to destroy the healthy muscles and bones, slows down healing and cell regeneration and impair digestive and metabolic functions. Researches has also found excessive cortisol can attribute to “cravings” that drives a person to eat whenever upset, depressed or angry thus causing weight gain.
Yoga practitioners have observed that they feel less stressed, relieved and happier after yoga sessions. The meditation in yoga can help stave away negative thoughts and tension and leaves space for new opportunities. Yoga can also activate endorphins which can trigger a positive feeling in the body. Having a healthier body boosts self-esteem and encourages a positive outlook in life.
Since yoga harmonizes the mind and body connections, it improves the balance and body coordination which help prevent injuries and makes workouts more effective. One thing yoga can’t do is that it can’t burn as much fat as regular vigorous exercise does but it can add plenty of benefits.
There is a trend going on that blends yoga with other fitness workouts called “Yoga Fusion”, pairing yoga with other exercise such as bodybuilding, pilates, kickboxing, running, swimming or etc. The goal is to burn more calories than yoga alone can. It builds the muscle and stamina but at the same time teaches to relax and focus. One example of this is combining yoga with strength training.
Yoga helps aid the muscles in recovery and repair after being worked out. The increase in blood flow certain resting yoga poses assist the healing and strengthening of muscles by bringing an increase in oxygen. Bodybuilders have observed that doing yoga increased their flexibility, restored their full range of motion, decreased risk of injuries and made them more productive in doing weights. It has also increased muscle endurance and tolerance for pain.
Yoga and aerobics also work well together. Aerobics still outperforms yoga as it increases the heart rate for a sustained periods of time and burns more calories than yoga. But the systemic breathing exercises in yoga and the muscle strengthening and flexibility it provides outshines aerobic exercises. By combining both aerobics and yoga, optimum results of both could be achieved. Some people prefer doing yoga before a workout since it warms up the body and stretches the muscles making it more flexible. Others prefer doing it after an intensive aerobic exercise as it helps the muscles relax after the session.
Yoga may not be as explosive, fast moving or as competitive as other workouts. However, the overall benefits it can give to a person’s mind, body and spirituality is outstanding. Combining yoga with other fitness regiments offers more functional form of achieving optimum health. Practicing yoga, alongside other types of physical exercise can help improve the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of living.