Yoga is often seen as a practice for the mind as much as the body; a connection between the two. Unlike many forms of exercise which can be quite intense physically, often requiring your body to be pushed to the limits to challenge the heart, lung and muscle functions; yoga is about slowing it down, concentration but simultaneously relaxation.
At a basic level, yoga is beneficial for improved flexibility.
As we get older, we become quite regimented in our routines; we sit, stand and lie in preferred ways and even if our jobs require frequent movement or we participate in regular exercise, our bodies can still become quite stagnated and limited in their movement.
Yoga helps to challenge our bodies, move more freely and help to utilise and engage the muscles and joints all over the body. Not only will the practice of yoga help to keep our bodies lithe but it can help to strengthen and support our spine and other joints around the body helping to combat the effects of aging.
The freedom of movement and engagement of joints and muscles can also help to release stagnentation in the muscles and tissues; the positions practiced in yoga will help to shift toxins trapped which not only help muscle tension but can have astounding effects on your energy levels and improve mood.
Additional benefits that come with improved flexibility are lengthening ligaments and tendons and improved posture.
It is also complementary to other forms of exercise
As highlighted, frequent movement and exercise can still be quite limiting on our bodies abilities to move freely. Lifting weights for example actually shortens muscles, ligaments and tendons which can put a strain on the joints around them. Runners who may be seemingly fit with toned and strengthened legs and arms may still be susceptible to back problems. Participation in a holistic practice such as yoga helps to strengthen the tiny muscles that are often neglected in other forms of exercise. Not only will it compliment the work that you’re already doing but it can actually aid it, allowing you to go further and push more because the joints and muscles all around the body are better protected and engaged. It’ll make you less susceptible to injury too.
With little extra effort, the benefits of your strengthened body will ripple into other areas of your life; it will naturally help to correct postural problems as everything in the body feels better supported.
Join a class
Participating in a class can be initially challenging, especially if isn’t something you’ve done before; as highlighted you’ll be putting your body to the test in ways many other forms of exercise simply doesn’t. As such you want to know that you are participating in classes that are right for your abilities with some concentrated guidance.
Referrals are often best; someone who has had first-hand experience with a teacher can give you the run down on their particular methods, their level of 1-1 support within a class environment and the pros and cons they got from the class itself.
Alternatively, look to an association: The British Wheel of Yoga, an association that has been awarded National Governing Body status by the Sports England, which is a yoga membership organisation committed to the safe practice of yoga through training, education and experience. Qualified yoga teachers are registered through this association and they have a class listings so you can find courses in your area.
Practice at home
We highly recommend participating in courses with a trained practitioner at least initially to ensure that you are familiar with how to perform the techniques safely. You could also book a 1-1 with a practitioner who can develop a training programme for you at home and run through the motions with you to ensure you’re aware of how to perform these manoeuvres safely.
Download the Gaiam app to practice at home
Check out Yoga Journal: a publishing house dedicated to the practice of yoga. They share various articles and videos so you can practice at home.