A look at how yoga can improve both your body and mind
Millions of people practice yoga around the world. There’s got to be something to it, right? We’re going to take a look at some of the major benefits that come from making yoga a consistent part of your fitness routine. Whether you’re a trained yogi or have never tried practicing yoga, here’s a reminder of why you should love it and maybe why you should start.
Before we crack into our yoga benefits, let’s first define what yoga is. In its simplest terms, yoga is an ancient philosophy meant to help people live more peaceful and fulfilling lives. There are many different styles and lineages that have developed in India dating back as far as a few thousand years. As the practice evolves to meet a modern world, the key tenants are the same. The discipline uses the body and breath to strengthen and purify a person's physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
There’s of course a much deeper history and much more nuance to what yoga is, but for the sake of what we’re discussing here, it lays a solid foundation. If you’re interested in learning more about yoga, its history, and what it is, reach out to our Head Yogi Jeremy on Instagram.
Now as we delve into the benefits of yoga, we’ll explore seven of the physical and mental benefits of yoga and how they can affect your daily life.
With a focus on breath work and meditation, yoga has been shown to provide a multitude of mental health benefits ranging from improved mood and easing of anxiety and depression. And according to Harvard University, regular yoga practice can also enhance brain function and even make your brain thicker and bigger.
Now when we look at how yoga affects our mood and emotional health, some may say that’s something that we see in all forms of exercise and physical activity. Part of the reason many form exercise as a habit is because it makes us feel good — the endorphin rush after a tough workout and the simple satisfaction of knowing you’re doing good for your body.
With yoga, it’s not just a workout afterglow. Yoga, as mentioned, has a strong emphasis on meditative practices and controlled breathing, even during challenging poses and movement flows. This can help train your mind and body to not be reactive to stressful stimuli. And whether it’s a tough workout or a rough situation at work. Carrying that sense of calm can ensure you literally don’t sweat the small stuff.
And according to the American Psychiatric Association, yoga may also workout your brain and make it stronger and more able to handle the stresses of daily life and ward off the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress syndrome. Synching one’s breath and movement with an instructor can also encourage a sense of belonging and togetherness that can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and loneliness — something you can feel when you practice with Jeremy.
Beyond stress reduction and mental health benefits, the mental sharpness gained from yoga can also mean improved concentration and memory.
While a deeply physical and spiritual practice, not enough can be said about the emotional and mental benefits that stem from regularly practicing yoga.
A major misconception of yoga is that you need to already be flexible to enjoy it. This gets the order a bit mixed up as yoga can actually improve your flexibility. Yoga asks for holds and movements that will test your innate flexibility and with enough exposure and practice, improve it.
“In yoga, there is a version of the movements and postures for everyone, no matter where you're at. This 'make it yours' approach doesn't demand your flexibility, it encourages your flexibility to grow." Jeremy said.
Flexibility in itself has a lot of cascading benefits that come along with it. Being more flexible allows you to navigate daily life more nimbly, can help improve your posture, reduce your risk of injury, and aid in improving your range of motion. With a deeper range of motion you can more fully complete exercises and from there increase in intensity or weight (or both!).
From the above, we know that yoga, depending on the style, is not solely just stretching and breath work, but can involve a lot of stillness and holding. Many of these poses are like isometric holds, or engaging a muscle without moving it. Holding these poses and practicing them consistently can build strength and muscular endurance.
And for many, yoga is a fantastic complement to an overall strength training routine, whether it’s something that helps the body recover before a tough strength training session, or something that exposes the muscles to a different kind of training to make it stronger.
Jeremy says that for Tempo athletes looking to use yoga as a means for strength training try Inner Strength Power Yoga or Power Yoga Challenge.
It might be pretty obvious how yoga can improve your balance. Many yoga poses put your body in positions requiring you to balance on one leg, relying on unilateral strength. Oftentimes, you’ll be tasked with moving from one balance-challenging pose to another, requiring you to understand how to engage and maneuver your body to stay upright.
Gaining this familiarity with your body and knowing how to maintain balance can be crucial to when we’re in our daily lives and something unexpected throws us off kilter. And of course, better balance when it comes to many sports and weight lifting can be key to avoiding injury and improved performance.
Jeremy says a big benefit to training barefoot can also help improve balance, too.
“The opportunity to be barefoot can strengthen the foot, ankle, and proprioception — the ability to sense self-movement and body positioning.”Jeremy explained.
What’s fantastic about yoga is that it is low-impact. Many activities we all love to partake in can be rough on the body, including our joints. Running, jumping, crouching, playing with the kids — and not to mention Tempo classes — it can all add up and make us a bit sore in our muscles and joints.
With static poses and slower and intentional movements, yoga not only allows you to dial in where in your body needs some extra love and attention, but can be gentle on the body, giving it a chance to release and decompress. The stretching and restorative nature of many yoga flows and poses can help ease muscle tension and joint stress and leave you ready to go after it again or get you ready to properly rest and recover.
As we talk about joints, we also can’t overlook the benefits of yoga when it comes to arthritis. Studies from Johns Hopkins University has shown that a steady regimen of yoga can relieve the pain of arthritis and improve overall mobility.
Yoga’s mental benefits also have a special link here. Because many forms of exercise can feel too painful and to some unattainable due to arthritis, yoga can not only help in the physical relief but can give a sense of confidence and hope that movement is possible even with arthritic pain.
Yoga is great for your muscles and your heart is no different. Other studies from Johns Hopkins have shown promising data that yoga can reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. Because yoga can help with stress reduction, it means your heart benefits from it as well. Stress can often trigger hormones like cortisol and adrenaline which can constrict the arteries in your heart, opening you up to a higher risk of heart issues.
Yoga has also demonstrated the ability to reduce blood pressure and heart rate and as yoga isn’t a highly aerobic exercise, is an accessible form of activity and rehab for those who suffer from pre-existing heart conditions.
With thousands of years of history, yoga is something that continues to grow more popular and is something that we’re so excited to teach more about through Tempo. Head Yogi Jeremy has released dozens of varied yoga classes and has recently released a few programs aimed at improving flexibility and improving sleep as well as a meditation program designed to melt away stress.
When we first introduced yoga on Tempo earlier in 2021, we discovered that many of our members who love strength training and HIIT had never tried (or wanted to try) yoga. Now, many have told us that stepping onto the mat with Jeremy has been life changing and has opened their eyes to the many benefits of yoga to their daily lives and their overall fitness.
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