For thousands of years, people have used yoga to strengthen their bodies and mind. Today, some people consider it a popular fad. But yoga is far from just another exercise trend and has many benefits. What should you know about it? How can yoga fit into your regular exercise routine?
In the following sections, we outline the benefits and types of yoga, learn how yoga can fit into a fitness regimen, and help with weight loss.
The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga has an array of benefits. It contributes to a healthy body and mind. Some of the main advantages of yoga include:
- Increased muscle strength.
- Improved muscular endurance.
- Increased flexibility.
- Improved heart and lung health.
- Lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Decreasing anxiety and stress.
- Contributing to weight loss and maintenance.
- Musculoskeletal pain relief.
- Improved sleep.
The Main Types of Yoga
Yoga is excellent for recovery, as well as gaining basic strength. Some individuals perform yoga after their regular strengthening routine, or they attend classes on their 'rest' days. Other individuals use yoga as their primary source of exercise. Surprisingly, yoga comes in all shapes and sizes. There are a variety of types of yoga. The following list outlines the most popular yoga varieties.
Generally, hatha yoga involves performing poses with breathwork. This style is an excellent introduction to yoga for beginners. It's gentle and easy to follow. It's also one of the more relaxing and soothing types of yoga. You might not work up a sweat, but you will feel stretched out and relaxed after a hatha yoga class.
Vinyasa yoga involves moving from one posture to another using the breath. It often consists of a series of positions and is frequently quite vigorous. The pace is quick. And if you've ever tried a power yoga class, it was likely this style of yoga.
Ashtanga and vinyasa are very similar styles of yoga. Ashtanga has more structure to it and usually follows a very specific sequence. You can expect to work up a sweat and strengthen your entire body through an ashtanga yoga session.
This type of yoga combines postural movements with breathing and chanting. The poses are simple, but the entire practice aims to rebalance your chakras and open up your energy channels.
Bikram is essentially hot yoga. While you may not be able to perform this type of yoga at home, you can try it out at a local studio. A Bikram class is the same - no matter where you do it. It's 26 poses performed at a temperature of 40.6 degrees celsius.
Yin yoga is restorative. The aim is to lengthen and elongate the muscles and connective tissues. As such, you will often hold each pose for three minutes to five minutes. This is the perfect choice for recovery and improving your mobility and flexibility.
How Yoga Works
What does yoga do for the body in terms of strengthening and stretching?
Depending on the type of yoga, it frequently combines bodyweight strengthening with stretches. For instance, the downward dog pose works your shoulders and arms, while opening up your chest and the posterior muscles in your legs, including your calves and hamstrings. This means you get the best of both worlds. You strengthen, without jeopardizing your flexibility and mobility.
Many weightlifters and athletes face tightness in specific muscles, like the hamstrings and hip flexors, because they don't perform enough stretching or mobility movements. Yoga offers more of a balance. It can also complement a well-rounded strengthening or weight lifting routine.
Fitting Yoga into Your Fitness Regimen
There are so many ways to incorporate yoga into your regular fitness routine. You can perform yoga at home on your days off. You can choose to attend a class at a studio. Or you can add a few poses to your cooldown routine. It's all about making it work for you.
If you want a recovery form of yoga, try yin. If you prefer to include yoga as part of your main workout, try vinyasa or ashtanga yoga. If you want to improve your posture and have a better balance, hatha yoga might be a better option. Further, if you're going to incorporate meditation strategies into your practice, kundalini yoga might be more suitable. It all depends on what you want to get out of it.
The best part about yoga is that any style offers a gentle exercise that is easy on the joints. You don't have to be the most flexible or the most balanced person in the room. Anyone can do it.
How Can Yoga Help With Weight Loss?
Research indicates a wide variety of ways in which yoga aids in weight loss. A 2016 study suggested that individuals who practiced yoga became more mindful, and they had better willpower when it came to avoiding unhealthy foods or comfort foods. This means a person may be able to lose weight more efficiently and sustain weight loss.
Other studies have also shown yoga to be useful when it comes to weight loss. Using restorative yoga, women were able to lose excess weight. Further research and overviews of studies in this area have shown yoga to help with behavioral change, help reduce stress, improve calorie burn, and increase mindfulness contributing to weight loss.
Performing Yoga At Home: 6 Poses
At this stage, you've learned a little bit more about yoga. You're ready to start doing yoga at home. You're just unsure where to start.
Luckily, we've got 6 poses you can try right now. These poses are based on hatha and yin yoga, offering an excellent starting point for yoga newbies.
The downward dog pose engages the entire body. You activate your shoulders and core while stretching your posterior chain - your hamstrings and your calves primarily. Here's how to do it:
- Begin on all-fours.
- Lift your knees and straighten your legs (without locking your knees), extending your heels back toward the ground.
- Intend your tailbone high to the sky.
- Keep your gaze in between your hands, with your fingers spread.
- Your body should form an upside-down 'V.'
- Hold for 5 inhales and exhales.
This pose helps with spinal mobility and flexibility, as well as stretches the abdominal muscles.
- Begin on all-fours. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders, and your knees should be directly under your hips.
- Inhale, and arch your back down, bringing your belly toward the floor.
- Gaze up.
- Exhale, and arch your back up.
- Bring your head and gaze in between your arms.
- Continue to alternate for 5-10 breaths.
The child's pose is an excellent restorative pose. It stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles, while also giving you a chance to unwind and relax.
- Begin on all-fours.
- Keeping your hands out in front of you, gently bring your buttocks back toward your heels.
- Go as far back you comfortably can.
- Rest your forehead on the mat.
- You can choose to leave your arms outstretched in front of you or you can rest them beside you.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths or 3-5 minutes.
The boat pose strengthens your spine, hip flexors, and abdominals. Don't worry if you start shaking during it - This just means it's working!
- Begin in a seated position with your knees bent and feet flat in front of you.
- Slowly lean your torso backward and lift your feet off the ground.
- If you can, extend your legs straight.
- Position your arms extended in front of you and along the sides of your body.
- Hold for 5 breaths.
This pose engages your entire body. More specifically, it targets the abdominals, glutes, chest, shoulders, and back.
- Begin on all fours on your mat.
- Extend your legs straight back and come up onto your toes.
- Your body should form a straight line from your heels to your head.
- Intend your heels toward the back of the room.
- Squeeze your glutes to prevent your hips from sagging.
- Hold for 5 breaths.
The tree pose challenges your balance. It also works the small muscles in your ankles and calves. You'll also want to make sure you actively engage your core throughout this pose to ensure you stay balanced.
- Stand tall with your arms at your side, and your feet close together.
- Shift your weight to your right foot.
- Bend your left knee and use your hands to rest your left foot on the inside of your right thigh. If you can't reach this high, rest your left foot on the inside of your right calf.
- Ensure your hips are level.
- Place your hands on your hips, then slowly raise your hands high to the sky, forming a 'V' with your arms.
- Hold for 5 breaths, and repeat on the opposite side.
Working out at home can be tough. It's hard to muster up the motivation to exercise. But if you set the stage and setting for it, it can make it a little easier. For yoga, try to find a quiet place in your home where you won't face interruptions. You may choose to put on relaxing music or follow a YouTube yoga video.
Commit to about 20-30 minutes. If you are just starting, try out 5-10 minutes each day or every other day and slowly build.
Yoga has a variety of health and mental benefits. Start uncovering these benefits for you and your body!
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