The idea that yoga is just for the harem pant-wearing, tree hugging, long haired hippies of the world that long to become one with nature and themselves is an extremely outdated cliche. Yoga is for everyone, young or old, novice or expert and isn’t just good for your fitness it is just as beneficial for your mental well-being too!
The 8 main psychical health benefits of yoga are;
-Improves posture: Working long hours sat behind a desk at a computer is something millions of people all over the world find themselves doing for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. If you add up all those hours and days the amount of time spent seated with bad posture would frighten most people. Do not worry – as following just a quick 10 minute beginner yoga tutorial on YouTube before you start work or at the end of the day would work wonders for improving your posture and preventing back pain.
-Increases flexibility: Many of us today long for the return of days when were children when we were more supple and flexible. When was the last time you could touch your toes without bending your knees? Practicing certain yoga asanas would not only help you to regain the flexibility you once had as a child but it wouldn’t take that long to achieve either.
– Increases blood flow: Certain asanas in the art of yoga help blood flow from the lower part of your body back up to the heart from which it is then pumped into the lungs and and oxygenated. A handstand for instance, may seem like a top-tier expert yoga position; but within a few months practice it would become surprisingly easy to master.
-Boosts metabolism: Yoga promotes a healthy lifestyle in so many ways, once you start practicing in yoga you will be amazed with how quickly your attitudes towards certain lifestyle choices change. No more will you crave the fatty-grease filled option of a double cheeseburger with fries and perhaps a much lighter healthier option would satisfy your hunger cravings.
-Helps fight disease: Practising in yoga has significant beneficial effect on our immune systems. It helps catching and dispelling viruses earlier than the average person when the seasons change and those nasty winter bugs come out to play, yoga also gives our bodies a serious boost in natural immunity to other viruses and diseases that aren’t associated with just winter time bugs.
-Promotes a better sleep: Who wouldn’t want a healthier more substantial sleep making us feel more alert and refreshed in the mornings? yoga helps in minimising stress and thus promoting a healthier deeper sleep. A relaxed mind equals a better sleep pattern.
-Lowers blood sugar: Yoga is a great way to lower blood sugar in our bodies, not only that, it also lowers the level of bad cholesterol in our bodies and boosts the level of good cholesterol. Pair this with a balanced diet and you will be seriously looking after your body in the long run.
-Boosts muscle strength: Unlike lifting heavy weights to increase muscle strength – yoga works in a much healthier way as you are only lifting your own body weight. You will use muscles you may have never used before when starting yoga which helps in the toning of said muscle groups. Also look into callisthenics if you are wanting to boost muscle strength without lifting heavy weights and running the risk of injury or muscle straining.
Now here are the main psychological benefits of yoga;
-Reduces stress: Again this is heavily linked to physical benefits but when stress manifests itself in your body – it not only heavily impacts your physical health but equally (if not more so) it impacts your mental health. Yoga works at combatting stress by lowering the level of cortisol in our bodies (the main stress hormone), by lowering cortisol you will feel healthier, happier and more relaxed.
-Relieves anxiety: Many of us in today’s society suffer from anxiety and aren’t even aware of it! (myself included). Yoga is extremely beneficial to those who suffer from anxiety, PTSD and depression. Yoga works to tackle these problems by emphasising the importance of being “present in the moment” and helping to find a sense of inner peace which is of upmost importance in reducing anxiety, PTSD and depression.
-Improves romantic relationships: It goes without saying; when you are more at peace with yourself – you will be more at peace and loving with the ones closest to you, whether they be your partner, your children or your closest friends. You will view them in the same perspective as you have come to view yourself through the help of the mindfulness of yoga.
-It helps us to identify hidden qualities in ourselves and others: Much like the above paragraph; yoga helps us to identify qualities in ourselves and others that we didn’t know existed. This works through helping us realise where we are holding tension and negative energies in our bodies, for instance; a sun salutation will help us to open our heart and chest and release stiffness and stress that is manifesting between our shoulder blades, this also promotes an emotional release of negative energy that you may not be conscious of.
-It shifts our consciousness from one nervous system to another: This may sound too technical for a lot of us but in layman’s terms; it helps us to move our bodies natural flight-or-fight subconsciousness to the healthier rest-and-digest way of living – a more relaxed state that focuses on breathing and significantly calms our nervous system.
If the above physical and mental benefits of yoga have coerced you into dipping your toe into the world of yoga; there is no better place to start than a beginner yoga video on YouTube that you can follow along on screen. We all have to start somewhere and like myself who is still pretty much a novice (even after 10 years of practicing here and there) I can recommend no better that a yoga instructor based in California, US who goes by the name of Sean Vigue! He has been teaching yoga for many many years and he is the man who introduced me to the art of yoga through his beginner videos on YouTube. A simple search online for “Sean Vigue Fitness” will bring up his YouTube channel that is filled with his daily uploads of yoga flows that you can follow along at home. If however you would like a more tangible form of teaching; Sean Vigue has published many books on yoga and pilates that have been number one bestsellers on Amazon and can be found (in his own words) “wherever books are sold” but definitely Amazon!
Yoga is indeed for everyone and the health benefits you can reap from even just a 10 minute workout practiced daily for a week will open your eyes and mind to a new world of positive energy you may not have thought was possible beforehand.
The Sean Vigue Fitness YouTube channel can be found here; https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCvCwGWW0od-BCfRtU2euaLg
By Callum Claffey-McKinnon – Investigative journalist for TheFreeThinkersTimes.