Addicted to yoga? Us too. 5 reasons we just can't get enough....
Yoga is an ancient science that has been around for thousands of years and thanks to a myriad of benefits, is growing from strength to strength. A practice that has stood the test of time for millennia, yoga clearly has many advantages, as relevant today to us in the West, as they were to the sages of India back then. So what are some of the benefits of yoga that have got us so hooked?
The list of physical benefits of yoga are vast, some of which include increased flexibility, stronger leaner muscles, better posture, improved balance, stronger bones, increased blood flow and so on (and on). Yoga improves our overall sense of wellbeing and helps us live with a greater sense of ease and comfort in the body as we age. It’s probably the most well rounded practice to adopt or maintain as we age as it takes the tissue and joints through a full range of movement and recruits many of the smaller unused muscles that help support the larger muscle groups.
Yoga helps manage stress
Did you know that an estimated 80-90% of visits to the doctor are stress related! In countless studies, the effects of yoga on symptoms of stress have been overwhelmingly positive. This is probably one of the most popular reasons for beginning a yoga practice. All exercise is good for stress but the synergy of breath with movement is what sets yoga apart from other exercise (and you can easily practice yoga at home which makes it completely stress free).
The act of conscious breathing and longer exhales can affect your nervous system and lull your body into a state of relaxation. Within the Autonomic Nervous System lies the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems. When the body is in Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) Dominance and fight-or-flight mode, breathing is fast and shallow, but slow and controlled breath work helps circumvent the stress response of the SNS and shift the body into Parasympathetic Nervous System Dominance, which is responsible for rest and digest and calming the body down.
Yoga postures also require isometric and isotonic contraction which activates the SNS and PNS respectively. When twinned with deeper longer breaths, the body reaches a deeper state of rest, finding space and freedom from stress. With regular practice the body begins to spend more time in this stress free state and over time, will begin to reside in a more peaceful state. Particularly great practices for stress are hatha yoga which has a slower pace and restorative yoga, a therapeutic practice that works directly with the nervous system.
It makes you happier
Yoga boosts brain chemicals that promote a sense of wellbeing. Studies have shown that a consistent yoga practice can greatly improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression by increasing levels of GABA (Gamma-aminobutryic acid), serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These three are the happy chemicals responsible for feelings of relaxation and contentment and that feeling of bliss you get at the end of class. Depression and anxiety are both associated with low levels of GABA in the body and a recent study by The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine found that GABA levels increased by up to 27% in practitioners after an hour of yoga.
Self-care, positive body image and better lifestyle choices
Yoga brings us into a more positive relationship with our body and helps us become more attuned to what we need in terms of our nutrition and self-care needs. In a culture awash with diet fads and conflicting information it’s important that we learn to trust and listen to our bodies innate wisdom. This is one of the greatest benefits of yoga. Learning to live in harmony with ourself.
A regular yoga practice makes you more active and more conscious about what you ingest. The spiritual and emotional dimensions of practice can help us address any eating or weight issues on a deeper level and inspire us to make better choices in line with our true needs.
Strengthens the mind
The essence of yoga is to be able to keep still under challenge. In order to achieve stillness, the pre-frontal cortex of your brain has to redirect your thoughts away from the discomfort in the body, or the wobbles in a pose. This sustained redirection of thoughts can reinforce and create new neural pathways and help us regain control over our minds, find self-compassion and stop being overwhelmed by negative thoughts.
Now you know why, give it a try. Our amazing instructors are ready to help you create a practice that’s perfect for you.