Yoga. Many people think that yoga is all about the zen – meditation, slow and steady movements, and all calmness and serenity. It may be all that but it’s also a whole lot more!
Yoga as part of a fitness routine has gained traction and yoga classes are popping up everywhere. This age-old practice is now getting the recognition it deserves for its many benefits, and many are now self-confessed yoga addicts. All you’d need to do is check out #yoga on Instagram and you’d see photos from millions of people all around the world stretching and twisting themselves into asanas – from the basic to the advanced.
I confess that I have been off the yoga bandwagon for a while now as everyday activities such as work have gotten in the way (a terrible excuse, I know) so I decided to start with my yoga classes again. So off to the gym I went. And boy, was it a wake-up call! My body was aching for a few days after, but it was a satisfying ache… or so I told myself as I winced with every movement. The class I attended concentrated on the core muscles which means that apart from the regular sun salutations (which in itself is a great total body workout), the instructor also went through other asanas and flows which target the core specifically. There are of course a whole host of benefits with yoga.
As graceful and effortless as it may appear (when done by seasoned pros), yoga actually requires a lot of strength. Practicing yoga regularly will give you a toned body while increasing your muscle strength. It also helps in maintaining a balanced metabolism, and with weight reduction in the long run.
Some asanas may seem like you’d need to be a contortionist to achieve the pose, but as impossible as it may seem, you may eventually be able to do them! Yoga increases your flexibility which in turn reduces your risk of injuries. This is because your joints are able to move through their full range of motions, enabling your muscles to work effectively. All that stretching also increases the blood flow to the muscles.
Yoga also places importance on breathing and how the body, mind and breath work together to benefit the body. Many of us are shallow breathers which means that we are not tapping into the many health benefits available to us just by making full use of our lung capacity. Yoga helps to relieve the tightness in the muscles around the upper body (which may contribute to shallow breathing) and makes you more conscious of your breathing - especially if you’re in a class and the instructor tells you when to inhale and exhale! And deeper breathing means more oxygen in your blood, which in turn means your cells receive more oxygen.
I’ve never been the sort of person to enjoy exercises as I dislike the ‘lungs-bursting-and-heart pumping-out-of-your-chest’ feeling. This is something that I’ve always dreaded and am uncomfortable with (this may stem from being asthmatic but that’s another story) which is probably why yoga is one of my exercises of choice. If you’re after something that gives you a good workout without seeming like too much of an exertion, then yoga may be worth your time. It may seem like a lot of stretching and an observer may be forgiven for thinking it’s all relaxation and a lot of posing, but trust me when I say that you’ll discover muscles you never knew you had!
(And the only relaxing part of a yoga class is the Savasana!)
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