It is my belief that yoga is for everybody. I am a meat eating, wine drinking, cake scoffing yogi. I would choose a glass of merlot over a green tea every time. Yoga has improved my life in amazing, unpredictable ways and in my opinion, EVERYBODY, irrespective of their genetic make-up, religious beliefs or preference for a juicy steak over a spinach salad, can realise the many benefits of yoga. So here I have summarised a few key benefits a regular practice has to offer.
1. Improved Strength: A regular physical practice can help build strength and improve lean muscle mass. This will improve core stability and help prevent injury by strengthening under-developed muscles surrounding the more utilised muscles, creating a more balanced overall strength and protecting us from conditions like arthritis and back pain.
2. Improved Balance: Through a consistent yoga practice, co-ordination and balance will improve. Regularly practicing yoga increases proprioception (the ability to feel what your body is doing and where it is in space). People with bad posture or dysfunctional movement patterns usually have poor proprioception, which can be linked to knee problems and back pain.
3. Increased Flexibility: Yoga improves joint and muscular flexibility, which is key to the body’s overall structural soundness. During your first class you probably won’t be able to touch your toes, but stick with it and you’ll notice a gradual improvement and eventually, seemingly impossible poses will become possible. You’ll probably notice the usual aches and pains start to disappear. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to incorrect alignment of the thigh and shin bones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. Inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue can cause poor posture.
4. Mental Control: The physical benefits of yoga are huge but they are nothing in comparison to the benefits to the mind. Yoga can improve our ability to control the impulses of the mind –freeing us from negative thought patterns, improving our ability to focus and promoting calm by silencing the mental chatter that invades our lives. Like a muscle, the mind can be trained. A consistent physical practice followed by proper relaxation can improve sleep, reduce stress, calm the nervous system and help us to remain steady in the face of challenging situations. As stress is implicated in so many health problems including migraines, insomnia, eczema, high blood pressure and heart attacks — if you learn to control your mind, you’ll be likely to live a longer, healthier life.