As you will know if you follow me on Instagram, I have been experimenting with yoga. I will be totally honest with you, I am really rubbish at yoga. It takes a mix of both physical and mental strength, resilience and the ability to not laugh when you fall over trying to cock your leg in the air. These are skills that I am unfortunately lacking in… Despite this, yoga has loads of benefits and so I’m going to try and stick with it. I thought I would share with you guys some of the reasons why you should be doing yoga.
Eurgh, history, how boring.
Trust me guys. I get you. But your girl has got to at least pretend she is doing something productive for her degree. Also, the history of yoga is really important to know as it is an integral part of the practise. In all of my classes, we have given thanks to its history and its development into what it is today, whilst maintaining the principles that existed way back when…
Developed in India, yoga is a spiritual practice that has been evolving for the last 5,000 years, so don’t feel bad if you don’t pick it up in the first session. The original people who practised yoga were called yogis (cute, right!) and started in reaction to India’s ancient Vedic religion, which emphasised rituals. See, this was not quite enough for the yogis and so they developed yoga as a way to gain direct spiritual experience with the divine consciousness individually rather than symbolic ritual. Hence the fact yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, the classical language of India.
So, what are the benefits?
Now you have had a quick history lesson, what are the actual benefits of taking up yoga. In a weight lifting world, yoga kind of gets mugged off a bit, sitting below even cardio on the ‘ways to get a bubble but’ list. However, fitness is not all about getting a big booty. I know, shocking really. It is about mental, physical and spiritual well being and, with yoga, you get all three. For all you folks scared to leave the weights room at the risk of wasting a session, or people training for a marathon who dare not dedicate time to anything other than the treadmill, have a think about yoga. Yoga is a highly restorative activity that helps to better align the body, which can help with a huge variety of different sports. Being renowned for it flexibility benefits, yoga is a great way to prevent any shortening of the muscles that can come with repetitive training such as running. Although not typically associated with strength, maintaining a decent level of muscular flexibility is super important and overly tight muscles can become weak because they have an inability to fully contract and relax. Yoga, therefore, can help with both endurance and resistance training and help prevent any risk of injury. Yoga is also great for strengthening and mobilising the core, improving posture and preventing unwanted compensatory movements – positives when it comes to pretty much any sport.
Beyond being good at keeping you nice and supple, yoga actually does help to keep you fit and maintaining a healthy weight. It might not exactly be a HIIT session, but yoga does use up energy and so it does burn calories so is a great form of exercise for older individuals or people just wanting to get a little more active without signing up for the next Tough Mudder. The benefits don’t end with the gym either. Yoga has been proven to help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines in sufferers
. Research has also shown that yoga can help with insomnia,
due to the relaxation benefits of the practise.
Beyond the physical benefits, yoga is also great for mental and spiritual wellbeing. As someone who has tried yoga quite a few times, I have to say that I haven’t quite got to the stage of enlightenment just yet but I certainly do feel accomplished when I master a new position. These benefits do take time but, according to science (and all the lovely people at my Ashtanga yoga class) are very real and worth sticking it out for. You might remember a few weeks ago I wrote about lifting and your libido. Well, turns out there is a link between your sex drive and yoga as well, with yoga actually increasing your sexual satisfaction. Apparently, sexual performance is enhanced in both men and women when they practise yoga, so sign you are your partner up for a class before your next Netflix and Chill session. This could also be helped along by the fact that yoga can help to increase self confidence (something I have definitely experienced!) and boost your mood. By encouraging relaxation, yoga can help to lower the levels of the stress hormones, which has also been linked with helping sufferers of anxiety. Related benefits to the lowering of cortisol include lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving digestion and boosting the immune system – so grab yourself a mat and get started!
I started yoga because I was intrigued, I got a yoga mat for Christmas and I was procrastinating. I don’t love it yet. I don’t even always like it. But it offers me a way to get to know my body in a different way to any other exercise I do. It allows me to take time to push out of my comfort zone and exercise not for social media or for huge weight loss, but just for me and my body. Namaste to that.