But while January’s a great time to dust off the cobwebs and get fit, there’s really no excuse not to be heading down the gym year-round. After all, when a workout combines de-stressing properties and burns calories, what’s not to love?!
We are, of course, talking about yoga – because amongst all the ‘laying around and stretching’ it actually delivers a host of other health benefits.
You see, yoga really isn’t as ‘wishy washy’ as you first thought. True, it combines chanting and some strange-sounding terminology, but it also has a rich history that goes back centuries – and it can get you fit. Really fit. Here are just a few reasons it’s one of the best workouts you can do:
It Perfects the Posture
Now this might not seem like a biggie, but trust us; when you’re getting in bed every night you’ll notice the difference. And by that we mean, you’ll have fewer aches and pains as a result of training your body to stand up straight – slouching, after all, causes back pain like no other! But poor posture can cause all sorts of issues, too; a (literal) pain in the neck can just one cause of not standing up straight, while some may even experience problems with other muscles and joints.
It Helps Improve Flexibility
Now this is the most obvious benefit of yoga, but trust us when we say it’s one of the best; nothing is more rewarding than discovering you can now touch your toes with no discomfort whatsoever. If you stick with yoga, you’ll start to feel a gradual loosening all over, too, with what once looked like impossible poses becoming second nature. Tight hamstrings and hips will also ease off in time, and you can improve back pain by simply stretching a bit more, too.
Regular Yoga Will Build Muscle Strength
Protecting us from conditions like arthritis and back pain, strong muscles don’t just look good – they help us feel great. With improved flexibility in yoga comes more muscle strength – who knew you didn’t have to hit the scary-looking weights section of the gym floor to work on those guns?
Yoga Makes You Happier
It’s true – but we bet you don’t believe us! We’re right though; if you’re feeling sad, the Lotus position should do it. If you don’t fancy that, try rising up into a backbend or give the King Dancer Pose a go. The fact is, yoga’s long been known to increase the serotonin levels in the body, while also decreasing monoamine oxidase (which is an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters). Over in the US, at the University of Wisconsin, one professor found that the left prefrontal cortex showed heightened activity in meditators, a finding that has been correlated with greater levels of happiness and better immune function. What more do you need to know – yoga is a great idea all-round?
Hopefully by now you’ll know the yoga basics when it comes to feeling and looking great – and we bet you’re itching to head down the gym and roll out that rubber mat. But should you decide to give it a go, make sure you take it steady. Yoga’s about finding time to relax and, above all, doing things at your own pace. Sure, push yourself – but not too hard. The key is in gently stretching the body gradually – not ‘racing towards the finish line’ in a bid to be the first in the class to be able to comfortably (and gracefully) manage the splits.
Use the yoga class as your time out – and be thankful it also brings with it great health benefits, too. Enjoy!
By Megan Zsaa
Megan works with www.samsaramindandbody.com and is passionate about nutrition, meditation and of course, yoga. She currently lives in London.
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