Calming your mind and moving your body

Healthy benefits: Yoga takes an overall approach to wellness and traditionally includes physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques. Photo: Shutterstock

Healthy benefits: Yoga takes an overall approach to wellness and traditionally includes physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques. Photo: Shutterstock

There are many benefits that can be enjoyed from practising yoga, and with the practice originating about 5000 years ago in India, it has stood the test of time.

Carly Dolan has been teaching yoga since 2015 and believes yoga is truly the ultimate game-changer when it comes to feeling great inside and out.

"People will often start yoga to deal with one issue, such as stiffness or anxiety, and find they receive many other unintentional benefits as a result," she said.

"Many of the benefits are also intertwined - for example, improving posture, and lung function can also assist with stress relief."

She explained the following benefits that can be gained from practising yoga.

Flexibility

This is perhaps the most commonly known benefit of yoga. However, for those people who think they can't practise yoga because they are not flexible enough - that's never the case. Yoga is for everybody, and over time it will increase flexibility.

The important thing is not to rush this or force your body to stretch too far beyond its edge. The benefit will come by pushing your flexibility to the limit and then carefully testing it to go slightly further. Over time, this will increase more and more.

Strength

Yoga postures and flows use your own body as weight. Several postures, including balance poses, work the core and back muscles, essential for overall strength and protecting your body from injury. There are also plenty of poses throughout a flow or vinyasa class that increase leg, glute, arm and shoulder strength.

Crow pose and handstands, for example, are balance poses, but they also become weight-bearing exercises because your arms and wrists hold your body up. These poses are not for beginners and must be worked up to.

Posture

Yoga focuses significantly on full, lengthened breathing and opening the lungs. Many poses centre on standing or sitting with a straight back and extending through the spine. There is also a focus on stretching in every direction, including shoulders back and down and chest out.

Yoga practice will help strengthen postural muscles. If you tend to hunch over or work at a desk, this will train those postural muscles to do their job and retrain your body to use good posture in everyday life.

Reduces stress

If you feel stressed, simply stopping and taking some slower, deeper belly breaths can help calm you down. So yoga, which centres on those slow, lengthened breaths is hugely beneficial in reducing stress.

Respiratory system

Yoga is largely based on 'pranayama', which is breath. Throughout any physical yoga practice, as well as through meditation, breath is the number one focus.

By concentrating on increasing the depth and length of the breath, you can improve lung function, increase oxygen intake and improve overall respiratory health.

Can help reduce chronic pain

It's important to note that any exercise or activity you take up when recovering from an injury or if you suffer from chronic pain must be given the green light from your doctor.

If your doctor says yoga would be a safe way to help treat your pain, then ensure you tell your yoga teacher what your injury or issue is before starting classes and always listen to your body.

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