5 Reasons Why Yoga Is Good For You
Yoga is a mindful practice, which combines breathing, movement, and focus with physical and mental energy to help you focus on your body and being in the here and now. And because of that, it has many benefits. Here are just some of the health, body, and mind benefits from this type of physical practice.
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Strengthens core muscles
While each yoga pose you perform uses a different set of muscles, almost all positions activate your core muscles, too. From planks, to sun salutations, to warrior poses, you're required to fire your abs and surrounding muscles in order to perform these exercises correctly. "The core is essential in keeping your spine aligned and supported or else you'd hold the position incorrectly or with poor form," explains Michele Olson, PhD, adjunct professor of sport science at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL. "The repetition of yoga positions during each session and throughout a weekly routine keep calling on the core muscles in your abdominals, trunk, spine, shoulder girdle, and hips to brace and maintain proper alignment through the series of movements and poses."
While holding certain poses or postures may be difficult, the more frequently you practice, the better you'll get, and the more flexible you'll become. "Flexibility is increased when you create angles at your hip that stretch your hamstrings and inner thighs, allowing your spine to move more freely so that its muscles lengthen throughout the session," explains Olson. "The shoulders and arms assist by reaching up, forward, behind you, and even around you, all serving to increase the ranges of hip and spine motions and mobility."
Advances cardiovascular fitness
While yoga may be a slower-paced workout than say running, according to a small study published in the International Journal of Yoga, it has heart health benefits. "Many people get their heart rate up to the target heart rate zone while doing yoga, particularly flow yoga," explains Riva Rahl, MD, a preventive medicine physician at Cooper Clinic in Dallas.
Increases overall muscle and bone strength
Yoga forces your body to remain in positions like high lunge, plank, and even down dog split, making for a sort of all-encompassing body weight-strength workout. "By using body weight to do calisthenics-type exercises, it stimulates to the bones as well as to the muscles to grow and remodel," explains Rahl.
Helps mood and anxiety
According to a study on a small sample of mentally fit individuals that was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, practicing yoga can help improve your mood and decrease anxiety levels. "Thoughtful breathing and meditation in your practice can reduce any anxiety you may have," says Rahl. "Yoga can also distract you from stress in your daily life, and because it's exercise, it also releases endorphins, which help boost your mood."