Yoga is anything but a trend. For more than 5,000 years, people from diverse cultures have practiced yoga — often as a pathway to spiritual enlightenment. In recent decades, it has gained followers who appreciate it as a full-body workout that combines physical poses, breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation.
A Healthy Part of a Fitness Regimen
Research shows yoga reduces stress, boosts your mood and benefits your health in the following ways:
- Better strength and flexibility. Yoga poses called asanas encourage safe stretching of your muscles and soft tissues. This releases lactic acid, built up by daily muscle use, which causes stiffness, pain and fatigue. Many yoga poses build upper body strength and almost all build strength in the core abdominal muscles.
- Bigger lung capacity. Central to yogic practice, deep breathing, or prayanama, encourages you to expand your lungs and the muscles surrounding them.
This strengthens your respiratory system, increases blood flow to your entire
body and helps you learn how to breathe correctly and relax completely.
- Lower heart rate and blood pressure. Many studies show yoga lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and benefits people with diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Where to Start
Many gyms, community centers and YMCAs offer beginner or introductory yoga classes. This is a great way to explore the types of yoga that appeal to you. Once you find a facility, visit its website or call ahead to choose a class. Before your first class, make sure you know what to bring and dress comfortably so your body can move freely. Yoga encourages you to position your body in different ways, so the most important thing is to dress in a way that will make you feel comfortable and relaxed.
Ask Your Women’s Health Provider
It’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before you try yoga, especially if you have any existing health conditions. The good news is that yoga is highly accessible for almost everyone. Research continues to prove the benefits of yoga on chronic health conditions, including anxiety, asthma, depression, back pain, high blood pressure and insomnia. The best way to find out if it’s right for you is to give it a try.
*Sources: KidsHealth.org, NCCAM.NIH.gov