Yoga…it’s more than just toned muscles

There are two sets of reactions that I get when I mention that I do yoga – there are those who gesture a meditation pose and say “uhmmmm” and others say, “oh, I can’t do those poses” – both reflect the common impression that yoga is just about meditation and headstands.

That’s a very limited view of yoga. Both meditation and headstands are part of it and as yoga is a journey, you start from where you are. There are yoga routines for everyone. (So, for those with medical or physical conditions, it is always best to consult your doctor and a trained yoga practitioner (yogi).

There are many types of yoga. In fact, there are over a dozen so you can choose what suits you. I consider myself just a little above a beginner and while I can do some challenging asanas (yoga poses), I still continue to work on my headstand with some progress especially during this time (of pandemic) where I can practice more. I love Vinyasa Yoga (vinyasa is a Sanskrit word for “flow”) which is fun and as the term implies, makes you do a series of poses that flow gracefully. Hatha yoga is another favourite as it focuses on posture and is a great stress reliever especially after a long day. I also love Jivamukti yoga classes that I used to attend which includes chants and meditative music as well as various asanas that will surely challenge your strength, flexibility and balance. There’s Bikram (hot yoga) and Iyengar (uses props like ropes, chairs, blocks, , straps, etc) too and the latter is oftentimes prescribed with those who have physical conditions.

Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self and to the self. ~The Bhagavad Gita http://www.happier.com

The Harvard Medical School lists 5 benefits of doing yoga which summarises what we can get out of it: Read more https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat

  • A better body image – yoga practice encourages acceptance of self as a starting point and it cultivates your awareness on how you feel; never forcing something you cannot do yet at this time (but if you choose to, you can in due time as you gain strength and flexibility (which you will for as long as you are committed to practice)
  • Becoming a mindful eater – researchers found a link between mindful eating (eating based on what’s good for you) and yoga practice
  • A boost to weight loss and maintenance – studies show that those who practice yoga for at least 30 minutes three times a week gained less weight in the 4-year duration of the research than those who did not and those who practised had lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Enhancing fitness – practising yoga improves one’s flexibility and mobility and tones the muscles in a balanced way from head to toe; it also improves strength, balance and endurance.
  • Cardiovascular benefits – many studies show improved conditions in people with hypertension and diabetes; medical studies also point that yoga improve lipid profiles of both healthy individuals as well as those with coronary artery diseases.

Since I also do long distance running, yoga is the perfect complement. Running uses the same muscle groups and stretching the hard-to-reach muscles and joints which yoga does help avoid injuries.

Another great benefit from yoga is the fact that it teaches correct breathing. That kind of breathing that nourishes the entire body. Each practice makes you focus on the breath and as you do, allows you to slow down your heart beat. As a result, you feel so relaxed. Yoga Breathing or pranayama had been extensively studied and has been proven to decrease stress, improve sleep quality, increase mindfulness, reduce high blood pressure and improve lung function. Read more of this: https://www.healthline.com/health/pranayama-benefits

Just doing the basic poses like downward and upward dog, warrior 1, 2 and 3, plank and side plank, vinyasa flow, chair and bridge is enough to release buckets of sweat and gives you that sense of accomplishment giving you the passage to do the well-deserved savasana (final resting pose) which integrates everything you did during the session.

I hope I have provided you more reasons and motivation to start your yoga journey. So…see you on the mat!