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Yoga: health benefits beyond the mat

Yoga has been practiced for more than 5,000 years and continues to gain in popularity, thanks to its wide range of physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages and abilities.

 

WHAT IS YOGA?

Yoga consists of a series of precise body-weight postures and movements that are designed to improve both strength and flexibility at the same time. The exercise is combined with paying close attention to your breathing in order to control and optimize your breath, as well as maintain your focus throughout the practice. 

 

COMMON STYLES OF YOGA

  • Vinyasa or Flow: a fluid style of yoga linking each breath with a movement, which tends to be faster-paced. It’s ideal for anyone looking for a more athletic workout.

  • Hatha: a classic form of yoga that most other styles have originated from, which focuses on foundational postures. Generally poses are held for 3-5 rounds of breath before moving to the next posture.

  • Yin: focuses on stillness and spending more time (3-5 minutes) in each pose to lengthen connective tissue.

  • Restorative: uses props like bolsters, blocks and blankets to support the student fully in each pose for ultimate relaxation. Poses are generally held for 10-20 minutes.

  • Hot or Bikram: a vigorous style of yoga performed in a heated and humid room, designed to raise the heart rate and tire the muscles.

 

BENEFITS OF YOGA

Some of the physical health benefits of yoga include:
  • Improved flexibility
  • Improved strength and muscle tone
  • Better posture and balance
  • A more protected spine
  • Improved bone health
  • Increased blood flow and circulation
  • Reduced pain

Some of the mental health benefits of yoga include:

  • Improved ability to relax and manage stress
  • Improved sleep
  • Boosted self-esteem and sense of self-worth
  • Improved outlook on life

 

Try it out! 

Yoga can be practiced by ANYONE regardless of age, physical fitness, body shape or size, injuries, or flexibility. The goal of yoga is not to be the strongest or most flexible person in the room – the idea is to connect with your own body and to work at your own pace.

 

SAFETY FIRST!

Here are some precautions to keep in mind while searching for a yoga practice that best suits you:

  • Before commencing a practice, be sure to speak to your instructor about any injuries, conditions, or mobility limitations that may impact your practice.
  • Bring along a bottle of water to stay hydrated (especially for hot yoga).
  • Wear breathable, body-hugging, stretchy, comfortable clothing - you’ll want your shirt to stay put when bending over or balancing on your head!
  • Take it slow – many poses are actually more difficult than they look. Take the time to learn how to do each pose properly before moving on to more advanced classes.
  • Try searching for a beginner’s class on Youtube to get a better idea of what to expect.
  • Learn the foundations of yoga from a qualified instructor to ensure you are performing the poses safely. Once you have a good handle on it, mix in some yoga videos at home.

 

Considering trying yoga? It's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before embarking on a new exercising program.

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