We here at VOYA are big believers that the key to a happy life is striking a balance between mindfulness, physical exercise and relaxation. When it comes to mindfulness and meditation, the practices can be universal, with many people accessing them the same way, but the exercise part all comes down to a person’s taste.
Some people love to run, or spend an hour in the gym while others dread the thought. One form of exercise that many overlook is yoga — assuming before they’ve tried it that it’s not for them. We’ve put together some of the benefits of yoga and some suggestions of how you could get started.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
Builds Muscle Strength
One of the main physical benefits of yoga is that it can strengthen your muscles and core. This can protect your body if you fall and help deal with back pain. The way yoga helps you strengthen your muscles is different to doing weights at the gym because it simultaneously works on your flexibility. In fact, only using weight machines in the gym might build muscles at the expense of your flexibility.
One study that wanted to examine the impact of yoga on the human body at a cellular level compared a group of subjects practicing yoga against a control group that practiced running and walking. The researchers found that changes in gene expression that can boost immunity were more prevalent in the yoga group. There is also reason to believe that because yoga helps with flexibility and breathing, it can improve circulation leading to better internal health.
If you’ve ever noticed that those that do yoga seem to be a relaxed bunch of people, the secret could be in their slumber. There are several poses that can improve your sleep and for some handy illustrations you can checkout this Article from Fitness Magazine. We’ve put some of the easiest positions below.
- Sit up comfortably on your heels.
- Roll your torso forward, bringing your forehead to rest on the bed in front of you.
- Lower your chest as close to your knees as you comfortably can, extending your arms in front of you.
- Hold the pose and breathe.
- Lying on your back, hug knees in to chest.
- Cross your ankles and wrap both arms around your shins with clasped hands.
- Inhale and rock your body up to sit; exhale as you roll back.
- Continue for 1 minute, then roll back, extend arms and legs, and drift off to sleep.
Winding Down Twist
- Sit cross-legged on the bed and exhale as you place your right hand on your left knee and left hand on the bed behind your tailbone.
- Gently twist your torso to the left.
- Allow your gaze to follow, looking over your left shoulder. Breathe deeply, then return to center and repeat on opposite side.
Mental Benefits of Yoga
According to Harvard Medical School, yoga can reduce “perceived stress” in the body by reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration.
Improve Short Term Memory
Although some of the memory benefits related to yoga are usually associated with Hatha yoga, it’s still possible to strengthen your concentration and short term memory with yoga exercises that you can do at your desk. Upper back and neck exercises can be done from the sitting position and can help you focus.
Fight Food Craving
One of the lesser known benefits of yoga is how it can assist in mindful eating. Mindful eating is when you pay full attention to the experience of eating and drinking. Have you ever eaten a sandwich while watching TV or reading a book and then not remembered eating it? Your body has consumed the calories, but your mind thinks you should go for a second meal. Mindful eating helps your body and mind work as one to remember what you have eaten. Because yoga teaches you to become aware of your breathing, the mind body connection becomes stronger and becomes more receptive for practices like mindful eating.
Yoga at Home
Thanks to the wonders of the internet and of course YouTube, there are several channels dedicated to yoga demonstrations. Better still, some of them are just for beginners. To see what we’re talking about check out this 20-minute yoga tutorial for beginners.
Go with a Friend
Trying a new experience like yoga can be a great excuse to bond with friends, family and significant others. Yoga has become extremely popular in Ireland with classes suitable for all levels popping up all over the country, so you’re bound to find a class in a nearby town. Just keep an eye out for people walking around with rolled up mats! You can find a list of national yoga locations here.
VOYA and Yoga
When it comes to yoga, VOYA practices what we preach. Every Friday some of our staff head to the Salt and Soul yoga studio in Strandhill Co. Sligo to look after our minds and bodies along the Wild Atlantic Way. With instructors trained in the traditional lineages of yoga and a light-filled chemical-free studio, Salt and Soul is our choice location when it comes to finding some zen in The West.