What are the benefits of yoga?
Why should you practice yoga?
Maybe you are looking to get more flexible, build strength, calm the mind, or connect with your breath and your community. There’s no one reason or benefit to practice yoga.
Yoga does more than burn calories and tone muscles. This ancient practice (some believe as old as 5000 years!) connects the mind, body, and spirit for optimal health and happiness.
Some believe the actual word, “yoga” originates from the word “yoke” - or, to connect. We love this idea. Connection is the soul fuel to happiness. So, no matter why you came to your mat, there are benefits.
Let’s face it. Some of us are just plain born with mobile joints and long, flexible muscles. But, many of us aren’t. Or, maybe you enjoyed years of your favorite sport that resulted in shorter, tighter, muscles and joints. Whatever the reason, yoga will certainly help your body become more subtle, more mobile, and just generally feel better in everyday movements.
Through targeted shapes (“asana”), yoga will ease that flexibility into your body in a safe and purposeful manner. Over time, your ligaments, tendons, muscles will lengthen and increase in elasticity.
Increased muscle tone and strength
Systematically engaging every muscle in the body, yoga challenges you in new ways ever time you practice. From head to toe, yoga creates new connections to underutilized muscles and “wakes” up parts of the body who have become a bit “sleepy”.
Often, someone comes to the mat who is in fantastic physical shape resulting from specific exercise (running, CrossFit, cycling, etc). They are shocked as they go through a yoga class,, and realize how demanding it is for them and how sore their muscles are the next day.
The muscles that are actually doing the work in each shape get stronger while moving through a range of motion. At the same time, other muscles tone as they balance and support the body in space.
Cardio and Circulatory health
Heart health is a key component to happy lives. Yoga lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate. Coupled with a healthy diet, yoga will both increase the physical health of your heart by challenging the body in shapes, but will also aid in heart health by balancing hormones and stress triggers.
Your heart is a muscle, after all. And, it’s the heart of all bodily functions. We strengthen it in yoga class with challenging poses, balancing shapes, and focuses breath-work. Then, we support and heal it with restorative mind/body connection and increased blood flow.
A consistent yoga practice will help balance your hormones. We know that Cortisol, the stress hormone, can also zap energy levels.
Backbends, specifically, open up the front line of the body and open the spine. When you move the spine in all directions, you help open the flow of energy, blood and oxygen thought the spine.
Through asana (yoga shapes), pranayama (yoga breath-work) and meditation, you may just be able to skip that second cup of afternoon coffee after all!
maintaining a balanced metabolism and healthy weight
As we age, metabolism changes. Yoga helps us balance hormones, and create opportunity for new relationships with our breath and body. The oxygen in your blood is closely related to your metabolism. With the connection of breath to movement in yoga class, you will see a focus on inhales and exhales of the breath equally — facilitating fresh, oxygenated blood throughout.
Yoga asana (the shapes we make in class) squeeze, stretch and twist the body to help pump the blood, and break down fat. As your ratio of muscle to fat changes, so does your metabolism.
improved athletic performance
At Twist Yoga, we work with a lot of athletes. Basketball players don’t come to us to become “yogis” necessarily. They just want to improve their game, and are looking to yoga to add that secret sauce to their regular training.
In many sports, our muscles become tight and “coiled.” Yoga helps bring back that passive elasticity to the muscles. This results in less injuries, quicker recovery, and more cardio fitness. In most classes, you’ll work slow-twitch (endurance and long distance) and fast-twitch (strength and muscle contraction ) muscle fibers.
We all want this, right? Every day, more research comes out that specifically connects healthy bodies to healthy sleep. You may not need to change the number of hours of sleep you get - just the overall quality of sleep.
There are specific yoga shapes that are particularly effective for deeper, higher-quality sleep. How? With the attention to breath techniques (pranayama), you will learn specific ways to use your own breath off the mat to send signals to the nervous system to relax. Forward folds and restorative classes specifically calm the nervous system and ease the mind.
Yoga will ease the physical discomfort in the body, teach you how to quiet your mind, and during savasana (the last pose in all classes), you will actually “practice” it all. Practice makes perfect and each time you rest at the end of class, you are given the opportunity to get better and better at ushering the body (and the mind!) into rest.
connection to self and community
To “yoke” or connect breath to movement, body to mind, or one to community is the essence of yoga. In a world where we may feel more and more disconnect both internally and externally, yoga is here to reignite that connection.
The real yoga begins when you leave your mat. Because connection fuels happiness, when are able to take what you learned on your mat, and refer to it, share it, or access it in every day life is when the real benefits of yoga are felt.
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