You may have noticed that yoga spaces are becoming more popular in-person and online. Many use yoga to stay in shape and to relax. Let’s explore how yoga can benefit you. Afterwards, let’s try a relaxing yoga sequence.
What is yoga?
The term “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means unity. Ancient yogis practiced yoga for hours to strengthen the connection between their minds and bodies. Today, people are finding that as little as 5 minutes a day is enough to improve their mood and stress levels.
A brief history
Yoga is between 3,000 and 5,000 years old. Though many cultures developed similar practices, the yoga we practice today began in India. Yoga traditionally refers to 8 different life practices, also called the 8 limbs of yoga. Modern yoga emphasizes movement/postures (asana), breathing (pranayama), and meditation (pratyahara).
The 8 Limbs of Yoga
Yama – Ethics
Niyama – Virtues
Asana – Postures/Movements
Pranayama – Breathing
Pratyahara – Meditation/Stillness
Dharana – Introspection
Dhyana – Reflection
Samadhi – Union/Balance
Yoga has many health benefits for both the mind and the body. Here are 5 impressive benefits:
1. Yoga burns calories
The number of calories you burn during yoga depends on the type of yoga and how long each session lasts. Vinyasa yoga, also known as Power yoga, builds strength and raises your heart rate. Yin yoga, on the other hand, is slower. You may practice yin yoga to increase flexibility without breaking a sweat.
2. Yoga may reduce stress and boost mood
Regular yoga practice may help to improve anxiety, depression and mood. Some people find that they can apply breathing principles from yoga to stress in their daily life. Similarly, yoga encourages clearing the mind and being present. Practicing yoga can help you hone your ability to live in the moment.
3. Yoga can improve high blood pressure
Studies have shown that after three months, patients who practiced daily yoga may be able to lower their blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure may help you manage chronic conditions like heart disease and chronic kidney disease.
4. Yoga increases strength and flexibility
Some types of yoga build strength and flexibility with challenging postures. Power yoga, for example, includes standing balances that engage your core and leg muscles. You may find your arm muscles engaged when you hold poses like chatarunga, a half push-up. Yoga includes a lot of stretching, which can improve flexibility over time. Yin yoga holds seated poses and stretches for up to several minutes at a time.
5. Yoga can lower cholesterol
In a study that included heart disease patients, researchers found that practicing yoga every day may also lower cholesterol.
Talk to your doctor before starting a new physical activity. Some types of yoga may be unsafe for people with certain chronic conditions or who are taking certain medications. It is important to be aware of any restrictions or modifications that may help you make the best of your yoga experience.
Try this 10-minute gentle seated yoga sequence called Seated Sun Salutation
Slow Breathing: Find a comfortable seat. See if you can naturally expand your belly when you breathe in. Do not force it. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Notice where you are holding tension in your body. As you breathe out, try to relax. Complete this cycle three times.
Cat Cow: On your next inhale, arch your upper back. Bring your chest forward and your shoulders back. If it is comfortable, you may tilt your head back to open your chest and throat. As you exhale, round your upper back. Bring your chin close to your chest. Cycle through these motions three or four times.
Seated Mountain Pose: Engage your core and breathe in. Raise your arms to a comfortable height above your head. If you can, bring your palms together.
Forward Fold: Exhale and fold over your legs as much as is comfortable.
Roll your yourself slowly into an upright position. Bring your hands to your heart. Repeat this sequence as many times as you like.