Stretch, strengthen and de-stress – why yoga ticks all the wellbeing boxes
At the start of each new year, many of us take the opportunity to resolve to create new habits to boost our wellbeing. And for some, it’s a great time to detox and cleanse the system, helping the body recover from the excesses of the festive season.
Yoga is a great place to start your journey back to optimum health, or an excellent addition to your self-care routine. A well-intentioned Yoga practice gently stretches and strengthens the body with focussed attention, and gives you the time and to disconnect from the frantic activity of life. It’s an opportunity to slow down and explore your mind and body at a peaceful pace.
The Physical Benefits
There are many different types of Yoga available today; from the restorative and ‘slow flow’ to the fast-paced and more aerobic, whatever type of movement you enjoy, there is a style to suit your needs. And whatever you choose, you’ll see and feel the same range of benefits;
1. Greater flexibility and muscle tone – this supports your other physical activities and helps protect you from injury.
2. Increased metabolism – moving your body encourages the healthy function of the endocrine system, which helps regulate metabolism and digestion. Plus the many twists practiced in yoga directly stimulate your digestive system.
3. Improved respiration – deep slow breathing allows the body to extract more oxygen from the air that we breathe, and more oxygen = more energy!
4. Better circulation – the strong stretches of the poses awaken or unblock parts of the body that perhaps don’t often receive much movement, this in turn allows better blood-flow to these areas.
5. Strengthens bone-density – Yoga includes many postures that are low-impact and weight-bearing, proven to strengthen the bones and guard against osteoporosis.
6. Improves joint function – taking our joints through their full range of motion allows them to receive fresh nutrients, and helps prevent the wearing out of cartilage.
Many of us experience periods of stress on a regular basis. Our lives are increasingly busy and challenging, and unless we have established strategies to decompress, stress can take hold and manifest in many ways. From high blood pressure to ulcers, muscular tension and headaches to depression and immune dysfunction, stress not only affects our mental state but our physical body too. But if we are able to notice the signs of stress at its early stages and take steps to actively calm the mind, the body has better chance to heal itself. A Yoga session offers respite from the turbulence of life; the slow and deep breathing woven in to the practice stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system – this is our ‘rest and relax’ state in which the blood pressure and heart rate drops, and the body is able recharge and renew.
Much the buzzword in recent years, mindfulness is simply learning how to be more present in our lives, dwelling less on what is past and what is to come! Yoga makes a space for us to develop a deeper awareness of the feelings and sensations within the body, as well as noticing how our mind behaves. We learn how to become the witness to the activities of the mind, to carve out new and more rational responses to situations that may have caused us distress in the past.
The Lasting Effects
So here’s the secret: Practiced over time, the deep breathing, mindfulness and being present becomes a skill that we can access outside of the Yoga studio – taking this ‘off the mat’ and out in to our lives can improve the quality of our relationships, the appreciation that we have for the little things and as a result, a deeper feeling of contentment.
Kate teaches group classes and one-to-one sessions in and around Reigate, Surrey. If you’d like to find out more please email email@example.com or call 07971 254 662. www.zantiyogauk.com