The ancient discipline of yoga has, quite literally, mind-blowing, and body-altering benefits. Such power that, when done correctly, it can alter your brain chemistry in under an hour.
Today millions of devotees use yoga as a form of exercise, rather than a spiritual practice, as they move their bodies into various positions or poses (known as asanas), pairing this with careful breathing (known as pranayama) to become fit, flexible, and fabulously relaxed.
Looking at yoga experts, we tend to think of a yoga body as sleek and streamlined in contrast to that often bulked up gym body, although both can be strong and fit. Yoga does have heaps of health benefits, however, let’s bust the following extremely prevalent misconception right now:
Myth: yoga elongates your muscles
Nope, it doesn’t. Science shows that despite how it may feel, muscle length actually doesn’t change very much from exercise, even stretching activities such as yoga or Pilates.
However, certain yoga poses can help you to elongate your spine, build core strength and improve posture.
The result is that you most definitely will look and feel taller, and this extension of your upper body may even raise your perceived height by a few centimetres.
When you stretch into your yoga poses, focus on opening up your chest muscles and making the space between your shoulders and hips as long as possible.
Fact: yoga is good for your body
This is perhaps the biggest health boost, as yoga can increase your body’s strength, flexibility, and mobility, at the same time as giving you better posture, balance, and coordination.
Regular practice also helps you to maintain your muscle mass as you age. If you have height loss due to a medical condition such as scoliosis or kyphosis, yoga and other exercises may help to correct imbalances in your spine.
Yoga also helps to ease joint pain if you suffer from arthritis, and can keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in check. It may even have a positive effect on heart health and can reduce inflammation.
It’s also relatively injury free – as long as you don’t attempt one of the more physically challenging poses and get tied in knots before your body is ready for it!
You can do it at your own pace, and at different temperatures with variations known as hot yoga and cold yoga. There’s no need to break into a sweat in some versions of yoga. What’s not to like, even for a couch potato?
Fact: 15 minutes a day is enough
Between 10 and 20 minutes a day can be enough to reap the benefits of yoga. One study of more than 700 people found that practising just 12 minutes of poses either daily, or every other day, improved bone health.
Another plus is that you can do it more or less anywhere, you don’t need any equipment (although a comfortable mat will help) or specialised clothing, just some space around yourself to practise the various asanas or movements. Find a comfy spot at home, and you’re good to go.
When done consistently and under the guidance of a qualified instructor, yoga usually takes between six and 12 weeks to see results, although this varies from person to person.
Fact: yoga reduces stress
Another study has found that people who practice yoga regularly have low levels of cortisol, one of the key stress hormones. They also sleep better, and feel well-rested.
The focus on pranayama, said to carry a person’s life force, is another aspect of yoga which has immense health benefits. Engaged breathing can help relieve minor fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
From a spiritual perspective, a daily yoga practice is said to awaken the main energy centres – called chakras – in your body.
Looking at the benefits to body, mind, and soul, take a deep breath and make time for the mat!
Date Published: 15 November 2021