Although it started off as a fad”thanks to celeb devotees Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow”yoga is here to stay. And for good reason: it’s an ancient practice that unites the mind, body and spirit. If you’ve never tried it, here are five good reasons to hit the yoga studio:
- It strengthens your muscles
Forget the weight room. In yoga, your own body”not a barbell”provides the resistance to strengthen muscles. Unlike weight training, which isolates muscle groups, yoga engages all the muscle groups to achieve balance. It’s particularly good for building a strong core, and can be helpful in rehabilitating lower back injuries.
- It increases flexibility
Most of us associate yoga with stretching: it increases flexibility by supporting the joints through strengthened muscles and tendons. Better flexibility helps you avoid injuries, and can also assist with pain management. Bonus: a supple bod can also go a long way in the bedroom!
- It can help you manage your weight
While cardiovascular exercise such as walking, running or cycling is recommended to facilitate weight loss, a 2005 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine suggests that women who practice yoga regularly (three to four times a week) are better able to maintain or lose weight than women who do not practice yoga, even in the absence of regular cardiovascular activity.
- It adds variety to your workouts
One of the best benefits of yoga is the variety of styles available. For the neophyte, Hatha yoga will provide a gentle, slow-paced introduction to the basic poses. Integral yoga combines hatha yoga with breathing exercises, chanting and meditation practices meant to clear the body’s energy channels. Favoured by Madonna, Ashtanga or power yoga is a strenuous form of yoga that has you moving through a set series of poses without pause. (It’s best suited to more advanced yoga practitioners.) Bikram or hot yoga is a set of 26 poses performed in a room heated to approximately 40 degrees Celsius. The heated room warms and limbers the muscles, ligaments and tendons and facilitates detoxification through sweating.
- It improves your mood
Yoga is queen when it comes to alleviating stress, increasing mental clarity and lifting mild depression. Since it’s a moving meditation, the gentle movements and breathing techniques will rejuvenate your body and mind. According to a study conducted at the New Hampshire Hospital, yoga even alleviates negative emotions such as anxiety, tension, anger and fatigue. Who needs a better reason to start saluting the sun?