When one hears the term yoga, the general train of thought does not immediately find the word associations of “hot,” “sweaty,” or difficult. However, yoga comes in many forms, which makes it an ever-growing industry; even teenagers and children as young as 13 are now teaching yoga classes themselves throughout the country. In 2012, Yoga in America released a study which found that 20.4 million adults participate in yoga; with the practice now being passed down to the younger generations, that number has only continued to rise in the past two years.
Not only does yoga come in many forms and allow for participants across age-ranges, yoga also offers a great deal of benefits to yogis. Listed below are just a few of the benefits you can achieve by simply attending a yoga class once a week. As with any sport, with yoga, practice and repetition elicits worthy results; just check out the list below to see if you have what it takes to be a yogi!
Increased flexibility: This benefit should be pretty obvious, simply based on a person’s even sparse knowledge of yoga. With yoga, you’re going to build up your flexibility, be that in small changes or larger ones. If you’re looking to start out slow, try Hatha yoga; this branch of the discipline focuses on the more basic poses of yoga, including low lunge, table top and downward-facing dog. As you move up to the higher intensity types of yoga, check out Vinyasa yoga, or yoga flow; here, you will become more flexible through poses such as reverse triangle pose, king pigeon pose and bow pose. From all of your practice of these poses, you may even grow an inch or two!
Improved respiration: Yoga focuses a great deal on a relaxing form of exercise, which is largely aided through the various breathing exercises yoga teachers focus on throughout their classes. Yoga breathing even has a specialized name, Pranayama, which has four traditional techniques. By focusing on your breath in different ways, you are able to gain a stronger breath and thus have a more enlightening workout.
Stress reduction: In line with yoga improving respiration, yoga also allows for yogis to take a break from their busy lives for a bit of relaxation (with the added bonus of your recommended daily exercise). With the practice of asana—literally sitting still—you are able to focus on coming into your breath and allowing it to become slow and steady. This is a pose that typically starts and ends a yoga class, to help the yogis ascertain just how importance the maintenance of their well-being truly is. Just like with all exercises, you should be focusing on the benefits for your body long-term; asana simply helps to further illustrate that importance.
Improved athletic performance: In recent years, as yoga has become more popular for a wide variety of individuals for numerous reasons, yoga has also become an important exercise for professional athletes. Sure, it may be difficult to picture Shaquille O’Neal coming into his breath in a hot yoga class, but that s just what’s happening for a ton of athletes who live and breath exercise (including Shaq’s turn on the mat in 2009). Basketball players and football players in the U.S. seem to lead the pack in adding yoga into their exercise routines, but athletes across all disciplines have been joining in on yoga classes. Just think: if these professional athletes can be improving their performance, adding in a day or two of yoga a week can be beneficial in hand with your usual cycling or running.
Protection from injury: Who knew practicing yoga, an exercise within itself, could help to protect you from injury? With all of the crazy moves that commonly cause non-yogis to scratch their heads, it seems almost impossible that you’re helping to protect your body from injury when you could very possibly get injured. However, yoga helps your body to build upper-body strength, attain a better posture, and reinforce your muscles. By working your way up to tree pose, per se, you will not only master a sense of accomplishment, but help your body to become more in tune with the strength it can ultimately achieve.
Even if these benefits still cause you to hold a bit of skepticism, please go and just check out a yoga class nearby to see what all of the fuss is about. Almost nine percent of American adults must have some reasoning behind their desire to be a yogi!