Here is why yoga might be one the best things you’ll ever do for yourself

20 Jul , 2018

Yoga

Nowadays yoga is no longer just a weird sounding exercise your quirky friend does once in a while after work. Over the past 15 years, yoga has become one of the most popular types of exercise people choose for their workout. The best proof of that could be the fact that according to Yoga Journal, Americans spend over $2.5 billion on yoga instruction annually.

But even today, some people still picture long meditation session and slow movements when they think of yoga. Even though they are right to some extent, there is so much more to yoga than that. There are many different types of yoga and they all vary in intensity, types of movement and posture.

So if you are thinking of incorporating yoga into your weekly workout routine, but you are worried it may not be intense enough, there is no need to be concerned. According to Harvard Health Publication, depending on your weight, during a 30- minute Hatha Yoga session you can burn up to 180 calories. And keep in mind that Hatha is a moderately intense type of yoga - you can try Ashtanga if you are looking for a really challenging workout session. If you haven’t tried yoga yet, read on to see why you should give it a go and which type of yoga is best for you.

Why is yoga good for you?

The best thing about yoga is that it combines several physical and mental disciplines so you get to exercise your entire body and mind. You have probably heard people say how great they feel after doing yoga. It is one of the reasons why it has become so popular. And this is even backed up by research studies which show that practicing yoga regularly helps fight depression and anxiety as well as lowers stress levels. Scientifically speaking, yoga increases levels of the neurotransmitter GABA which is responsible for suppressing anxiety and lifting mood (Park, n.d). Another amazing thing that yoga can do for your health and wellbeing is helping to prevent heart diseases. Even though yoga is not a cardio type of exercise, according to numerous studies, yoga helps lower high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and high blood sugar, which are some of the most common risk factors for heart disease (Park, n.d).

If you are looking for a type of exercise that will target your entire body, yoga is one of the best options for you. Yoga positions engage all your body partscore, arms, legs, back, and glutes. And you do not need any special machines or a lot of equipment to exercise. All you need to do it is try to do those yoga postures right. What is more, yoga makes you more flexible too. If you want to work on your flexibility there is no easier way than practicing yoga regularly. Even if you have a workout routine in place that works well for you, incorporating yoga might be a good idea. When you exercise your muscles get bulky and stiff, and over time it may contribute to injuries and pains. Yoga poses to stretch and relax your muscles making them more flexible and ready for another session of intense workout. This may sound strange to you but yoga could also make you live longer. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, yoga also helps in regulating your metabolism and slows down your breathing pace which may add valuable years to your lifespan. What’s more, studies have shown that combining yoga with meditation can delay the process of aging by protecting the telomeres (caps) at the end of our chromosomes.

History of Yoga

Yoga is one of the oldest physical exercises we still practice to this day. Yoga was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago - initially, it was closely linked to religion and spiritual world. Yoga was slowly refined by the Brahmans and Rishis who documented their practices and beliefs in their work containing over 200 scriptures (Yoga Basics, n.d.). In the late 19th century, yoga masters began to travel to the West. They were attracting attention and followers teaching people yoga. One of the first yoga schools was opened in Mysore in 1924. Since then yoga has been gaining more and more popularity around the world, becoming one of the most popular types of exercise in the West. Today, yoga is not so strictly linked to religion and spiritual practices anymore. If you are looking for classes which are focused solely on the physical aspects of yoga, you can easily find them in your local area. Most gyms and yoga schools offer classes as a form of good physical exercise. The key is to find the best type of yoga for you.

 

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Types of Yoga

If you think that yoga is too slow for you, you are probably not aware that there many different types of yoga and that intensity level varies depending on which form of yoga you choose. Actually, there are over 100 different types of yoga. Some of them are gentle and relaxing while other types can be fast-paced and intense like Ashtanga. 

The most popular forms of yoga include:

Hatha Yoga:

technically the term “hatha” refers to all yoga poses, but today it is often used to describe a moderately intense type of yoga practice. It is one of the best options for beginners since it is slower than most popular yoga styles. It focuses a lot on breathing and proper postures, so you can learn most of the poses before moving on to more advanced types of yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga:

Next to Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga is probably one of the most popular kinds of yoga today. This type of class is not recommended for the beginners since it involves a sequence of postures which can be physically demanding. In order to follow the sequence, you need to know the postures and be able to do them properly. It is an intense type of exercise so if you are looking for something to get your heart pumping, Ashtanga can be the right choice for you.

Kundalini Yoga:

This type of yoga focuses equally on the physical and spiritual aspects of practice. In Kundalini, postures are usually invigorating and movements are fast. It is an intense type of yoga which really works your core and helps you focus on your breathing. During Kundalini classes you can also expect meditation, mantras and chanting.

Bikram Yoga:

You have probably heard of it before. Bikram Yoga class involves a sequence of 26 basic postures, with each of them performed twice. It is definitely the most sweaty type of yoga, but not necessarily because of the intensity level. Classes are usually based in a sauna-like room set to about 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity.

Vinyasa Yoga:

Actually, Vinyasa derives from Ashtanga Yoga, it was adopted in the 20th century. There are different styles of Vinyasa styles - sequences can change and involve different postures, there is also no set number of poses a sequence should involve,  but the movement should smoothly flow from one pose to another. The most important thing to know about Vinyasa is the importance of the movement and breath coordination. Before choosing this class, you should also remember that Vinyasa is one of the most athletic yoga styles.

Yin Yoga:

If you are looking for a slow-paced style of yoga this is the one for you. It is a very relaxing type of exercise involving seated postures which need to be held for longer periods of time, up to two minutes. Yin Yoga is also one of the best types of yoga if you are looking to incorporate meditation into your practice. Because of its slow pace and long-held postures, it is a good choice for beginners.

Prenatal yoga: 

This type of yoga has been created with expectant moms in mind. The postures have been adapted and tailored to women in all stages of pregnancy. The exercise focuses a lot on pelvic floor work and breath preparing future moms for labor and delivery. It is also a very relaxing type of exercise helping expectant moms find their inner peace.

These are only several, the most popular types of yoga which you are most likely to come across in your local area. As mentioned before there over 100 types of yoga, so if you haven't found the best style for you, keep looking. There is something for everyone.

 

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Give yoga a try!

As you can see yoga is a great and versatile practice. Even if you usually prefer hard workout with weights at the gym, it might be worth checking out some yoga classes. Yoga can be a great addition to your routine. You don’t have to go to every class, you might want to pop in every now and then when you feel you need it. You can also “mix and match” different yoga classes - go to Ashtanga when you feel you need an intense workout and choose Hatha when you feel you need to slow down and streach. Whatever you do, just give yoga a try!