Today we're celebrating International Yoga Day 2020 whose aim is to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practising yoga.
The rising popularity of yoga has been well documented across our social media feeds, but contrary to popular belief -- it’s not all about hopping into the perfect handstand, or finally managing to put your leg behind your head.
The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolising the union of body and consciousness. The practice of yoga, which began in Ancient India, has today been adopted by cultures around the world.
When you look at the benefits it brings, it’s not hard to see why:
It makes you STRONG
Yoga is a physical practice that requires nothing other than your own bodyweight to build, tone and condition muscle.
Due to the variety of poses that have been developed and honed over thousands of years, yoga is a workout for pretty much every part of your body. By doing yoga, you are exercising muscles you didn’t even know you had.
Yoga is the perfect companion to other sports and exercises that you might be into. Every time you practice, you are building core strength that will make you fitter.
The poses are also designed to stretch out and release tension in areas of your body that feel tight or cramped. For those of us who sit at a desk all day, it’s an amazing way to recalibrate the body.
And like all the good things in life, you have to work for the rewards. Be prepared to sweat - a lot. Just make sure you invest in a good non-slip yoga mat.
It’s a workout for your MIND
Yoga is as much a mental practice as it is a physical one.
The practice teaches you meditation and mindfulness techniques that you can bring to your aid in daily life. It teaches you to focus and calm your thoughts and has been proven to help reduce stress, depression and anxiety.
When you feel that quad burn and you think, “I want to come out of this pose now” -- by holding it just a little bit longer and resisting the temptation to give up, you are developing your mind strength as much as your muscles.
Even after the most stressful and busiest of days, at the end of the class you often realise that for the last 60 minutes, you haven’t thought about anything other than what you’ve been doing on your mat.
It helps you BREATHE
Part of the way that yoga strengthens your mind is by focusing on your breath.
Lots of us are used to breathing using only the upper part of the lungs -- the part in the top of your chest. Yoga encourages you to take deep “belly breaths”, using the lower, middle and upper parts of your lungs.
And it’s all about the exhale.
Our exhale is linked to our nervous system and it is this which calms us down when we breathe deeply. Yoga teaches you to exhale for longer than your inhale. By doing this during practice, you are calming your body’s nervous system and will be able to push your boundaries further.
It improves your BALANCE
Have you ever tried standing on one leg and then closing your eyes? The practised yogi finds steadiness and grounding in challenging positions.
Working on your balance increases body awareness and coordination, improves your posture and encourages joint stability. This can have a huge impact on your long term health, protecting you from injury and preventing falls as we get older.