7 Benefits of Yoga

By: Michelle Regius, YogaFit® Certified Group Fitness Instructor, Campus Recreation Services

Terps have access to a full schedule of group fitness classes, including multiple offerings of yoga throughout the week. If you’ve thought about trying yoga, but haven’t stepped onto the mat yet, here are 7 reasons that just may get you there.

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Yoga has numerous benefits for both mind and body, including:

  1. Reduced stress and anxiety
  2. Toning and strengthening
  3. Flexibility
  4. Posture and confidence
  5. Body love
  6. Weight management
  7. Overall happiness

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

A major focus in many yoga traditions is finding and focusing on your breath. By concentrating on your breath, you are more easily able to let worries float out of your mind and take full advantage of this meditative state. According to Yoga Alliance,  “Many pranayamas [yogic breathing exercises] emphasize slowing down and deepening the breath, which activates the body’s parasympathetic system, or relaxation response. By changing our pattern of breathing, we can significantly affect our body’s experience of and response to stress.”

Toning and Strengthening

Yoga is truly a full body workout, but there’s no need for dumbbells! Yoga relies on use of one’s own bodyweight to strengthen and tone. It particularly emphasizes a strong and stable core. Start with plank pose to get a sense of the way yoga activates this part of your body.

Flexibility

Stretching is an essential part of any workout plan. Not only will you be able to reach your toes more easily, but stretching also helps ease sore muscles and prevents injury. But, you don’t need to get into challenging ‘yogi pretzel’ poses to reap the flexibility benefits of a yoga practice. Even just a few peaceful moments in a gentle forward fold can start to warm up and loosen your hamstrings. Avoid focusing on how far you can fold, but rather just release a little more with each outgoing breath.

Posture and Confidence

In Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” the Harvard professor and researcher discusses how, ‘power posing’ – i.e., standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident – can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.”

Most yoga practices focus on lengthening the spine throughout all poses. Even after just an hour on the mat, this tall confident posture will stay with you throughout your whole day.

Body Love

In a study from the University of California Berkeley cited by Active.com in this article, researchers found that, “Women who practiced [yoga] regularly rated their body satisfaction 20 percent higher than did those who took aerobics, even though both groups were at a healthy weight. The secret may be that yoga asks you to tune in to how your body feels and what it can do—not how it looks.”

Weight Management

In addition to the sweat you’ll work up and calories you’ll burn doing yoga, the practice cultivates a positive self-image and attention to whole body wellness. In my own personal experience, I lost twenty pounds from doing Sadie Nardini’s free series of “Weight Loss Yoga in 30 Minutes,” YouTube videos four times a week before going to bed.

Overall Happiness

Living in the moment is a fundamental philosophy of yoga. The stress relief and inner peace yoga promotes will leave you feeling just generally more happy and calm.

Keep in mind that some of these benefits are noticeable after just one yoga class, while others take time to build with a routine yoga practice. Be patient and stick with it.

Wherever your yoga journey may take you, Namaste.

Share with us! What benefits has yoga brought into your life?

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