Yoga has become a modern-day symbol of peace, serenity and well-being and now more than 20 million Americans practice yoga, according to the 2012 Yoga in America study. It's frequently touted for its effectual stress reduction and balance improvement, it also offers other wide-ranging health benefits.
So whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, practicing yoga has many non-traditional health benefits. Jump-start your practice either online, via DVDs in your home or at a yoga studio. You can also utilize yoga subscription services like GaiamTV and view countless videos from your iPad, gaming system or home streaming device. Learn more about the beauty of a yoga-ful life below.
Relief of Back Pain
Yoga's focus on balance and strength is ideal for improving circulation and providing chronic back pain relief, especially because one of the primary causes of these issues is muscle tension. As you move through your practice, yoga gives you the space and atmosphere to stretch and loosen up often neglected areas. But, before you start a yoga program with the intent of alleviating back pain, please speak to your primary care provider and inform your yoga instructor at the beginning of class.
Strike a Pose: Reclining Twist (supta matsyendrasana)
Photo by amyjirsa_yogini via Flickr
Yoga practice is associated with increased levels of GABA, an amino acid and neurotransmitter that may help reduce anxiety. Preliminary research out of the Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard's McLean Hospital found that those who practiced yoga for one hour had a 27% increase in levels of GABA compared with a control group. This helps give weight to the idea that yoga can significantly improve mood and reduce signs of depression.
Strike a Pose: Downward Facing Dog
Photo by Joseph RENGER via Wikimedia Commons
You're probably thinking this one is a no-brainier. But did you know that we're all born flexible? Due to restricted and sedentary lifestyles, we lose most of that and our muscles atrophy and our joints settle into a limited range. Bikram yoga, a form performed in a heated room, has been found to be even more effective in increasing shoulder, back and hamstring flexibility.
Strike a Pose: Single-Leg Forward Bend (parsvottanasana)
Photo by amyjirsa_yogini via Flickr
As part of an overall healthy lifestyle, M. Mala Cunningham, Ph.D. says, "yoga can help lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, improve respiratory function and heart rate and boost circulation and muscle tone." It also benefits those overcoming a recent heart event because it helps manage stress, especially as the weight of dealing with a potentially chronic disease settles in. Even after your first yoga class, your blood pressure will likely be lower. To find a specialty-trained cardiac medical yoga instructor, check with your local rehab center or visit cardiacyoga.com.
Strike a Pose: Sun Salutation (surya namaskar)
Photo by mikebaird via Flickr
Mindfulness "is an ancient principle that can help us grow more attentive, creative, resilient and successful. In doing so, it can create ripples of awareness and positivity that will reverberate through our communities, our society and our world," said Richard Branson. Breathing is the best way to draw focus and cultivate a feeling of transcendence that helps bring your focus inward. From there, we can expand awareness to include the whole body, including postures and movement--the gentle and relaxing flow of Hatha yoga is especially useful to create unity in body and mind. Now get out there and stretch. Namasté.
Strike a Pose: Tree Pose (vriksasana)
Photo by Sweet Carolina Photography via Flickr
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