Monday, June 23, 2014

Improving Fitness and Health with Yoga

Yoga was once an obscure practice that attracted bleeding souls, hippies, and sports enthusiasts. Over time Yoga made its way into mainstream activity as the benefits to our body and mind became apparent. Yoga provides a strong augmentation to your current workout and affords greater muscle recovery and healing.  Incorporating an hour of yoga three times a week into your schedule enhances other aspects of sports and fitness that lead to higher levels of satisfaction and health. 

Yoga has a positive effect on both physical and mental health. A large study of 15 yoga studios hosting 1045 respondents found that fitness levels were higher among those who practiced yoga with the far majority of respondents indicating that they were in good to excellent health (Ross, et. al. 2013). Furthermore, participants also stated that yoga improved energy, happiness, social relationships, sleep quality, and proper weight. 

Not all benefits of yoga are subjective. Another study helps us understand that yoga improved physical function and capacity (83%), reduced stress/anxiety (83%), enhanced sleep quality (21%), and improved upon diet (14%) (Alexander, 2013). The secondary benefits of sleep and diet supported fitness and stress management. 

Whether you are a sports enthusiast, interested in fitness, or seeking to unwind from a hard day’s work you should consider the multiple benefits of incorporate yoga into your schedule. Start with simple yoga three times a week that is more akin to stretching and then move into more complex power yoga that uses muscles and positions to tone the body.

Consider the multiple benefits of practicing:

Develops Flexibility: Yoga encourages muscle flexibility that improves upon recover and reduces the likelihood of future injury. Stretching muscles in the recovery of weightlifting routines improves range of motion.

Improves Muscle Tone: By holding ones body weight in varying positions both primary and secondary muscles are engaged leading to full body development.

Even Muscle Development: Yoga engages secondary muscles that are traditionally ignored in fitness programs. These muscles are used to create power and balance beyond large muscle development.

Encourages Balance: By developing secondary muscles and placing oneself within yoga postures it is possible to improve overall balance.

Develops Coordination: Yoga requires complex movements that use multiple positions, balance and muscles while training the body to complete actions in coordination.

Promotes Stress Reduction: Yoga makes use of contraction/relaxation of muscles and combines this with breathing to reduce the tightening symptoms of stress. 

Alexander, et. al. (2013). “More than I expected”: perceived benefits of yoga practice among older adults at risk for cardiovascular disease. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 21 (1). 

Ross, et. al. (2013). National survey of yoga practitioners: mental and physical health benefits. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 21 (4).

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