4 Benefits of Adding Yoga to Your Regular Exercise Routine
There are many benefits of mixing up different types of exercise when working hard to stay fit. This helps to keep things fun and you get a chance to work different muscles, thereby facilitating overall fitness. However, in the quest to vary workouts, most people put an overemphasis on strength training, muscle building, and cardiovascular exercises, all the while forgetting one very beneficial form of exercise – yoga.
Yoga gives the body a different challenge that delivers a unique set of benefits. Some of these benefits work towards reducing risk of injury, others help undo the stress that exercise places on the body, while a few put the body in a better state of reaping the full benefits of exercise. So, if you exercise regularly, read on to discover the importance of adding yoga to your fitness regimen.
1) Increased Flexibility
While there are several forms of exercise that help improve on your flexibility, none delivers better results than yoga. Yoga is all about holding certain poses for specific amounts of time. These poses stretch the target muscles and joints, which helps to increase range of motion. So if practiced regularly, yoga will help you improve on your flexibility (including spinal flexibility). The increased flexibility in turn works to decrease risk of injury on muscles, joints, and ligaments and also helps to improve the effectiveness of any other exercises you engage in.
2) More Strength
Although much more gentle in nature compared to other types of exercise, yoga is actually quite challenging to the body. It takes a lot of strength to hold a yoga pose especially in the case of advanced yoga movements. Therefore, it will take a lot of practice before you will be able to remain balanced and still during yoga poses. The good news however is that you will get to build strength (as well as improve balance and posture) as you get better at yoga. What’s even better is that you will be able to strengthen all body muscles (i.e. arms, legs, back, and core) at the same time since yoga stretches and stimulates body muscles in a uniform manner. As we all know, the stronger your muscles get, the harder you will be able to exercise. This in turn allows you to reap greater results.
3) Reduced Mental and Physical Stress
Aside from working the body physically, yoga also engages the mind by combining strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and/or meditation. The breathing and meditation part of yoga puts the mind in a deep state of relaxation, which triggers an inner peace that helps to naturally relieve stress and anxiety. So, including yoga in your workout routine will help boost mental health.
Similarly, the relaxation part of yoga relaxes body muscles and relieves any available tension. This yoga benefit in turn not only relieves physical stress brought on by regular intense workouts but also promotes faster muscle recovery.
4) Detoxification of the Body
Any type of yoga, whether the gentler hatha style or the intense power yoga, results in an increase in blood flow to all parts of the body. This boost in blood flow helps to flush out toxins within the body’s tissues. Generally, the more intense the yoga, the greater the rate of removal of toxins. Therefore, if you want your workout routine to reap detoxification benefits such as increased energy, clearer thinking, and a stronger immune system, go for the intense forms of yoga such as bikram and hot yoga.
Now that you understand some of the many benefits of yoga, you probably cannot wait to get on a mat and get into those stretching poses. If you are a beginner, however, talk to an expert or do some research to find out which are the best and safest start up yoga exercises.
4 Best Types of Yoga for Beginners
For a newbie, getting started on yoga can be a little confusing. This is because unlike options such as running, lunges, pull-ups, crunches, and pushups, that can be done by just about anyone regardless of their level of fitness, yoga is not a one-fits-all kind of exercise. For instance, someone who is strong but stiff will not need the same routines as someone who is small but flexible.
While what works for one may not work for another, the good news is that, there are more than enough yoga moves to suit everyone. You just need to figure out what style of yoga is good for you. With that said, a beginner will never go wrong with the following styles of yoga.
Among all the available styles of yoga, hatha is arguably the best option for beginners. This is because hatha is a gentle form of yoga whose sole purpose is introducing individuals to the basics of yoga, which are postures, breath work, relaxation techniques, and meditation.
A typical hatha yoga class usually includes a teacher taking his/her students through several yoga poses with each pose being held for a few breaths. So while you may not leave a hatha class sweaty and exhausted, you will be left feeling longer, looser, and more relaxed. These benefits coupled with the poses you learn will put you one step closer to becoming a yoga master.
2) Yin Yoga
Similar to hatha but much slower, yin yoga focuses on passive, seated postures that target the deep connective tissues and fascia. Lasting for anywhere between 1 to 10 minutes, yin yoga poses put stress in connective tissues thereby resulting in increased flexibility, enhanced circulation, and a feeling of release in muscles. The poses are also relaxing in nature and therefore work to calm the mind.
The great thing about yin yoga is that the poses are very easy to do with some allowing you to use props that release the body into posture instead of you having to actively flex or engage muscles. As such, yin yoga is ideal for beginners who have never set foot in a yoga class before.
A variation of yin yoga, restorative yoga is also a slow-paced style that entails holding poses for long periods. It also includes the use of props such as blankets, yoga blocks, and bolsters to support the body during various poses. However, unlike yin yoga, which focuses on flexibility, restorative yoga is more about meditation. Poses usually last longer (sometimes up to 20 minutes) and tend to induce a deep state of relaxation.
For those fit individuals who are looking for a simple yet physically challenging introduction to yoga, the ashtanga style would make a perfect fit. Made up of 6 phases each with a sequence of postures, the ashtanga style of yoga offers something for every yogi irrespective of their expertise in the exercise. Beginners can start with the primary phase, which is the easiest of the 6 phases. It entails going through a series of poses, each held for a short period. During the poses, movement and breath are linked whereby one pose smoothly flows into another with every movement being linked to a breath.
The beauty about the ashtanga style of yoga is that each class entails going through the same poses in the same order. Therefore, you will have plenty of time to master the poses of the primary phase before progressing to the much harder phases.
Unless you are a trained dancer or gymnast, chances are you will be a little stiff going into yoga. The above listed styles give you a chance of increasing flexibility as you learn the basics of yoga. So, to ensure the best yoga experience, make sure to start small with these options and slowly work your way to more intense yoga styles such as Hot Yoga (a series of yoga poses performed in quick succession in a heated room) and Vinyasa (yoga poses that link movement and breath performed quickly in a dance-like way).