Today’s excellent guest post comes from the fantastic personal development consultant Ysmay Walsh, Ysmay.com (Follow her on Twitter)
While the science of yoga is just beginning to be understood, doctors everywhere agree the benefits of yoga are numerous and varied. Yoga is more than just simple stretching. Yoga is more than meditation. When done correctly yoga is a complete mind and body workout. Yoga can stand alone or accompany a high intensity interval training workout like Tabata.
Despite all the skinny twenty-somethings you see flitting about in their yoga gear, yoga is not just for skinny people, young people, or healthy people. Yoga is a highly adaptive form of exercise, and can be done at your own pace, and within your own restrictions. You can practice yoga at an intensity that is right for you.
Here are some awesome benefits of yoga, and five reasons why yoga will improve your other workouts.
The Benefits of Yoga
The benefits of yoga are both instantaneous, and sustainable long-term.
Studies show that immediately after yoga class you’ll have improved brain function, lower stress levels, and increased flexibility.
After you’ve been practicing yoga for a few months, studies indicate you will have an improved sense of balance, lower blood pressure, lower anxiety levels, improved lung capacity, and a reduction in chronic neck and back pain.
After a couple years of yoga, you’ll look longer and leaner, and as if all those benefits are not enough, according to the Mayo Clinic, a regular yoga practice will help reduce your chances of chronic illness, such as heart disease, and even help you sleep better! What’s not to love?
How Yoga Will Improve Your Other Workouts
1) Yoga improves your breathing
Vinyasa yoga links movement to breath, and creates a trend of breath awareness that will carry over into other aspects of your life, including your high intensity interval training workout, or your CrossFit routine. With proper breathing techniques, like breathing from your diaphragm, you’ll be able to sustain your movements longer and easier. After a few weeks of regular yoga practice, you’ll be breathing from your diaphragm in no time.
2) Yoga improves your flexibility
If you’re into CrossFit, and find some exercises challenging, you’ll be happy to know that yoga will loosen you up and make those exercises a little bit easier. If you’re heals are coming off the ground during an overhead squat, try to master the yoga pose downward facing dog. One of the benefits of yoga pose downward facing dog is that your calves and spine will be stretched, making it easier to keep your heals firmly on the floor during an overhead squat.
3) Yoga improves your focus.
Ever try to do 100 traveling kettle ball swings in Tabata? It can get hard to stay focused, right? In yoga there is emphasis on creating and maintaining a focal point so you can continue your exercise with minimal distraction.
4) Yoga improves your positioning.
Most classical forms of yoga emphasize finding a neutral spinal position, either braced or unbraced, which will aid you in maintaining a movement or pose longer. The same concept of a neutral spinal position is considered good technique in dozens of other exercises including running, dead-lift, chest-press, overhead press, push ups, lat pull downs, and even jump rope.
5) Yoga improves your mood.
Researchers from Columbia University, Boston University, and New York Medical College discovered yoga increases the brain’s levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, gamma-aminobutryic acid. Imbalances of GABA are linked with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and chronic pain. Furthermore, GABA plays an essential role in the maintenance of muscle tone. You are far more likely to workout when you are less stressed, depressed, or anxious. And with an increase in your GABA levels, you’ll get more bang for your gym buck.
I can attest to all of the above. Yoga has helped me to recover from a serious back injury. I can’t see myself not practicing yoga ever.