A guide to yoga
Article date: 10 March 2014
If you're looking to lose weight, get fitter, tone up and improve your general mood, then yoga could well be the answer you're looking for.
The benefits of this discipline are multiple and as well as all of the above reasons, there is a range of scientific studies available to explain how it is proven to help your all-round wellbeing.
One of the best things about yoga is that it can be practised anywhere, while you don't need to spend loads of money on expensive equipment. A quick search on the internet should help you find a nearby class to get you started.
Proof that it works
While there has long been an element of mystery about how this ancient art makes such a difference in so many ways, chances are you'll notice you're sleeping better or feeling more chilled out just a few weeks after taking it up.
However, as medicine has advanced over the years, Western scientists have made progress in their efforts to understand why yoga can be so good for you.
Countless studies have looked into the impact it can have on the treatment of everything from debilitating illnesses to minor ailments. For example, research published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke found yoga greatly improved the rehabilitation of those who had experienced a stroke six or more months ago.
It has also been suggested yoga can be beneficial to asthmatics, with a study in Thailand proving it can strengthen the lungs, increase their capacity and help to overcome airway obstructions.
Yoga has also been proven to improve the mood of the person practising it, with a publication in the Psycho-Oncology journal specifically focusing on the effect it can potentially have on women with breast cancer. According to its findings, those who regularly took part in yoga sessions were 50 per cent less susceptible to experience depression and 12 per cent more likely to feel at peace with themselves.
If there's a particular problem you're struggling with and are wondering if yoga can help, it's certainly worth a quick search via your internet browser to see - there's loads of information out there on the benefits it can bring.
After finding a yoga class that is convenient for you to get to, you can give it a go and see what you think. Many groups are of mixed ability and the easy-going, relaxed nature of the discipline means nobody will judge you if you can't hold all of the positions at the first attempt.
In fact, one important thing to remember is that when you are carrying out your initial stretches, as long as you can feel the lengthening of your muscles, then you are building up your strength and improving your vitality. As time goes on and you ease yourself into the exercises, you'll find that you become more supple and it will be much easier to complete a class without struggling.
Once you've taken part in a couple of classes, you may want to invest in your own yoga mat. However, it's important not to buy one simply based on appearance or colour, as it's easy to underestimate just how much wear you will put upon it and a poorly-made mat will likely start to disintegrate after a few months.
Ideally, you should go for a reliable brand name mat that's dense enough to support you when you're attempting some of the more demanding positions, but not too foamy that you feel unstable and impeded in your efforts to balance.
Different types of yoga
Believe it or not, there are loads of different styles of yoga, each offering their own benefits and challenges.
Here are a few examples:
- Hatha - this is probably the most commonly-encountered type of yoga in the West and represents a gentle introduction to the principles of the discipline.
- Bikram - if you want to work up a sweat, this is the perfect way to go about it. Bikram yoga takes place in artificially-heated rooms and is widely popular.
- Vinyasa - often accompanied by music, these classes are choreographed so every move smoothly transitions into the next.
- Restorative - a great way to wind down and replenish energy levels, this style of yoga focuses on passive poses that require little effort.
There are plenty more to experiment with and as yoga becomes increasingly popular, it's not too difficult to find a type of class that will suit you perfectly.