Ask SK: “I’m thinking about getting into yoga, what are the benefits?”
Sarah-Kate (“SK”) is a board certified nurse practitioner licensed in California and a co-founder at The Mindful Tech Lab. Send your questions to AskSK@themindfultechlab.com for the chance to have your questions answered and featured here!
There are so many benefits of yoga for both the mind and body that everyone can benefit from. Yoga is definitely an exercise for all individuals, you do not have to be inherently flexible or athletic. You also do not need to go all the time to achieve the health benefits – albeit the more you go, the better you will feel, but just one session is beneficial for both your mind and body and you will feel the effects immediately.
Below lists the top benefits of yoga:
1. Tones and strengthens your entire body
Yoga is a full body workout, meaning it works the upper body, lower body, and core. The more muscles you can work at the same time, the more efficient and effective the workout. Muscles are your metabolically active tissue meaning they burn calories for you – even at rest. The more muscle you have and the more muscles you engage during exercise, leads to greater strength gains and greater calorie burn. Constantly changing movement in different directions and alternating between holding positions and rapid movements keeps your body guessing – meaning greater strength gain and more calories burned.
2. Increase flexibility and range of motion
Yoga lengthens and stretches muscles so that overtime they become more elastic and their range of motion increases. We want to increase our range of motion and become more flexible because this decreases the chance of muscular injury and also allows us to use more muscle fibers – which again makes us get stronger and burn more calories. Studies have found that yoga is even better for increasing flexibility than static stretching – read more about this here.
3. Recover faster from a workout
Yoga stretches and lengthens muscles, which is what you want to do after a hard workout. Yoga enhances blood flow throughout the body which sends oxygen and other factors that help to repair and rebuild muscle tissue that was broken down during exercise. The quicker this can happen, the sooner you will build muscle and the sooner you can do another workout without further muscle breakdown.
4. Increases mindfulness
Yoga has you place your attention on the present, and forces you to be mindful of your movements. Practicing mindfulness during yoga helps to train the mind to practice mindfulness outside of doing yoga. Mindfulness is all about the present, taking in the world around you and not thinking of the past or the future.
5. Stress reliever
Yoga is a great way to relieve stress because it incorporates deep breathing and emphasizes keeping your mind on the present – rather than worrying about yesterday or the future. This increases a state of calmness and mental clarity, which decreases stress in the brain as well as stress throughout the body.
6. Burns calories
Yoga is not always thought as being a calorie-torching workout, but it definitely can be! It’s all about the type of yoga you do, as well as the instructor that you have. Vinyasa Yoga and Power Yoga are common yoga classes that should definitely give you a cardio and strength training workout in one.
7. Prevents aches and pains
Did you know that the number one way to treat and prevent back pain is a strong core? Yoga is all about keeping the core strong and just about all exercises in yoga incorporate the core. Think about when you’ve gone to reach for something or fell and you feel like you strained your back or shoulder. This is due to tight muscles, because tight muscles don’t want to move very far and when they are stretched too far this causes pain and maybe even a tear.
Real life example:
I always ask my older patients who are super fit and pain-free, what their secret it to staying healthy. The common theme that I always hear is that they stretch and practice yoga regularly.
8. Enhances physical performance
As discussed above, yoga increases range of motion, flexibility, strength, and recovery, which all together allow for you to perform other exercises with more ease. The greater you can bend and lengthen, the deeper into the exercise you can get.
Real life example:
When I was training for the New York City Marathon I did yoga at least once a week. Not once did I get hurt or feel like I pulled something. This was my first marathon, as well as my first race ever, and I ran completely pain-free as well as running the marathon under 4 hours! I highly credit my performance by maintaining yoga as part of my training program.
9. Improves posture
Good posture is incredibly important for preventing pain in the back, shoulders, head, and neck. When your back and neck are rounded when you are slouching, this puts more pressure and strain on those muscles, which overtime can lead to permanent changes to the spine. Yoga is all above lengthening the spine, and helps to promote good posture even outside of the class.
10. Keeps your weight in check
Yoga is a great practice to keep you in shape because it burns calories, builds muscle, and increases mindfulness and reduces stress. All of these factors go into weight management, and yoga is a great way to check all of the boxes necessary to keep you at a healthy weight.
If you have never tried yoga give it a try! And if you’ve tried yoga and you didn’t like it, try it again and try it with a different instructor. I’ve learned that the instructor is everything when it comes to yoga. A bad one can make you never want to do yoga again, and a good one can make you want to do it everyday.
About the author: Sarah-Kate Rems is an Ivy-league trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner licensed in California with an expertise in preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. Sarah-Kate is also a co-founder of The Mindful Tech Lab
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