Practicing yoga can lead to improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. And this means you’re less likely to injure yourself in other physical endeavors or in your daily activities. Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. During your first class, you probably won’t be able to touch your toes. But if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, everything you do gets easier: walking, sitting and standing. You’ll also probably notice that day-to-day aches and pains start to disappear.
Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain, and help prevent falls in elderly people. It’s well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And when you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility. If you just went to the gym and lifted weights, you might build strength at the expense of flexibility.
A number of studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being. Yoga’s ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol may help keep calcium in the bones.
Yoga gets your blood flowing. More specifically, the relaxation exercises you learn in yoga can help your circulation, especially in your hands and feet. Yoga also gets more oxygen to your cells, which function better as a result. Twisting poses are thought to wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the twist is released.
Yoga can help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga might also help alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia.
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