In celebration of the International Day of Yoga (which is June 21st), today’s health & wellness guides shares the benefits of doing a daily yoga practice. From increased range of motion and flexibility to greater muscle and core strength, learn how yoga can improve your physical and mental well-being.
5 Physical Benefits of a Daily Yoga Practice
Kate Balog (a Yoga Instructor in Carmel, California shown above) says, “Yoga helps you to tune into your to body and feel when you are properly aligned so that the posture is most beneficial to build strength. Also, when you are focused on your breath, you can hold strong poses longer and complete more repetitions of muscle toning exercises.”
Increased Range of Motion
Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health and a Medical Advisory Board Member at Nutritional Magnesium Association says, “our bodies thrive on activity, which means that sitting at a desk all day can cause problems. When we do not put all our joints through a normal range of motion, the various muscles supporting our joints will be stretched or shortened. For example, our gluteus muscles max, medius and minimus will be stretched as we sit all day and our thigh muscles will be shortened for the same reason. That’s why yoga is so helpful because it puts all our muscles through a proper range of motion.
Tight muscles often result in aches, pains, and tension all over the body. As the Yoga Journal states, “Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture.” To help relieve the tension in your muscles, doing a daily yoga practice helps to create greater flexibility.
Muscle & Core Strength
From downward dog moves to planking exercises, yoga practices often focus on increasing muscle and core strength. This helps alleviate lower back pain by strengthening the abdominal, oblique, and core muscles. In addition, having a strong core enables you to more easily lift heavy boxes, perform household and daily chores, and look better in a bathing suit.
As you lengthen and strengthen your body through yoga, your posture and balance improves as well. By working the back and core muscles, you naturally start to stand taller and sit up straighter. This continuous training helps to improve your posture and give you a better sense of balance (which is helpful when wearing high heels).
Since yoga is often considered a spiritual and physical practice, the meditative quality of a daily yoga practice helps to relieve mental stress, diminish perceived anxiety, and keep your mind focused and calm. “Yoga quells the fluctuations of the mind, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. In other words, it slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire that can cause stress. And since stress is implicated in so many health problems—from migraines and insomnia to lupus, MS, eczema, high blood pressure, and heart attacks—if you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll be likely to live longer and healthier.”
“The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body,” explains Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California. “The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome,” explains Dr. Nevins. “Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.” [Source: American Osteopathic Association]
Whether you’re looking to get stronger, leaner, or just healthier, yoga is an age-old practice that has benefited millions of people all over the world for thousands of years. For more health and wellness tips, check out the Fitness section on Inspirations & Celebrations.
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[Images shot on location at Yoga in the Vines at Folktale Winery in Carmel, California.]