The New Year brings with it lots of good intentions. We all know that making a New Year’s Resolution can be an interesting topic of conversation, with comments such as, “I’m giving up chocolate” or, “I’m going to walk to work three times a week” or it can even be something as simple as “I’m going to smile more on a Monday!” Sadly, as we are all too aware, New Year’s Resolutions don’t often make it into February, but how about if you could find something that feels so unbelievably good for you that you just simply couldn’t stop once you started? This, my friends, is Yoga!
You know that exercise is good for you. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times on television, and maybe your doctor has told you to get more exercise too. There are few fitness programs that offer broad scope health benefits. Running, for example, strengthens your cardiovascular system and strength training builds muscle. Yoga is one of the few fitness programs that can accomplish both and so much more. Here are 3 key reasons why you should kick start 2017 with a yoga practice.
Mobility and Flexibility
As you age, and we’re talking about once you’ve passed that 25-year mark, your body begins to lose some of its mobility. Your muscles can become short and tight. Your tendons can stiffen and your joints may often feel sore. When this happens, simple day-to-day movements can become painful or difficult. You may not be able to touch your toes.
When you walk long distances you may notice that your back aches. And if you try to reach over your head to put something away you may feel pain in your neck or shoulders. This is due to a lack of mobility.
Yoga can improve your mobility, meaning it can help lengthen those tight muscles and tendons. It can give you a better range of motion so that when you move your body, you do it in the most efficient and effective way possible. Not only will you feel better, you’ll stop having those awful aches and pains.
Top Yoga Tip for Flexibility: Try hip opening postures such as Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose) or Eka Raja Kapoptasana (Pigeon pose) to open hip, pelvis and groin areas. These are easy and enjoyable postures which can be adapted for all levels.
Yoga often requires you to hold a position for a long period of time. And in most cases you’re supporting your full body weight. This requires you to build great strength. Most yoga positions recruit strength from your large muscle groups, your core muscles for example. As these muscles increase in strength you’ll find it expands to other areas of your life. Your posture will improve. You’ll be stronger, physically, and thus able to lift and carry more than you used to. And you’ll build muscle which burns fat and looks pretty darn fantastic too.
Top Yoga Tip for Strength: Try practising 5-10 sun salutations every day, as this will help to build stamina and strength over time.
Yoga requires a few things that impact and reduce your stress level. The first stress-reducing component is breathing. Many yoga styles have a structured breathing protocol. When you focus on your breathing, it automatically lowers cortisol (a stress hormone) and it lowers your heart rate.
Additionally, yoga requires great focus. Some poses not only ask you to hold your body in a balanced position, they also ask you to pay attention to your body and make slight adjustments to improve the pose. You’re looking inward and focusing solely on your body and the very moment you’re in. This focus reduces stress. It’s akin to meditation and it’s wonderful for the health of your body and your mind.
Top Yoga Tip For Stress Reduction: Take 10 minutes at the start of each day to focus only on your breath. Close your eyes and focus on the cool inhale and the warm exhale. If any thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them and then let them go.
There are numerous other yoga health benefits: improved breathing, better posture, and weight loss are just a few more to consider. If you’re looking for a new fitness program to try, you just can’t go wrong with yoga.
About Cheryl MacDonald
Cheryl MacDonald is a yoga elder, an author and founder of YogaBellies women’s yoga school. YogaBellies specialize in yoga for women of all life stages from puberty to post menopausal. She started YogaBellies when she was made redundant from her role as Business Analyst when on maternity leave. When her son was 6 weeks old, she started teaching pregnancy yoga classes in her spare room and things have grown very quickly from there.
Cheryl is an ethical, successful ‘mumpreneur’ and has been awarded multiple awards and accreditations including The Scottish Edge Award, three What’s on 4 Little One’s Awards as well as being finalist in Woman of the Year, Working Mum’s Best Employer and What’s on 4 Junior’s Awards. Cheryl currently lives in Singapore with her 6 year-old son, Caelen and her husband Mike (a Cardiologist,) but hails from Glasgow, Scotland originally.
Cheryl has taught yoga and birth preparation to many celebrities including Kimberley Walsh (Girls’ Aloud,) Fearne Cotton and Catherine Tyldsley. She is also the author of two best-selling yoga books for women, Birth ROCKS and YogaBellies for Pregnancy. She also has a range of YogaBellies luxury, eco-yoga products, and has a best-selling YogaBellies for Pregnancy DVD.
For a yoga class near you please visit www.yogabellies.co.uk/findaclass