Health Benefits of Yoga
Dozens of scientific trials of varying quality have been published on yoga. While there’s scope for more rigorous studies on its health benefits, most studies suggest yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance. There’s some evidence that regular yoga practice is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress.
- Increased flexibility
Increased muscle strength and tone
Improved respiration, energy and vitality
Maintaining a balanced metabolism
Cardio and circulatory health
Improved athletic performance
Protection from injury
Yoga for people of different ages
Yoga is taught in classes, catering for beginners through to advanced practitioners. It is non-competitive and suitable for anyone, regardless of your age or fitness level. Your yoga teacher should carefully guide and observe you, and modify postures when necessary.
An asana should never cause pain. If it hurts, ease back on the stretch or don’t do it at all. It is important to keep within your physical limits.
If you are over 40, haven’t exercised for a long time or have a pre-existing medical condition, you should check with your doctor before starting any regular exercise routine.
Pre-exercise screening is used to identify people with medical conditions that may put them at a higher risk of experiencing a health problem during physical activity. It is a filter or ‘safety net’ to help decide if the potential benefits of exercise outweigh the risks for you.
Yoga classes usually have 10 to 20 people, allowing for individual attention. Suggestions for getting the most out of your yoga class include:
- Wear comfortable clothes and take a blanket or mat, since many poses are performed sitting or lying down.
- Allow at least three or four hours since your last meal.
- Always tell your yoga teacher if you have a specific complaint, so they can advise against any asanas that may aggravate your problem.
- Always tell your yoga teacher if you are pregnant, have had a recent injury, illness, surgery, high blood pressure, heart problems or osteoporosis.
- Don’t talk during the class because it will disturb your own quiet focus and that of others in the class.
What style of yoga should I do?
There are many different styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Iyengar and Sivananda. Some styles are more vigorous than others. Some may have a different area of emphasis, such as posture or breathing. Many yoga teachers develop their own practice by studying more than one style. No style is necessarily better or more authentic than any other. The key is to choose a class appropriate for your fitness level.
Can I use a book or a yoga DVD instead of going to a class?
It’s better to start with a class to learn the poses and breathing techniques correctly. With a DVD, there will be nobody to correct your mistakes, which may lead to injury over time. With some experience of being in a class, a DVD can then be helpful for keeping up practice.