Could yoga be the missing piece to your whole body health puzzle? Many people experience increased energy and lower stress when practicing yoga regularly.
Studies have shown regular physical activity can help relieve depression and may even lower your risk of developing it. But what if you’re not the active type, are older or have physical limitations? You can still add healthy movement to your life.
The National Institutes of Health describes yoga, a 5,000-year-old, mind-body practice, as a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation. It involves specific postures and movements combined with mental focus, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. Other forms of fitness like running, dancing or hula-hooping can also be done mindfully as a form of meditation.
What’s in it for you? The intensity of your workout depends on which form of yoga you choose (there are literally hundred of types). Some techniques, like hatha and iyengar yoga are gentle and slow, while others—think bikram or power yoga—are faster and more challenging. Some research studies have suggested practicing mindful movement activities like yoga may help:
- manage stress, depression and insomnia
- improve heart health including body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate
- improve balance and stability
- relieve chronic pain
- improve quality of life and mood in people with heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses
- motivate you to exercise more and eat healthier
More research is needed on the health benefits of yoga, but it’s clear the practice is becoming more popular. In the last 10 years the number of Americans practicing yoga has nearly doubled. It’s now practiced by more than 21 million adults and more than 1.5 million children.
Yoga and other mindful practices can be gentle and may be done by just about anyone, anywhere, with no special equipment needed. Look for instructional videos, books and websites.
Whatever way you choose to get active, you’ll be taking a step toward being your best you. And you may find yourself feeling happier and more relaxed, too.