Greetings Cool Healthy Lifers!
I hope everyone’s having a great week. Things are hectic, as usual, over at the Cool Healthy Life headquarters. The Cool Healthy Life team is in the midst of training for the Thunder Road Half Marathon in uptown Charlotte. We’ve been running this race for the last few years. It’s a great family event where our girls (and parents) come out to cheer us on.
Today we’re not actually going to talk about running, but what has become my favorite exercise activity: YOGA. For the gentlemen reading this article, feel free to insert your “we’ll leave yoga to the ladies” comment here. I actually used to think the same thing. When I went to the gym (believe it or not I did actually have a gym membership), I would peek into the exercise room and see a room full of ladies in the middle of a deep stretch and think, “chicks dig yoga.” Well, the truth is, chicks do dig yoga. But so do the gents, or at least this gent—and a few other gents I know!
Growing up as a contact sports junkie, I really didn’t understand what yoga was. A high intensity workout where you don’t run, jump, swim, hit, kick, or catch? And people enjoyed doing this? This made no sense to me. And let’s be honest, for a self-conscious teenager, yoga just wasn’t something that was too cool.
Oh, how times have changed. Now that I’m well past being concerned with what my “friends” think is cool, I’ve come to enjoy yoga as one of my favorite exercise activities. And there’s this: Those who practice yoga consistently reap “double benefits” from their exercise regime. The first, and most obvious, are the physical benefits. The second, and less understood, are the benefits to our emotional health and overall well-being. For the remainder of this article, we’re going to discuss some of the physical benefits of yoga. Stay tuned for Part II of this article where we’ll discuss some of the emotional and overall well-being benefits of yoga!
Physical Health Benefits of Yoga
Consistent yoga practice provides all sorts of physical benefits. It’s one of the easiest ways to work on your overall strength, balance, and flexibility. But the physical benefits don’t stop here. Yoga practice helps make your skin glow, increases energy, relieves aches and pains and even assists with weight loss. Lets take a look at a few of these in a bit more detail:
Strength and Flexibility
Improved flexibility is one of the most simple and obvious health benefits of yoga. With regular practice, you’ll notice a gradual loosening of muscles and tendons in your body. You’ll begin to notice that simple things like touching your toes, which you may not have done since childhood, quickly become routine.
Yoga is also a quite strenuous workout for your muscles, and almost all types, regardless of intensity, provide strength and endurance benefits. Beginner yoga poses such as plank, downward dog and upward dog help to build upper body strength. Standing poses such as sun salutation and tree pose build strength in your hamstrings, abs and quadriceps. Generally, when done correctly, all yoga poses help build strength in your “core muscles” in the abdomen, back and pelvis. Strength in your core muscles helps to promote better posture and alignment of your body.
At first glance, you’re probably thinking—is better posture really that much of a big deal? Take advice on this one from the guy who had to wear a back brace from 3rd grade to 11th grade (I dare someone to post a picture of that), having good posture helps to decrease the level of stress on your bones, muscles and joints. With proper alignment, your muscles are able to relax and serve their primary function. As your posture deteriorates, certain muscles in your body try to support or “help out” your failing posture. This added stress can have all sorts of secondary impacts on other joints and muscles, not just the ones in your back.
Ensuring correct posture and alignment of your body also helps to improve the performance of others systems within your body, such as breathing and digestion. As your posture suffers, you start to put stress on your internal organs which begin to shift, fold and sort in unnatural directions. Go fill a balloon with water and twist the end a few times. Does the water come out? Now imagine that twisted balloon is your digestive system! Any questions?
Most of us feel completely drained by the end of the day, as juggling work, family, and social profiles can be exhausting. Regular yoga practice provides you with the energy to stay fresh if practiced in the morning—or is a nice rush of positive energy after a long hectic day. Yoga stretches and poses help to get your heart pumping and fresh blood flowing through your body. It’s true that the hardest thing to contemplate after a long hard day of work is a fitness workout. But a quick 20-30 minute relaxing yoga session will actually increase your energy for the rest of the day!
I don’t think there is such a thing as a “yoga diet,” but there is a growing body of research that points to the weight loss benefits of including yoga, as part of your weight loss plan. While researchers can’t pinpoint the exact mechanism that leads to weight loss, most point to the mind-body connection that comes from practicing yoga, which helps lead to broader changes to diet, lifestyle, and overall well-being. For those that need more of an “aerobic” exercise, Power Yoga is the new craze. It includes more strenuous activities to get your heart pumping a bit faster.
So that’s a short list of the yoga’s physical benefits. Stay tuned for our next article where we’ll discuss how yoga can play a part in improving your emotional health and well-being.
Until next time…
This Video Caught My Attention
We’re starting something new in the blog. After each post we identify an interesting ‘healthy living’ video that we found particularly insightful. Consider this our version of a healthy living YouTube channel!
Beginner’s Guide to Yoga
So your interested in dipping your toes in the yoga fountain but don’t know where to start? Check out this video, which is a quick 20 minute beginner’s yoga practice.