A lot of people have a misconception that yoga is a light and relaxing practice but in the last five weeks I have learned that it is probably the most versatile exercise that anyone can do. It can complement an existing regime such as weightlifting and running, provide stress relief especially in our fast paced urban society, as well as provide a complete cardiovascular and core workout for those who don’t do other forms of physical activity.
In most other sports, muscle exertion tends to be isolated to only a few parts of the body and this often results in muscle tightness in specific areas of the body. For example; runners tend to have tight hamstrings and knee injuries while a tennis player would likely experience elbow injuries, coupled with shoulder and arm tension. Yoga can be very therapeutic for all athletes- with a tailored program, there are many asanas that can help relieve muscle tension by lengthening the muscles in areas of tightness and strengthening other regions of the body that are not engaged as often.
Stress and sleep
The reason our levels of stress and quality of sleep go hand in hand is because our nervous system shifts between the parasympathetic state (relaxation) and sympathetic state (fight or flight mode). Given the stressors from living in the corporate world or even by-products of urban issues such as getting stuck in traffic and stimulation from smart devices, our bodies are typically in a sympathetic state. We can train our bodies to have an “off” button through yoga by activating the parasympathetic nervous system- the first method being pranayama. By inhaling and exhaling only through the left nostril in anulom vilom, the body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate will lower, which is imperative to relaxation. The next is to have a routine of relaxing postures at bedtime, such as deep stretches and inversions. On a similar note, shoulder stands increase blood circulation and stimulation of the pituitary gland which releases melatonin, the hormone responsible for causing us to feel drowsy.
In order to lose weight, we need a balance of cardiovascular activity as well as muscle building for slow burn of fats after exercise. This is why many classes are named “cardio core”. A faster paced class and several rounds of surya namaskara will provide the cardiovascular activity needed while core building through the right engagement of muscles in each and every pose will help to build lean muscle. Furthermore, there are many poses that stimulate blood flow and activity in the thyroid gland which is responsible for the metabolic activity in our body.
In summary, there are thousands of asanas in yoga. By combining these with breathing techniques, yoga becomes a very personal journey that can be practiced by anyone with almost any condition, and has so many benefits that can be reaped long after the practice is over.
200h Hatha Vinyasa YTTC