Yoga: Tap into the many health benefits
Chronic stress can lead to a variety of health and emotional problems. Yoga can be an effective method to reduce stress and anxiety. See how to get started.
Your kids are demanding the latest video game, your boss wants that report done yesterday, and your partner wants to know what’s for dinner. Stress and anxiety are everywhere. If they’re getting the best of you, you might want to make like a cobra or a mountain and try yoga.
Yoga’s series of postures — some with names from nature — and controlled breathing exercises are a popular means of stress management and relaxation. Today, yoga classes teaching the art of breathing, meditation and posing are offered nearly everywhere — from trendy health clubs in big cities to community education classes in small towns to hospitals and clinics. If you’re looking for more do-it-yourself techniques for stress reduction, see how to get started with yoga.
Yoga has many styles, forms and intensities. Hatha yoga, in particular, may be a good choice for stress management. Hatha is one of the most common styles of yoga, and some beginners find it easier to practice because of its slower pace and easier movements. But most people can benefit from any style of yoga — it’s all about your personal preferences.
The core components of hatha yoga and most general yoga classes are:
- Poses. Yoga poses, also called postures, are a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility. Poses range from lying on the floor while completely relaxed to difficult postures that may have you stretching your physical limits.
- Breathing. Controlling your breathing is an important part of yoga. In yoga, breath signifies your vital energy. Yoga teaches that controlling your breathing can help you control your body and quiet your mind.
The health benefits of yoga
The potential health benefits of yoga are numerous and may include:
- Stress reduction. With its quiet, precise movements, yoga draws your focus away from your busy, chaotic day and toward calm as you move your body through poses that require balance and concentration.
- Increased fitness. As you learn and refine new poses, you may enjoy improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. And this means you’re less likely to injure yourself in other physical endeavors or in your daily activities.
- Management of chronic health conditions. Yoga might help with a variety of health conditions, such as cancer, depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia, by helping with sleep problems, fatigue and mood. Yoga also can help reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
- Weight loss. If you’re overweight or have binge-eating disorder, yoga may help you make the healthy lifestyle changes necessary to gain control of your eating and drop those extra pounds.
While you shouldn’t expect yoga to cure you or offer 100 percent relief, it can help some health conditions when combined with standard treatment. And if you already enjoy good health, yoga can be an enjoyable supplement to your regular fitness routine.