THE BENEFITS OF YOGA THAT AREN'T JUST STRETCHING

And why you should do it
PHOTO: MICHELA RAVASIO/STOCKSY

Yoga is an important part of fitness that should play a role in any workout regime – whether you’re an avid spinner, a marathon runner or circuit training is your bag. While we all know it’s good for you, many of us would struggle to explain why– other than the fact that it boosts flexibility.

The truth is that there are many more subtle benefits that yoga yields, and regular practice could vastly improve both your training and your life. We break down how.

1 Perfect your posture

Many of us who spend an extended period of the day sitting down – think at a desk, on public transport or on the bike – can end up with poor postural muscles. This means imbalances and tightness in areas like the hips, chest, shoulders, neck and upper back, all of which can lead to poor posture.

Yoga helps to stretch, realign and strengthen these muscles, and therefore improve posture. Why should we look to improve our posture? Not only can it prevent aches and pains, but it can also relieve headaches.

2 Calm your mind

The mental benefits of yoga are praised just as highly as the physical, and after just one session, it’s easy to see why. But long-term practise of yoga is especially beneficial to mental health, helping to relieve anxiety, manage depression and encourage relaxation.

This can be put down to its ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The practice also teaches breathing techniques that can be taken into everyday life.

3 Improve your sleep

General physical activity has long been lauded for its help with sleep regulation and quality, but there are some yoga styles and poses in particular which are known for improving sleep, thanks to their ability to increase secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Try a restorative or yin style of yoga in the evening to get the most benefits. Holding relaxing poses like legs up the wall, happy baby or child’s pose before bed can also work wonders.

4 Boosts your blood flow

A healthy blood flow and circulation can be one of the best ways to keep cardiovascular diseases at bay, as well as simply aiding with everyday bodily functions. For those of us who lead fairly sedentary lives throughout the day (office workers, we’re looking at you!), yoga can be an effective and gentle way to get the blood flowing around the body.

Booking into a weekly yoga class and trying some poses yourself throughout the week is a great way to ensure you’re keeping your blood flow in check. If you notice symptoms of poor blood flow and circulation such as very cold extremities, muscle cramps and brittle nails, try upping your yoga practice!

5 Trains your balance

If you’re looking to up your training to the next level, don’t overlook the basics such as balance. Balance is an essential aspect of any sport and a huge contributor to athleticism. Think about it – you never spend much time at all square on both feet while you’re running, doing circuits or boxing.

In many yoga styles, core strength, stability and balance are called upon to effectively hold poses, from tree pose to half moon. The more you do it, t

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