Yoga, is it worth it?
Yoga is a fun way to improve flexibility, clear your mind and increase your daily physical activity. But what does it actually do for you?
During the 4th Victorian lockdown my eyes were opened to the benefits of yoga by a friend who introduced me to this new hobby. As a student in a lockdown my days consisted mostly of sitting at my desk studying, sitting around the TV and not being very physically active due to the stoppage of organised sports. As you can probably relate if you have sat for most of the day and then gone to partake in sport in the evening all of my muscles tightened up and my mobility spiralled downwards, until I was invited to follow along a yoga session.
The physical benefits of practicing yoga
Like with all things, the more you practice, the better you get. There are many physical benefits to fitting just 10-15 minutes of yoga into your daily routine including:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength
- Protection from injury
- Improved cardio-vascular health
These benefits arise from the various poses and movements which you would not perform in most daily tasks. Putting your body through these new motions also increases cognitive function as your body must adapt to the unfamiliar situations.
But there are many other reasons to start practicing yoga!
There are many scientific reasons to practice yoga and an extensive list can be found here, but the one that I have noticed most is much lower stress levels.
Stress has played a large part in many of our lives over the past few years, whether it be from university, work, or just day-to-day living. It has been shown that consistent yoga practice can be used as an excellent tool to lower stress and anxiety levels. When you are stressed you have higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone and increases stress as it stops affects the functions that the body would consider nonessential in a fight-or-flight situation.
Many studies being conducted are showing that consistent yoga practice can lead to LOWERED cortisol levels, which will then reduce your overall stress level. One study showed that it takes as little as 10 weeks to see improvements in stress and anxiety levels!
But why are your cortisol levels decreased from practicing yoga?
Many forms of yoga incorporate controlled breathing with the aim of developing a better mind-body connection. Controlled breathing causes the vagus nerve to send signals to your nervous system to lower your cortisol levels, heart rate and blood pressure. This phenomenon is used in many forms of meditation and stress relief as the bodies response to stress is to start shallow breathing, and so to combat this taking controlled deep breaths will alleviate the symptoms and decrease your stress levels.
Yoga is an excellent way to increase your daily physical activity and relieve stress. There are so many free online resources that it is now easier than ever to get involved. I hope that this has intrigued some of you to give it a go.