If you’re looking to reach your fitness goals, are constantly stressed and under pressure, or simply soul searching, yoga might be just what you’re looking for. Based on a study by Harvard Medical School, yoga has been shown to improve physical health, mental health and overall quality of life. It is an ancient (and we mean ancient) Indian practice that not only reaps benefits for your body, but also helps bring out a happier you. It isn’t about athleticism or how flexible you are. It’s about building awareness. It is a practice that is meant to strengthen your body, deepen your breath and center your mind.

Still think yoga isn’t for you? Read on for reasons why yoga is still gaining popularity even after over 5000 years and why you might want to try it, too:

It does wonders for your health.

Regular practice of yoga can help reduce stress, has a calming effect on the nervous system, and greatly helps in reducing hypertension. It also gets your blood flowing! The movement brings more oxygen to your cells, supplies your organs with fresh oxygenated blood, and aids in draining your lymph. This helps your body to function at its optimum by boosting the immune system, destroying diseased cells, and getting rid of toxic waste in the organs. It’s perfect for balancing out all that pressure from your day-to-day responsibilities that leaves you either really stressed out or sedentary.

It makes you stronger.

At 30, your muscle mass and bone density start to decrease. Yoga is a calisthenic, weight bearing and isometric exercise, all of which have been proven to build bone strength and muscle mass. But, unlike most weight bearing exercises, yoga is easy on your joints and does not damage cartilage or lead to osteoarthritis. It is also effective in preventing injuries and aiding in muscle repair especially if you engage in other physical activities as well. So, it’s not just about flexibility, there’s a major strength component at play, too. Yoga builds functional strength through working on full muscle groups and not just isolated muscles using your own body weight. Additionally, it increases your range of motion thereby making flexibility as a prerequisite to attending a class a total myth. Yoga teaches you how to use strength and flexibility effectively so you develop long and lean muscles that not only look good, but are also useable in the real world.

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It slows down aging.

Have you ever heard of the saying “You’re only as young as your spine is flexible”? Your spinal disks lack independent blood supply and require movement to deliver nutrients. Yoga helps to prevent the drying of disks through the different postures. It also promotes breath control, which strengthens the lungs and improves digestion. This helps to lower the risk of the common diseases that women encounter as they get older.

It gives you peace of mind.

Even more important than what it does for the body, yoga encourages turning inward of the senses and removal of stimuli, providing much needed downtime for the nervous system. According to a study on the therapeutic effects of yoga, “Yoga encourages one to relax, slow the breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the fight-or-flight response to the parasympathetic system and relaxation response. One of the main goals of yoga is to achieve tranquility of the mind and create a sense of well-being, feelings of relaxation, improves self-confidence, improved efficiency, increased attentiveness, lowered irritability, and an optimistic outlook on life.” In effect, yoga increases physical, emotional and spiritual wellness, and brings about a certain peace. As tension is released through the different postures, energy flows more readily throughout the body and allows for a sense of increased well-being and strength as well as a balance of mind, body and spirit.

Camille Romero is a Holistic Health Coach and Yoga Instructor. For classes and consultations, contact her at cmf.romero@gmail.com.

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