Yoga does a lot more than make you look bikini ready in time for summer; it also comes with a myriad of health benefits. From improved flexibility to perfecting your posture, you can’t look past yoga as an all over health treatment.
Who would have thought that striking a pose could improve your overall health and wellbeing? Well, the verdicts in and the surprising benefits of yoga are pretty fantastic.
Improved flexibility is one of the more obvious benefits of yoga and will make touching your toes that much easier. After a few yoga sessions you will feel a noticeable difference with your muscles and joints loosening and your posture improving.
Builds muscle strength
Strong muscles can protect you against back pain and arthritis and increases your strength without sacrificing flexibility. Whereas, traditional weight training to improve muscle strength often inhibits your flexibility, not to mention the lean muscle gained through yoga will make you look great in a bikini.
Perfects your posture
Poor posture can cause back pain, soreness in your neck and a myriad of other muscle and joint problems. Poor posture, or slumping can cause pain and degenerative arthritis in the spine that will be a real pain in the long-term. Strengthening your body by practicing yoga will promote good posture by developing a strong core and the flexibility you need to support the weight of your neck and head over long periods of time.
Improves your bone health
Strengthening exercises such as yoga have been scientifically proven to decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis and can improve your overall bone health. This is because practicing yoga increases bone density in the vertebrae and lowers the amount of cortisol in the body. Too much cortisol prevents your bones from absorbing the calcium consumed through your diet, practicing yoga alters these damaging effects and ensures your bones are absorbing calcium the way they should.
Finally, one of our favourite reasons yoga is a completely worthwhile form of exercise, is the fact that it helps you relax. Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative, helping you to breathe slower and decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. This in turn creates what is often referred to as the ‘relaxation effect’ – the result being a calmer, more relaxed, happier you.
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Have you ever wondered just how fit you actually are? A great Instagram shot in workout gear can be deceiving and a lot of us fall into the trap of thinking thin means fit – but that’s not always the case. On the contrary, it’s difficult to judge a persons fitness just by looking at them. Likewise, a lot of us don’t really know how fit we really are! So how fit are you?
Unless you hit the gym religiously or run marathons, chances are you don’t actually know how fit you are. But don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! These simple at home tests are a sure fire way to judge your strength and overall fitness levels.
Ask yourself these questions:
Can you touch your toes?
Flexibility is an important part of fitness because it gives an insight into the strength of your muscles. If you can’t touch your toes while keeping your legs straight then you might not be in the best shape. Inability to reach your toes can indicate hamstring tightness, which is often symptomatic of inactivity. A lot of people working in offices have this problem because sedentary lifestyles can shorten your hamstrings.
Do you start sweating straight away during a workout?
Sweating early on in a workout can actually be a good sign that your fitness is on track. This is called ‘efficient sweating’ that happens when the body is accustomed to a workout. When you start sweating during a warm up your body anticipates the need to cool down and therefore starts sweating. However, keep in mind this could depend on the room’s temperature.
Do you watch TV before bed, but then can’t sleep?
The sleep hormone melatonin is kept in check by exercise. Being unable to sleep, even after long periods of relaxation, you might not be getting enough exercise. The same thing goes for if you find yourself constantly waking up for no reason.
Can you stand up from a cross-legged position without using your hands?
It’s surprising how many people can’t do this. Sit on the floor cross-legged and raise yourself into a standing position without touching the ground or using your arms for support. If you can do this it indicates good core strength and balance.
If you work at a desk, do you get up and move around?
Not standing up, walking around or stretching at least once every hour could be compromising your overall health and fitness, or undoing any exercise you are doing. Your blood circulation can stagnate and your muscles can stop contracting if your not moving around.
Do you actively exercise more than twice a week?
Exercising more than twice week puts you in a pretty good position health and fitness wise. Up to five-hours of moderate exercise, or two and a half-hours of intense exercise can help prevent unhealthy weight gain and decrease your risk of developing some cancers while improving blood-pressure, cholesterol and bone and muscle strength.
So, how fit are you?
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Stretching is often a bit of a foreign topic. Some people may associate it with yoga and think it’s way out of their league, and others just think it’s something they might do when they first wake up, accompanied by a huge yawn.
Stretching is one thing that many people neglect to do everyday and don’t place much importance on, but getting a good stretch is really great for your body. Whether you’re actually exercising, or just going about your day to day activities, you should always make a small amount of time to stretch out your muscles.
Stretching in general has many benefits – not necessarily directly related to exercise, but of course there are quite a few upsides to stretching before and/or after your workout.
Let’s look at the benefits of stretching in relation to every day life and exercise, to help us understand why we need to stretch and why a flexibility workout like yoga is so good for us.
Everyday benefits of stretching:
1. It wakes you up
Stretching has been proven to make you feel more awake, which is especially helpful when you’re at work and it hits 3 o’clock. Stretching helps to move blood that has pooled in your muscles and makes you feel tired and sluggish. So instead of pulling that chocolate bar from your drawer to wake you up in the afternoon, have a stretch to feel more energised and to avoid those unwanted kilos.
2. It’s a stress buster
When you get stressed your muscles contract and become tense, which can impact your body in a negative way. By stretching out your muscles, it can help to relax those that become balled with stress and endorphins are released which help to improve your mood and also help you sleep better.
3. It gets rid of back pain
Stretching is a great way to strengthen muscles and help them to become more flexible. Sitting at your desk all day can affect your posture, which can cause your lower back to become sore. Stretching those muscles that affect your posture, like your hip flexors and your back, can strengthen these muscles and get rid of soreness.
Exercise related benefits of stretching:
One of the main reasons that people stretch is to increase their flexibility. Having good flexibility can help you improve the way you do exercises and can also reduce the risk of injury if your muscles are stretched nicely. Flexibility allows you to exercise more easily and is especially important to maintain as your age increases.
2. It increases circulation
Stretching increases the blood flow and supply of nutrients to the muscles. This means that stretching helps to reduce muscle soreness after working out, which means that you won’t have to hold onto the wall when trying to sit on the toilet after leg day.
3. You can get more out of your workout
When you stretch your muscles and tendons become looser and easier to work with, which as a result reduces muscle fatigue. This means that you’ll be able to get a longer, better workout than if you didn’t stretch, which essentially means you can burn more kilojoules.
So get stretching, whether it’s in front of the television after work or while you’re in the gym. There are so many benefits to stretching that will have you feeling good and get your muscles in better condition.
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