Yoga has been practised for thousands of years and continues to grow in popularity in the West. If you’ve been to a health and fitness club recently you might have noticed how many yoga classes are on offer. For most clubs, yoga classes tend to be the most popular on the time table. Why? Because so many people are discovering the many positive and health benefits of yoga.
Those who have yet to discover the joys and benefits of yoga often ask what it is about yoga that’s supposed to be so beneficial. Here are some answers:
When some people think of yoga, they imagine having to stretch like a gymnast. That makes them worry that they’re too old, unfit, or “tight” to do yoga. The truth is you’re never too old to improve flexibility.
The series of yoga poses called asanas work by safely stretching your muscles. This may release the lactic acid that builds up with muscle use, which may cause stiffness, tension, pain, and fatigue. In addition, yoga increases the range of motion in joints. It may also increase lubrication in the joints. The outcome is a sense of ease and fluidity throughout your body.
Yoga stretches not only your muscles but all of the soft tissues of your body, including ligaments and tendons. And, no matter your level of yoga, you will feel the benefits in a very short period of time. In one study, participants had up to 35% improvement in flexibility after only eight weeks of yoga. That’s important for all age groups, but most particularly as you get older – staying flexible for longer most definitely improves the quality of life in old age.
Some styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga, are more vigorous than others. Practicing one of these styles will help you improve muscle tone.
But even less vigorous styles of yoga, such as Iyengar or hatha, which focuses on less movement and more precise alignment in poses, can provide strength and endurance benefits.
Many of the poses, such as downward dog, upward dog, and the plank pose, build upper-body strength. This becomes crucial as people age. The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abdominal muscles. Poses that strengthen the lower back include upward dog and the chair pose. When practiced correctly, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.
Don’t be freaked out by all the ‘strange’ names associated with poses. A good yoga teacher will show you exactly how to form the poses and after a fairly short term you’ll know all the names and be comfortable with them. We would recommend that a great way of getting in to yoga is to try a yoga holiday somewhere gorgeous and sunny. Perhaps go with a friend who’s also a beginner. After a week you’ll definitely notice the difference and are likely to be hooked for life. Try a specialist yoga retreat with destination yoga or a healthy week with in:spa that incorporates yoga (amongst many other activities) in to your daily schedule.
With increased flexibility and strength comes better posture. Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength. That’s because you’re counting on your deep abdominals to support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand “tall.” Another benefit of yoga is the increased body awareness. This heightened awareness tells you more quickly when you’re slouching or slumping so you can adjust your posture.
Most people are now aware of the importance of developing and maintaining core strength. However, most associate this with fitness training. Whilst targetted fitness training will help you achieve core strength, yoga will help you too. See fitness training holidays
For a holiday that combines yoga and surfing (where core strength is very important), why not take a look at Paradis Plage on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, just north of Agadir. Alternatively, for a similar experience, but at an eco coastal farmhouse on the wild west coast of Portugal, have a look at Monte Velho. See also the health benefits of surfing
Because of the deep, mindful breathing that yoga involves, lung capacity often improves which, in turn, can improve sports performance and endurance. But yoga typically isn’t focused on aerobic fitness the way running or cycling are. Most forms of yoga emphasize deepening and lengthening your breath. This stimulates the relaxation response – the opposite of the fight-or-flight adrenaline boost of the stress response.
Even beginners tend to feel less stressed and more relaxed after their first class. Some yoga styles use specific meditation techniques to quiet the constant “mind chatter” that often underlies stress. Other yoga styles depend on deep breathing techniques to focus the mind on the breath. When this happens, the mind calms.
Among yoga’s anti-stress benefits are a host of biochemical responses. For example, there is a decrease in catecholamines, the hormones produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Lowering levels of hormone neurotransmitters – dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine – creates a feeling of calm. Some research points to a boost in the hormone oxytocin. This is the so-called “trust” and “bonding” hormone that’s associated with feeling relaxed and connected to others.
Most yoga teachers will make sure that the final yoga class of the day, assuming your class is in the evening, is restorative and relaxing. This sense of calm will carry through with you into the evening and may even help ensure that you get a better night’s sleep.
For advice about the best teachers and the best places to practice yoga – whether you’re a beginner or more advanced – our specialists at The Healthy Holiday Company can assist you. We even have a couple of yoga teachers in the office! Why not enquire now ?
Harder to pin down and research scientifically, concentration and the ability to focus mentally are common benefits you’ll hear yoga students talk about. The same is true with mood. Nearly every yoga student will tell you they feel happier and more contented after class. Recently, researchers have begun exploring the effects of yoga on depression, a benefit that may result from yoga’s boosting oxygen levels to the brain. Yoga is even being studied as an adjunct therapy to relieve symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
We believe that your mood can be further enhanced if the place you’re practicing yoga is peaceful and beautiful, and the weather is gorgeous too. How about yoga in the Himalayas or on an island in Thailand? We could even arrange for a teacher to visit you at your villa in Cape Town or Ibiza
Perhaps one of the most studied areas of the health benefits of yoga is its effect on heart disease. Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure or heart disease. On a biochemical level, studies point to a possible anti-oxidant effect of yoga. And yoga has been associated with decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as a boost in immune system function.
Some studies have suggested that yoga may have a positive effect on learning and memory. Other researchers have been studying whether yoga can slow the aging process, increase a person’s sense of self-acceptance, or improve energy levels.
Some potential benefits of yoga may be hard to study scientifically. For instance, yoga has been said to increase spiritual awareness. Nevertheless, there is an abundance of anecdotal claims for what yoga can do. Go to any yoga studio and listen to students after class. Some will even tell you that yoga can help improve marriages and relationships at work.
The only way to be certain of all that yoga can do for you is to try it for yourself and see.
We would be delighted to talk you through the options on where to go for a dreamy yoga holiday. Please don’t hesitate to call us.
We are passionate about yoga at The Healthy Holiday Company. Indeed, two of our office team in London are qualified yoga teachers, so they really know their stuff. If you would like advice or inspiration about a yoga holiday, please email us with your questions
We can create a yoga specific holiday for you or simply include yoga classes from one of our hand-picked teachers as part of your holiday activities and experiences. Whether you’re a beginner or more experienced.
Find out more about our yoga holiday options
Please don’t hesitate to call us on0845 458 0723 if you would like to chat to us. We would love to hear from you and be very happy to advise on what option would suit you best.
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