What is yoga, and why is it so popular? Yoga is a series of stretches and poses that you do with breathing techniques. It offers the powerful benefits of exercise. And since yoga is gentle, almost anyone can do it, regardless of your age or fitness level.
Yoga is a 5,000-year-old discipline from India. It was developed as a practice to unite the mind and body. There are many branches of yoga. All yoga styles can help balance your body, mind, and spirit, but they achieve it in various ways.
A study in The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine (among others) shows that yoga can build strength in addition to flexibility. And flexibility is the key to strength. When your muscles and the tissues that surround them are super tight, you’re not able to move as much weight with a full range of motion in the gym. Doing yoga helps loosen up those tissues so you can get more out of your strength sessions.
Research in the International Journal of Yoga shows that yoga not only reduces stress, but can help lower anxiety and depression, too. (It can also help battle insomnia, helping people who have it to sleep sounder at night, per researchers in Southern India.) There are as many types of yoga as there are machines in the gym, each having their unique benefits. There’s something for everyone: From hot yoga to aerial yoga to a good ‘ol Vinyasa flow to Ashtanga and Kundalini.
A study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that yoga can ward off heart disease helping to keep your heart in good form. Since that’s one of the key reasons people do cardio in gyms, to boost heart health, it’s interesting to note that similar benefits can be reaped from a yoga class. The twisting, stretching and folding of a yoga practice are good for the digestive system, the circulatory system, the lymph system and more. It’s a great way to detox the body and can improve your cardiovascular system. And all this while developing stronger muscles. A gym workout is focused just on strengthening muscles and boosting cardio.
Yoga is a different experience in a yoga studio, but you can easily practice yoga at home, outside or in small spaces. All you need is about 6 feet by 4 feet and you have your own yoga studio. A gym workout requires more equipment and more space.
Yoga eases your aches and pains. A gym workout increases them. Yoga slowly stretches muscles and opens the energy channels of the body. The increased flexibility keeps muscles and joints lubricated and healthy. Weights and treadmill can cause strain which leads to soreness and injuries.
Yoga helps you breathe easier. During times of stress, it’s easy to forget to breathe, really breathe, and not just shallow breaths. Without deep breaths, it’s harder to think clearly and fatigue can set in. Yoga focuses on the breath so that when you need it most, those deep breaths are the norm.