By: Ashley Yost and Mali Jane
September is National Yoga Awareness month, making it the perfect time to pick up a mat and try out this form of exercise. Yoga isn’t only about bending and breathing. Practicing yoga brings a quality to our life, expands our awareness, sharpens our intellect and enhances our intuitive ability. Yoga is much more than physical poses and breathing exercises, and can be experienced by anyone at any age.
Though yoga studios are closed due to COVID-19, you can still find classes offered online or even outdoors to get started in your practice. For example, AM Yoga in Grand Rapids, Mich., offers classes for people of all abilities and ages, as do other studios throughout the state, creating an environment that is accessible and welcoming for everyone. Students can incorporate the tools from class into their lifestyle for an improved overall sense of health and wellbeing.
Here are five key benefits you’ll experience from practicing yoga:
1. Yoga Builds Strength and Flexibility
Yoga is based off of measured movements and strengthening poses that can help you achieve better strength and flexibility as you age. It can also help prevent falls, which are the leading cause of injury among older adults. Every 11 seconds, an older adult visits the emergency room for treatment related to a fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yoga helps strengthen your body to avoid this type of injury.
2. Yoga Improves Balance
Yoga helps tone muscles and works on your proprioception — or your sense of position in space. Practicing postures that emphasize standing and balance can help build strength and confidence. As you get more sedentary, your sense of balance declines. Yoga can help counteract that by increasing muscle movement.
Breathing exercises help harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of the personality, creating balance within the mind as well.
3. Yoga Boosts Your Mood
Yoga’s combination of breathing, meditation and movement creates an overall sense of well-being. In fact, studies show yoga has a greater impact on enhancing mood and reducing anxiety than other forms of exercise. The reason? Yoga boosts levels of the brain chemical GABA, which helps calm nerves.
4. Yoga Helps Maintain Weight
Yoga enhances concentration and determination in all aspects of life. Practicing it every day improves willpower and shifts your focus toward wellness rather than instant gratification, according to Larry Payne, yoga director at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. In a 2014 study out of India, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers reported that people with diabetes that did yoga three to six days per week, for eight weeks, shed more pounds and inches than those who walked for the same time period.
5. Yoga Raises Energy Levels, Awareness and Intuition
Moving the body and breathing helps clear energy blockages physically, mentally and emotionally, leaving you with a greater sense of power, freedom and vitality. Clearing these blocks, whether it is tight hips or repetitive thoughts leaves space for energy to flow. And when this happens, the energy levels rise.
Awareness is created through learning about yourself by being more mindful and intentional while practicing yoga.
Intuition heightens because you begin to connect to all parts of your mind and body. Instead of always observing the world and your life outwardly, you turn inward. Listening and connecting raises your intuition to help you have the right answer at the right time in your life.
A willingness to show up is all you need to begin a yoga practice. Yoga works anyone who is interested in living healthy and happy lives.
About the Authors – Ashley Yost and Mali Jane: Co-creators and leaders of teAM, a corporate wellness program that uses yoga, breathing techniques and guided meditations to help employees boost their productivity, increase retention rates, open creative energy, and allow people to trust their intuition to make better decisions in the workplace.
About AM Yoga: AM Yoga in Grand Rapids is the first yoga and meditation studio created to help you discover who you are by removing what you aren’t through yoga, meditation, service, community and love.