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Fitness and Health

Fitness and health go hand in hand, and this section of our health library is devoted to exploring the relationship between these two very important aspects of life.

The Top 10 Health Benefits from Yoga

The practice of yoga has become recently popularized but has essentially been around for decades. Although yoga is generally linked to meditation, there are a number of health benefits individuals can acquire from its tradition.

The Top 10 Health Benefits from Yoga


The practice of yoga has become recently popularized but has essentially been around for decades. Yogis (male yoga practitioners) and yoginis (female yoga practitioners) connect the mind, body, and breath through body postures, breathing techniques, concentration, relaxation, and other associated practices. Although yoga is generally linked to meditation, there are additional health benefits individuals can acquire from its tradition.

The Top 10 Health Benefits of Yoga

Health benefits of yoga are primarily broken down into physical and mental categorizations:

Physical

1. Muscle Strength

Although building muscle is not a primary focus or goal of yoga, its use can certainly facilitate strength. Whether or not yoga should be implemented as a sole strength training regimen certainly aligns with individual goals, but can be effective for acquiring lean body mass.

2. Improved Breathing

Pranayamas are breathing exercises practiced in yoga. Implementing and refining these breathing techniques improves breathing and posture, thus increasing lung capacity. Large air volume and flow offers fresh oxygen into the lungs and body tissues.

3. Weight Reduction and Maintenance

Though yoga is slow and tame, research has shown yoga can lead to weight loss. Experts commonly suggest increased mindfulness and awareness may facilitate better lifestyle choices, including healthier and more nutritious food selections.

4. Cardiovascular Health

Yoga has been shown to contribute to improved heart health in a series of ways. First off, yoga manages and reduces stress, a risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease. Additionally, yoga contributes to the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity each week for good heart health. Individuals who enroll in yoga sessions are shown to continue exercising further down the road.

5. Injury Protection and Recovery

Athletes of all sports turn to yoga to avoid injury or recover from one. Poses and motions help to increase flexibility and stretch out tense muscles. The purpose of yoga is to restore body and muscle functions rather than break them down the way a high-intensity workout can.

Mental

6. Reduced Stress

Though individuals generally seek out yoga for stress reduction, the practice is shown to be highly effective. With stress a risk factor for a wide variety of disease, its applicability should not go unnoticed.

7. Enhanced Mood

Yoga may improve mood just the way exercise can, by the release of endorphins. Also known as natural painkillers and that "feel good" hormone, researchers believe that yoga can trigger the brain to release endorphins and contribute to health and mood boosts.

8. Sharpens Concentration

Partaking in yoga stimulates the brain and nervous system, especially while focusing on mind-body awareness. The harmony of yoga has been shown to improve concentration while contributing to more efficient and quicker mental processing.

9. Improves Sleep Quality

Find yourself restless in the late night hours? Poor sleeping patterns may leave you agitated, tired, and unproductive during the day, resulting in a vicious cycle. The practice of yoga may help induce sleep while keeping you asleep and relaxed until morning.

10. Coping Mechanism

Grieving and coping can be a tough obstacle and may lead to harmful and destructive habits. Yoga has been shown to be a healthy coping strategy and mechanism for individuals dealing with loss, trauma, and other life-grieving moments.

Yoga Resources

Looking to pick up yoga but not sure where to start? The following links are resources to turn you into a yogi or yogini!

• Yoga for Beginners 1: http://www.yogabasics.com/practice/yoga-for-beginners
• Yoga for Beginners 2: http://www.yogajournal.com/category/beginners/
• A Beginner's Guide to Yoga:http://www.yogajournal.com/category/beginners/

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