The Benefits of Yoga and 5 Easy Poses
If you start your day with a sun salutation and have made yoga a part of your routine, you’ve probably already noticed how great you feel. Not only are you more Zen, but you’re also experiencing a plethora of benefits. If you’ve ever been or still are on the other end of the spectrum—someone who has never really considered being a yogi—you might find yourself questioning whether yoga is for you.
Talks of flow, chakras and energy don’t resonate with everyone. However, simple poses that directly correlate with straightforward benefits might just make your introduction to yoga a little more enticing.
For Improved Balance, Posture, Flexibility & Strength
One of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga is improved flexibility. Gradual loosening happens over time and regular practice—and as we get more used to it, proper alignment and posture also become second nature. Many daily aches and pains can disappear once we get more flexible—like tight hamstrings, back pain and knee issues.
As you’ll evidently find out, holding a pose builds strength which in turns protects us from back pain and conditions like arthritis. Yoga can help us find balance, inside and out.
Try This: Tree Pose
- Start by standing straight with your arms straight along either side of your body.
- Find something in the room to focus on.
- Shift your weight and balance on one foot.
- Align the sole of your foot to the inside of the opposite thigh or calf (but never the knee). Your toes should be pointing down.
- Press your palms together at chest level and slowly stretch them above your head, towards the ceiling, palms still together.
- Hold for a few breaths and repeat with the other foot.
For Better Blood Circulation & Heart Health
Several factors which contribute to heart disease can be addressed through yoga, like excess weight and high blood pressure. Practising yoga regularly also reduces inflammation and improves blood flow by gently getting the body moving. The poses used in yoga can aid circulation—especially in the hands and feet—through twisting positions, inversions and gentle movements. Better blood flow reduces the risk of clots. Regular yoga practice lowers the resting heart rate, improves blood oxygenation and increases endurance.
Try This: Downward Dog Pose
- Begin in tabletop position, which is to say, on your hands and knees.
- Spread your palms wide and place your knees at hip distance.
- Walk your palms just out front of your shoulders.
- Tuck your toes under and raise your knees off the mat while bringing your sitting bones up to create a triangle shape.
- Maintain a slight bend in your knees whilst lengthening your spine. Do not lock your knees.
- You may pedal out your feet (slowly) to warm up your leg muscles if you wish.
- Hold the position and breathe.
For a Better Mood
Exercise releases endorphins which put us in a better mood. Yoga is a gentle form of exercise which can increase our mental and physical energy as well as boost our mood and alertness. A consistent practice increases serotonin levels and decreases levels of cortisol. In simple terms, it leads to greater levels of happiness and less negative thoughts—and as a bonus, a better immune system too!
Try This: Triangle Pose
- Start by standing and lightly jump your feet wide apart.
- Turn your right foot out and face that direction.
- Slightly bend your right leg and extend your arms, palm facing down, to create a “T” shape.
- Straighten your right leg and reach your torso over your left leg. Rotate your right palm so it faces up and gaze at it.
- Reach your right hand to the mat and place your palm next to your foot.
- Extend your left arm overhead and gaze at your fingers which point to the ceiling.
- Hold for a few breaths and repeat on the other side.
For a Good Night’s Rest
We all know that a consistent bedtime routine can help us get into the right mindset for a good night’s rest. However, adding yoga to the mix may just be the answer for those struggling to fall asleep. Yoga provides relief from the hustle and bustle we experience day to day. Restorative poses are meditative and encourage relaxation as well as provide downtime for the nervous system.
Try This: Child’s Pose
- Kneel on the floor with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart.
- Sink your hips back towards your heels.
- Relax your chest and allow it to sink between your knees.
- Extend your arms, with your palm facing down, alongside your torso—your fingers should point in the opposite direction of your toes.
- Lower your head to the mat and relax your shoulders.
- Hold, rest and breathe for as long as you need.
For Better Stress & Anxiety Management
It should come as no surprise that yoga supports anxiety and stress management. By being mindful and simply focusing on breathing and movement, we can quieten our minds. In other words, yoga practice can slow down our thoughts and allow us to ground ourselves. Since stress leads to many other health problems—eczema, migraines and insomnia to name a few—learning to manage it is thus incredibly beneficial.
Try This: Savasana
- Simply lie down on your back and gently stretch your limbs out, away from your body, palms facing up.
- Align your head, neck and spine.
- Focus on your breathing and letting go of tension, limb by limb.
- Let yourself feel heavy.
- Stay in this position for as long as you may need.
When first practising yoga, it’s easy to want to be perfect and get caught up in trying to nail each and every pose. However, yoga is a meditative experience meant to make you feel at peace. It’s a journey. As long as you breathe deeply and completely through every movement and don’t push yourself past your limits—you’ve done it properly.
We all deserve a bit more tranquillity to break up the frenetic pace of modern life. Making small changes to our routine—like stepping away from our desk to do a bit of yoga every day—is just one of the many ways we can allow ourselves to free our shoulders of the weight that rests on them.