Many people think of yoga as a gentle activity’and some styles are’but to reap yoga’s many benefits, you’ve got to learn to do it right.
‘People assume that just because they’re doing yoga it’s automatically good for them,’ says Eoin Finn, a Vancouver yoga instructor and creator of Pure and Simple: Yoga for Stiffies. ‘But you can still injure yourself in yoga if your joints are misaligned,’ he says.
And if you’re already trying to work around an existing injury, it’s especially important to seek proper guidance from a knowledgeable yoga teacher. From there, you can begin enjoying the following benefits of yoga.
Yoga for flexibility and strength
Yoga has a reputation for making muscles more flexible. And it does, but lots of poses are also good for strengthening and toning muscles because they require you to hold up or balance your own body weight with your arms and/or legs.
Since one of the first steps you learn in yoga is how to properly contract your deep abdominals, you gain plenty of strength and stability around your abs, too.
Yoga for a sense of calm
Apart from the physical perks, yoga is known for its mental benefits. ‘What we’re looking for is a state of relaxed alertness and clarity,’ says Finn. And that extends to all life situations, not just the time you spend on your yoga mat.
One key to promoting this sense of inner peace is the breathing you do in yoga. ‘If you allow the breath to become calm and full, the mind and body respond by reducing mental clutter for deeper presence and clarity,’ says Finn.
Yoga for better awareness
With yoga, you develop a better awareness of bodily sensations‘for example, recognizing when your breathing is calm and focused versus forced and choppy’and also an awareness of what’s going on in your head. Example: Learning to be more ‘present.’
Being in the moment helps you work toward your goals without getting caught up in having to achieve a pose at a certain level or compete with others in a class.
Once you do that, you’re more likely to strive at your own pace’and enjoy it. ‘The reason we push too hard is because we compare ourselves to others and let that motivate us,’ says Finn.
The better approach? To get the most benefit out of yoga, learn to ‘balance competition with contentment,’ says Finn.
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