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The benefits of yoga

Happy New year! January (or the start of any new month!) is a great time to set intentions and make changes to lifestyle and change habits. So why not come and join me for yoga?

What I love about yoga is that is has so many physical and mental benefits, that you don’t need fancy of expensive equipment and that it is something that can be adapted to suit all bodies and abilities. Here’s more about the many benefits of yoga! (This list is not exhaustive!). Research to support the use of yoga for mental and physical health is growing with studies continuing to suggest the wide-ranging benefits. Read on to find out more!


Medical disclaimer: Please consult your GP or allied health professional for further medical advice/guidance.


· Builds muscle strength

Yoga generally uses all major muscle groups of the upper and lower body and with regular practice can help to develop muscle strength. For example in standing poses we work on strengthening and contracting the thigh (quadriceps muscle) such as poses like chair pose or warrior poses. With the style of yoga I am trained in (Core strength vinyasa) we focus around building strength within the centre of the body (often known as the ‘core’) which is integrated into our practice. Poses such as boat pose and plank help with this too. Working in table top position and downward facing dog poses also help to build upper body strength.


· Improves and lifts mood and helps to reduce stress.

Studies have shown that regular yoga practice can help decrease depression and anxiety symptoms in a range of populations. Yoga can help to reduce cortisol (our stress hormone, also known as our ‘fight or flight’ hormones. According to the National Institute of Health (An American based research organisation) evidence shows that yoga supports stress management, mental health, mindfulness, healthy eating, weight loss and quality sleep. Have you noticed how much calmer your mind feels after practice? It is one of the things that drew me to begin yoga to begin with as I find even just 10 minutes of practice sets me up for a calmer day!


· Improves flexibility

Yoga helps keep our bodies subtle! We know that yoga includes stretching which helps to maintain muscle length and keep is flexible. Yoga will work to stretch a variety of major muscle groups with movement such as forward fold (stretch hamstrings – back of the legs) and muscles within the shoulder with shoulder stretching (such as thread the needle pose or childs poses). Maintaining flexibility within muscles also helps us to reduce musculoskeletal (muscular related) pain by reducing stiffness and tightness.


· Helps improve sleep quality

Research shows that a consistent bedtime yoga routine can help you get in the right mindset and prepare your body to fall asleep and stay asleep. Practices before bed not only help energise the body and calm the mind before sleep, finishing with savanasana (relaxation) help the body to prepare for sleep and rest. Yoga Nidra practice is a a practice of guided relaxation without any movement practice- this can be really helpful to aid sleep!


· Improves balance

Exercise that challenges balance is proven to prevent falls and yoga practice often includes balance poses. Research suggests that in adults over 60 years of age yoga helped to improve balance and mobility. Further research is looking at how and to what extend yoga may help to prevent falls in this population too.


· Can lower heart rate and blood pressure to maintain heart health

Studies have shown that regular yoga practice may reduce levels of stress and body-wide inflammation, contributing to healthier hearts. Yoga encourages us to relax,

slow down the breath and focus on the present, shifting the

balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response. The latter system is our calming and restorative system; it can lower breathing and heart rate, decrease blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, and increases blood flow to the intestines and vital organs. Further research in this area is still emerging. While not all yoga is aerobic, even yoga exercises that do not increase heart rate into the aerobic range can improve cardiovascular functioning


· Yoga can help manage pain and promote overall mental wellbeing

Research in the field of chronic (or persistent) pain and the use of yoga or theurapuetic exercise is ongoing but research suggests that mindfulness meditation–based interventions improve symptoms cross a variety of pain disorders. Recent research suggests even a brief introduction to mindfulness changes people’s perception of pain and its associated negative emotional impact. Guidelines suggest offering a supervised group exercise programme can help people manage pain symptoms in conditions like chronic musculoskeletal pain and fibromyalgia.


· Yoga can help maintain and improve joint range of movement to manage arthritis.

With the poses and stretches in yoga we work into keeping mobility within the joints. Poses such as butterfly (soles of the feet together and knees apart) help maintain hip rotation and stretches into the shoulders help to maintain shoulder mobility. Research continues to grow around this area, with many studies being done in America and Australia. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR), Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) note that stretching, strengthening and conditioning exercises can preserve physical function, increase strength and improve endurance for people with arthritis. The guidelines within the UK for osteoarthritis continue to recommend therapeutic exercise tailored (such as local muscle strengthening, general aerobic fitness) for people with

osteoarthritis symptoms.


Further references and links:

https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/exercising-with-arthritis/ (useful website regarding osteoarthritis)

https://www.csp.org.uk/public-patient/keeping-active-healthy/staying-healthy-work/desk-based-exercises

(exercises for working from home to keep you moving!)


Research - further links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3026480/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26707903/


So why not come and join me for a FREE taster yoga class at Wolverley Memorial Hall on Tuesday 17th January.


If you have practiced yoga before you may wish to attend my intermediate class at 9.15-10.15am. If you are completely new to yoga why not join me for a beginners class at 10.30-11.30am. If you don’t have a yoga mat simply pop this on the form and I will bring one along for you! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR A FREE TASTER YOGA CLASS!




If you would like to experience an evening of complete rest and relaxation then why not come and join me for my winter wellness evening 'Relax to recharge' at Blakedown Parish Rooms on Friday 20th January 6-8pm. I have 2 spaces left!


Over the 2 hours I will guide you through:

-Aromatherapy for relaxation (use of essential oils)

-Myofascial release using release balls to release muscle tension

-A rest and restore yoga practice (suitable for all abilities including beginners)

-A guided yoga nidra (30 mins of relaxation, no movement practice)

There will also be a hot drink on arrival.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK FOR WINTER WELLNESS EVENING


I look forward to welcoming you to classes soon to enjoy all the benefits that yoga brings!

Wishing you a healthy happy January

Ruth x


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