The practice of yoga has been around for over 5,000 years. Millions of Americans are currently practicing yoga and experiencing a multitude of health benefits from it. Yoga is anything but a trend; it is far and away one of the best exercise programs anyone can subscribe to.
Firstly, yoga improves flexibility. When some people think of yoga, they think they are too old, too fat, or not flexible enough to be any good at it. The truth is, anyone can improve their flexibility! Yoga is made up of moves called asanas, or poses. These asanas are held for a period of time, which gently stretches and loosens the muscles, releasing the lactic acid build up. Yoga asanas also increase the range of motion in the joints, and is also thought to help lubricate the joints as well. Yoga even stretches the fascia which is the first layer underneath your skin!
Some forms of yoga, like power yoga, will really increase your strength and muscle tone, but even less aggressive forms of yoga will definitely give your muscle strength some benefits. Many of the poses, such as downward dog, upward dog, and plank, will improve upper body strength, which is extremely important as we age. Standing poses, especially if they are held for a good length of time, will really strengthen the leg muscles. Nearly all yoga poses will strengthen the abdominal and back muscles.
Because of increased flexibility and muscle strength, our posture improves as well. Muscles are more able to adjust to correct posture positions, which is going to alleviate headaches, muscle tension, back pain, and increased body awareness. Yoga teaches you to be aware of your body positions at all times, so hunching or slouching will usually be self-corrected immediately by the experienced yoga student.
Practicing yoga involves deep, regular breathing. This improves lung capacity and teaches self-relaxation techniques. The deep breathing teaches you to be mindful of the breath and relaxes the mind. Your overall mood therefore improves. Yoga also improves heart health by improving circulation, reducing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and lowering the heart rate. Yoga has also recently been used in therapies to ease such problems as asthma, back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, CFS, insomnia, and multiple sclerosis.