People have been practicing yoga for more than 5,000 years. Nearly 11 million people in the U.S. alone have caught yoga fever and are regular practitioners. This makes yoga more of a lifestyle than a trend. Women in particular enjoy this type of exercise because it does not require them to be in a workout room alongside sweaty, beefed up men that cannot form complete sentences. In all seriousness, though, yoga benefits the female body in many ways.
Yoga classes in the Western world usually involve breathing and meditation techniques paired with physical poses called asanas. There are different styles of yoga, some of which focus on relaxation and others designed to work muscles and enhance body movement. Practitioners develop balance, strength, and flexibility. The health benefits from these are numerous and worth exploring in more detail.
Women who are older often worry that they are not fit enough to practice yoga. They think of stretching like a gymnast and believe they are unable to do it. In reality, it is never too late to improve flexibility.
Asanas safely stretch the muscles, releasing the buildup of lactic acid that causes fatigue, pain, tension, and stiffness. Muscle stretching can also increase the lubrication within the joints. The result is that the entire body feels fluid and at ease.
In addition to the muscles, yoga stretches the soft tissues within the body. This includes tendons, ligaments, and the sheath of fascia that surrounds the muscles. After just eight weeks of practice, participants can experience an up to 35 percent improvement in their flexibility. These benefits are mostly seen in the trunk and shoulders. Flexibility benefits can be experienced no matter what level of experience the woman has with performing yoga.
Power yoga and ashtanga are two of the more vigorous styles of yoga. Practicing these helps to improve muscle tone but even the less vigorous forms like lyengar yoga can benefit practitioners in terms of endurance and strength. Upper body strength is developed through poses like plank, upward dog, and downward dog. Standing poses build abdominal, quad, and hamstring strength. Chair and upward dog strengthen the lower back. Muscles deep in the abdomen benefit from nearly all yoga poses.
When strength and flexibility are improved, so is posture. A stronger core enables a person to sit and stand taller.
When practicing yoga, women are more aware of their bodies. This allows them to quickly identify when they are not exhibiting ideal posture so they can correct it. During a workout, instructors inform participants when a pose is not being executed correctly. By properly exhibiting a pose, the practitioner receives the most benefit from the move.
Other benefits from practicing yoga include improved lung capacity due to deep, focused breathing and an increased level of calmness. Biochemical responses lower stress levels and allow practitioners to feel relaxed. The heart rate is slowed and blood pressure is lowered, resulting in benefits to the heart. Yoga students also claim to experience improved mental focus and elevated mood.