Anyone who’s ever done a downward-facing dog knows that yoga is great for stretching and relaxation. But the true benefits of this ancient practice goes far beyond the physical. Discover some of the more surprising benefits of yoga.
5 Ways Yoga Enriches Your Life
- Calms the mind: Yoga practice is meditative and banishes stress, encouraging you to focus on your breath and the flow of the poses in your yoga sequence. There’s a reason yogis are calm and zen!
- Gets you in tune with your body: Unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga relies on you being in touch with your own body, how it moves, where it’s stiff, which areas need attention, even how tired you are feeling. This heightened awareness will benefit you in everyday life as your mind and body get in tune.
- Encourages better digestive health: The twisting yoga poses, and those which stretch the torso, gently move and massage the complex internal structure of your digestive system, encouraging the movement of food through your system and helping your body rid itself of waste.
- Increases your focus and productivity: You’ll feel an immense clarity of mind when you’ve done even a short yoga session, which means you’ll return to your next daily chore refreshed, refocused and energised.
- Helps you to sleep more soundly: See our before-bed yoga tips below to use the powerful benefits of yoga as a sleeping aid!
4 Simple Yoga Techniques You Can Do At Home
Even complete beginners can develop a regular yoga practice at home. You don’t need to be super-flexible, strong or fit. Yoga works with your body so you end up with a gentle, nourishing workout that works wonders for your body and mind.
On waking: Sun salutation
The classic sun salutation sequence is ideal for morning yoga, not only because of the joyful name. The poses and flow wake the body up gently, stretch the spine, encourage the digestion to wake up, and get your mind fresh and focused for the day ahead. The best way to do a sun salutation, until you learn it, is to follow an online video or audio version and practice along with the instructor. Remember to breathe in and out of your nose throughout, and try to keep pace with the flows and holds of the sequence.
Your morning sun salutation will raise your heart rate and get the blood flowing throughout your body, so expect to feel out of breath but energised. Don’t rush, and pause an extra breath in one of the holds if you need to. And remember that this is part of your morning routine, not something to be rushed. If you find your mind (or body) rushing, set the alarm 15 minutes earlier so you can enjoy the flow without the pressure of your daily schedule.
At Lunchtime: A 10-minute flow
Just a short yoga session at lunch time can ease backache and tight hips, help you digest your lunch, and minimise bloating from sitting. Not to mention the wonderful effects on your mindset, stress levels and productivity! You don’t even need to change out of your work clothes to do a short flow, consisting of: downward facing dog, upward facing dog, sphinx, tree pose, back bends and hip openers. Finish in Savasana to relax and just breathe. You’ll return to work refreshed, energised and in a much better mood; ready to tackle your afternoon tasks.
After Work: Back and Hip Poses
If you’re anything like us, you get home from work feeling stiff, sore and a little bit frazzled from sitting at your desk, commuting, and staring at a computer screen. There are loads of wonderful yoga poses to ease out stiffness in your back, hips, neck and shoulders. Set aside 30 minutes after work to unwind with cat/cow pose, downward facing dog, wide-legged forward bend, pigeon pose (so great for the hips!) and child’s pose. A short yoga session after work gives you a pause in your day to switch off, unwind, and transition from work mode to “you time”.
Before Bed: Yoga Meditation
Make yoga part of your bedtime wind-down routine and you’ll fall asleep faster and experience more REM sleep, the restorative part of the sleep cycle. Doing yoga will not only calm your breathing, lower your blood pressure and slow the heart-rate but will build in a natural buffer between screen time and shut-eye. Five great moves to try before bed are resting with your legs against the wall, a seated torso twist, child’s pose, the wonderful Goddess stretch, and of course child’s pose. Finish in corpse pose and focus on your breathing and meditation.