5 reasons to become a yogi
What is it?
Beloved of celebrities from Gwyneth Paltrow to Jennifer Aniston, yoga promises ultra-flexibility, sculpted muscles and a zen-like mind. It’s one of the most accessible exercise classes around, available in gyms, village halls and bespoke yoga studios – and via DVDs and apps. While it was originally a spiritual practice, most modern yoga is not affiliated to a religion and you don’t have to have any beliefs to get the most from it. So, check out our top five reasons to get on the bandwagon.
1. It’s for everyone
‘One of the best things about yoga is that anyone can do it, regardless of age and ability,’ says teacher Charli Sales (www.yogarhythm.org). You don’t need any special equipment – just a mat to keep you comfortable on the floor. As yoga consists of flowing movements, it doesn’t put pressure on the joints, and you can take it at your own pace and level. There are classes for pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with specific health issues.
2. Powerful against pain
Numerous studies have found yoga can be helpful for a range of conditions. One British study found it helped people with chronic lower back pain to function better day to day, while research published in the journal Headache found practising yoga regularly for three months reduced migraine frequency.
3. Potent for positivity
Other studies have shown yoga can help ease depression, anxiety, addiction, stress and fibromyalgia. While yoga helps improve flexibility, many of the benefits are thought to be linked to its emphasis on controlled breathing, which may help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
4. Yoga really does give you a full-body workout
When it comes to overall fitness and weight loss, most forms of yoga lack the calorie-burning power of vigorous aerobic or resistance training. However, if you choose to practise one of the more dynamic styles (such as Ashtanga) then you’ll enjoy the benefits of a thorough full-body workout.
5. It’s easy to get started
You’re convinced, but what now? ‘It’s best to find a class aimed at beginners,’ says Sales. Standards vary, so ask yoga-loving friends to recommend a teacher. Ideally, look for a class that limits numbers so you’ll get some individual attention. For most forms of yoga, you don’t need special clothing – a T-shirt and stretchy leggings will be fine. Most people do yoga in bare feet or socks. You’ll need a mat, but some classes have mats you can borrow so you don’t need to buy one.
All limbered up and raring to go? Before you sign up for classes, remember not all yoga classes are the same. Hatha, Iyengar, Astangha and Bikram all deliver different results. Pick your perfect one with healthy’s guide to the main four disciplines.