Reap the Benefits of Yoga by Exhaling Stress

Breathe in; breathe out.

As proven methods of stress and chronic symptom relief, among other benefits, yoga and meditation have become common practice for many in the U.S. and around the world. The wide range of audience appeal – from those beginning their fitness journey to those utilizing the added flexibility as a form of cross training – along with the locational versatility make yoga and meditation great activities for those looking for ways to enjoy the summer weather.

Benefits of yoga

As of 2016, approximately 36 million Americans practice yoga regularly while 28 percent have participated in a class sometime in their lives, according to a collaborative study by the Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal. Although many practitioners primarily seek the physical benefits, such as increased flexibility and energy, unintended emotional and mental benefits, such as higher self-esteem and increased mental clarity, are also apparent in yogis. Other benefits include:

  • Lowering high blood pressure
  • Alleviating depression and anxiety
  • Easing insomnia

According to Dr. Ishwar Basavaraddi, not even these benefits trump yoga’s true purpose: harmony.

“Yoga is about harmonizing oneself with the universe,” he says. “It is the technology of aligning individual geometry with the cosmic to achieve the highest level of perception and harmony.” In regards to the ancient tradition, anything other than harmonization is merely a positive externality.

But since its inception over 3,000 years ago, yoga has been altered and adapted to fit the needs of different populations. It’s clear that our modern, Westernized yoga can – and should – be used for these physical, mental and emotional benefits.

Yoga myth vs. fact

Despite yoga’s popularity and benefits, many are hesitant to commit to the practice. Here are a few rebuttals to such concerns:

“You have to be slim, flexible and young to do yoga.” Although these traits may make yoga easier, they are not necessary nor should they prevent anyone from participating. Anna Guest-Jelley, founder of Curvy Yoga, believes yoga is a great option for those carrying more weight because it’s a low-impact activity. Even more, if you are doing yoga at home, it’s completely customizable. You can choose what poses you perform and how quickly you move.

“Yoga is for women.” Not true. Yoga should not be viewed as emasculating. For one, many men do yoga, though it so happens that a large portion of the population is women. Secondly, yoga sculpts muscle and prevents injury. This is particularly important to gym fanatics, according to Men’s Fitness.

“Yoga classes are expensive.” If you go at peak studio hours or don’t have a discount, yoga classes can be expensive. But with the plethora of resources and information available on yoga for beginner, intermediate and advanced yogis, classes are becoming more and more unnecessary. Of course, some perform better in a class setting. But if you don’t care about the group setting as much as the poses and instruction itself, then yoga apps and websites may be the more affordable option. In fact, this option also allows for more locational freedom. Instead of being confined in the same studio week after week, you can take it outside. Wake up at dawn to avoid the heat of the day and watch the sunrise all while doing yoga.

Yoga gear

Just like studio classes, yoga mats and accessories can also be expensive. But depending on your budget and ability level, they don’t have to be. For example, if you are just beginning yoga and are skeptical of a large investment, kits at Walmart begin at $17. The kits include the basics: a mat, single yoga block, strap and some sort of mat transport accessory.

If you want to take it outside, be sure to get a thicker, more durable mat. Outdoor mats are usually ½ inch thick instead of a ¼ inch thick. Depending on your location, this could make a difference. If you are going to a grassy area, it’s not as important. But for those taking yoga harsher terrains, the extra ¼” of padding means avoiding a painful encounter a rock or tree root.

Overall, yoga doesn’t have to be a large financial investment, but it is an investment in yourself. The benefits and affordability of yoga make it optimal for any lifestyle. Even more, no one has to commit to being an avid yogi; it’s an activity that you can perform a few times a week and still reap some of the benefits.

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