Yoga has been practised for thousands of years by people of all ages, sizes and shapes – and there are many good reasons why. Whether it’s physically demanding ashtanga yoga; Bikram, which is performed in a heated room; or slower-paced Iyengar, which is ideal for beginners, all forms of this ancient mind-body exercise have fantastic health benefits.
No expensive tight Lycra outfits required! From seeing a real shift on the scales to giving your diabetes management plan a helping hand, here’s what you can look forward to once you make yoga a regular part of your life.
Benefit #1: Better fitness and flexibility
‘Yoga improves aerobic fitness, increases muscular strength and endurance, and improves flexibility,’ says exercise physiologist Wynter Chan, founder of Melbourne Yoga and Pilates fitness studio. A 2014 study found it can lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, heart rate and other cardiovascular risk factors just as effectively as traditional forms of aerobic exercise such as walking or running.
Benefit #2: Improved blood glucose levels
In an Indian study, researchers found that when people living with type 2 diabetes committed to doing yoga regularly over a three-month period, they saw a positive impact on their body mass index (BMI) and glycaemic control. ‘It is important for people with diabetes to increase lean muscle mass for better insulin management, and I find that yoga can do just that,’ says Chan. ‘When you’re doing yoga, you’re using your body weight as resistance and that’s a very efficient way to increase body strength,’ she says. ‘It is also low impact so it’s an accessible form of activity for most people living with diabetes.’
Benefit #3: Brighter moods and less stress
‘Many people take up yoga because of the big positive effect it can have on mental health,’ says Chan. ‘Yoga has deep roots in breath control and meditation, both of which are foundations of stress reduction and relaxation.’ Scientists agree, with one US study finding that people in high-stress caregiving roles were able to reduce their stress levels after two months of practising a chanting style of yoga for just 12 minutes a day. And a Boston University study has found that yoga trumps walking when it comes to helping you feel happy. Namaste!
Benefit #4: Fat loss
Scientists have made a connection between restorative yoga (which is less about challenging poses and more about relaxation) and a reduction in body fat levels. One study found regular practice of this type of yoga can help prevent middle-age spread and promote weight loss. Why? One explanation is that yoga promotes mindfulness, which has a knock-on effect on eating habits. This results in you paying closer attention to what you’re eating, meaning you’re less likely to eat out of stress
or boredom and more likely to put down your fork when you’re feeling full. Three things to consider before you roll out your yoga mat