Diet & Weight Magazine

4 Reasons to Do Yoga!

By Jennovafoodblog

Sorry for my absence over the last few weeks! It has been a serious time of for change for me, which I am very excited about. As you may have noticed, my website has had a major makeover thanks to my boyfriend, who has worked hard, tirelessly to help me out. My birthday was also a few weekends ago, on the 19th, which was filled with hiking, good Thai food and yoga. I returned to Windsor for my sister’s baby shower this past weekend and had an excellent time catching up with my family and spending time with my baby niece. After the baby shower, with the help of my boyfriend and a really great friend from Cincinnati, I made my way back to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky and have been climbing since then. I was here for so long last year; it didn’t even feel like I left when I returned. I am lucky to have such outstanding friends in the Gorge and am very happy, especially with my injury during the winter time, that I have been able to return and see them. Speaking of that injury, my freshly-healed leg has been doing great out here! I was very anxious about the hiking and falling and how that would affect my ankle. So far I haven’t felt any of the pain or swelling that I was expecting coming into this trip. I am not completely sure how long I’ll stay down here this time around but I am very excited to return to Ontario when good weather finally comes so I can spend the summer climbing in Lions Head and Beaver Valley!

Yoga has been a long-time passion of mine. As a result, I decided to share some yoga pictures for this post instead of my usual climbing pictures. Hoping that yoga is another thing that I`ll be doing lots of this summer to come!

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Yoga, derived from the Sanskrit term yuj “to join together”, is one of the most popular mind-body practices around the world, with about 15 million Americans practicing it in 2008. It is an ancient Indian tradition, originating about 4000 years ago, to attain “self-awareness”. Yoga comes with a wealth of health benefits that are applicable to people of all ages and health states including improved flexibility, coordination, strength, mood and so much more. While there are a number of forms of yoga, including Ashtanga, Hatha and Bikram, the most common form that has been adopted by Western societies consist of the basic components, asanas (physical poses), pranayama (breath control), and dhyana (meditation). Here are a few reasons why you should try this ancient practice!

1) Better Heart Health and Blood Sugar!

Since the 1970s, over 50 studies world-wide have been published investigating the influence of yoga on heart health, blood sugar, body composition and blood pressure. These studies have come with some pretty astonishing results including an approximate 30% reduction in fasting blood sugar, a 25% drop in total cholesterol, a 26% reduction in LDL cholesterol and 20% reduction in blood pressure. In a 12 month yoga intervention, men with heart disease had some pretty spectacular improvements including reduced vascular lesions, slowed atherosclerosis and less angina episodes. Even short-term studies have demonstrated some pretty significant heart health and blood sugar benefits. Yoga promotes deeper breathing, higher oxygen consumption and improved blood flow. Growing evidence is also suggesting that yoga may lower oxidative stress, improve insulin sensitivity, increase antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes, and reduce free radicals, which may help explain why yoga is such a heart healthy addition to your day-to-day routine.

2) Improved Mental Health!

The invigorating breath and meditation practices of yoga are great ways to calm your mind, improve your mood and enhance your overall awareness. Studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing migraines, stress, anxiety and depression. Yoga is also a useful tool against a wide array of mental health related disorders including eating disorders, insomnia, cancer related fatigue, dementia, schizophrenia and even autism. How does yoga promote some of these amazing mental health benefits? Yoga improves your mental health through a number of ways including a lowered activation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system, resulting in feelings of well-being and helping to alleviate the effects of stress and inflammation. It has also been demonstrated to reduce the release of GABA, a hormone linked with depression and anxiety. In fact, just 20 minutes of yoga has been shown to significantly lower anxiety levels. It promotes mental clarity, emotional balance, improved focus and enhanced mindfulness, all components of a healthier and happier lifestyle.

3) Aging with grace!

From children to seniors, yoga is a great addition to anyone’s daily regimes. In kids it promotes more activity, improved breathing (especially in breathing conditions such as asthma), better confidence and an improved ability to cope with stress. With all of the stress that children face these days, from the pressure to do well in school to the un-welcome media influences, yoga helps kids develop to more emotionally, physically and mentally sound individuals. Since inactivity is associated with more functional limitations and frailty in old age, the recommendations of 30 minutes of exercise daily can readily be met by yoga to maintain mobility and wellness in elderly individuals. It promotes movement, better flexibility, improved balance, more strength and ultimately more independence. Other health benefits that are also pivotal for wellness as we age include improved sleep, less chronic pain, improved optimism and improved blood sugar and heart health. Whether your 8 or 80, yoga can help you!

4) Healthy and Happy Pregnancy!

Obesity during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of complications including gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and increased caesarean section rate. As a result, 30 minutes of daily exercise is important during pregnancy to ensure healthy weight gain as well as reduce some of the common symptoms associated with these 9 months. Yoga has been shown to reduce bloating, back aches, anxiety, sleep problems, constipation and swelling as well as have protective effects against diabetes. Yoga has even been associated with a healthier birth weight of the new-born baby. Since it incorporates slow and static movements, deep breathing and stretching, yoga is a safe exercise to do during pregnancy. Be sure to consult a doctor first and find a knowledgeable yoga teacher with experience teaching pregnant women.

Yoga is great for so much more than what I’ve listed above, including injury rehabilitation (speaking from experience!), arthritis management and improved overall fitness. It is safe, relatively cheap, simple-to-learn and requires little in the way of equipment or training, making it a great practice to get the whole family involved with. With that being said, injuries in yoga can certainly occur if not practised correctly. Wrist and back injuries can be avoided and even improved with proper instruction and the intuition of when to back off. While yoga DVDs are a great way to practice at home, I highly recommend visiting a good yoga studio when beginning yoga to learn proper postures and safe ways to practice and improve.

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Babbar S et. Al. (2012) Yoga during Pregnancy: A Review. Am J Perinatol 29:459–464.

Bali H. (2013) Yoga: an ancient solution to a modern epidemic. Indian heart journal 65:132-136.

Bussing A et. Al. (2012) Effects of Yoga Interventions on Pain and Pain-Associated Disability: A Meta-Analysis. The Journal of Pain 13(1):1-9.

Cramer H et. Al. (2013) Yoga for rheumatic diseases: a systematic review. Rheumatology 52:2025-2030.

Chugh-Gupta N et. Al.(2013) A systematic review of yoga for state anxiety: Considerations for occupational therapy. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy 80(3) 150-170.

Sadja J and Mills P. (2013) Effects of yoga interventions on fatigue in cancer patients and surviors. Explore 9:232-243


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