The Health Benefits of Doing Yoga

September Is National Yoga Awareness Month

When you picture a person who practices yoga, what image comes to your mind? Common myths and stereotypes about yoga and the people who practice it might have convinced you that yoga isn't for you.

But, here's a fun fact: Yoga is for everyone. If you've never been on the mat, or if it has been a while since you've practiced, September, aka National Yoga Awareness Month, is a great time to get started. Here's what you need to know about yoga, including the benefits of practicing and the truth behind some common myths.

Yoga: What's in it for You?

Getting in the habit of doing yoga regularly, also known as having a regular yoga practice, offers multiple benefits to you, both physically and mentally. Some of the physical benefits of a regular yoga practice include:

● Improved flexibility

● Increased strength

● Better heart health

● Better posture

● Reduced risk of joint damage or injury

● Reduced blood pressure

● Weight loss

Along with helping to make you feel better physically, establishing a regular yoga practice can help you feel better mentally and emotionally. Controlled breathing is part of yoga. When you learn how to inhale and exhale deeply and fully, you help to calm your mind down. As a result, you are likely to have lower stress levels and to feel more relaxed and at ease.

In some cases, starting a yoga practice can be part of a total life transformation. Getting on the mat for an hour or so, several days a week can be the habit that kickstarts other healthy habits. As you calm your mind and improve your physical health, you might notice that you start to make better decisions about the food you eat and that you might start to feel better about your body and appearance.

Common Myths and Stereotypes About Yoga

Thanks to a lot of common stereotypes and myths, yoga can seem pretty intimidating, especially for beginners. But the thing about myths is that they aren't true. And stereotypes are just that, oversimplifications that don't always reflect reality. Take a look at some popular misconceptions about yoga and learn what's really going on:

● Yoga is only for thin, physically fit people: The truth is that anyone can do yoga, regardless of their size and current fitness level. When you start a beginner's practice, there are usually modifications for each pose to help you out. So if you can't touch your toes or do a split, don't worry. Yoga is still for you.

● You have to be spiritual to do yoga: Although some styles of yoga have a strong spiritual element, many do not. If you're only into yoga for the physical and mental benefits, try a practice such as hot yoga or power yoga. Also, if you're in a class that asks you to chant or meditate, you can always opt-out and sit quietly on your mat.

● You have to be vegetarian to do yoga: While adopting a yoga practice can be part of an overall health and well-being overhaul, you can do yoga and continue to eat meat.

● You need to be flexible to do yoga: Yes, some yoga poses ask you to bend your body or stretch in ways you might not think possible. But there are also adjustments that allow you to adapt the pose to your current flexibility level.

● Yoga is only for women: People of any gender can practice yoga. In fact, many of the more popular yoga styles were developed by men and plenty of men hit the mat to practice regularly.

How to Get Started With Yoga

It's never too late to get started with yoga. Although advertising might make you think that you need special gear and equipment to get going, you can take a "come as you are" approach. The only prop you might want to buy from the beginning is a mat, which will provide you with a cushioned and grippy surface.

Look for classes or videos that are designed for beginners, at least initially. It's a good idea to take things slowly so that you don't get discouraged or feel overwhelmed. While following a video can be good if you feel self-conscious, taking a class also has its benefits when you're just getting started. In a class, the instructor can give you pointers or recommend adjustments to help you get the most from the poses.

How much you practice depends on your schedule. There are people who do yoga daily or on most days of the week. If that works for you, go for it. But it's also perfectly fine to practice once or twice a week, or as your schedule allows. Make yoga work for you, rather than trying to make your life work for yoga.

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1. Yoga - Benefits Beyond the Mat, Harvard Health Publishing,

2. The Benefits of Yoga, The American Osteopathic Association,

3. 38 Health Benefits of Yoga, Yoga Journal,

4. Yoga for Everyone, New York Times,

5. 10 Myths About Yoga, Yoga Journal,

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