Are you a Yogi? Why Yoga practice will benefit your performance
21 June 2020
Yoga is such a prominent exercise and wellbeing activity that organisations have increasingly adopted this practice as part of their workplace wellbeing schemes, even virtually today.
The accessibility of yoga is one of the keys to its success. No expensive machines or hi-tech clothing are needed - a simple mat and enough space to stretch your arms and legs are all that is required. Whilst it is always advisable for beginners to have some classes with a qualified instructor, most poses can be learnt from books or online blogs, and the amount of video content increasingly populating the social media space can satisfy your curiosity - and well as introduce you to the practice.
How many types of yoga are there?
Historians believe that yoga may have been around in many forms for more than 10,000 years, but it has really only enjoyed popularity in the West during the past century.
Many types of yoga exist, but six are most familiar to western practitioners: Hatha, Raja, Karma, Bhakti, Jnana, and Tantra. Of these, Hatha Yoga is the most widely practiced. This form emphasises postures, movements and breathing over the more spiritual aspects of some other styles.
Iyengar Yoga is a branch of hatha commonly used in physical therapy; its focus on form and alignment and the use of props makes it adaptable for a variety of treatments. Another branch of Hatha, Ashtanga Yoga, is closer to a cardio-based workout with its connected dynamic postures aiming to induce sweating and deep breathing.
You can even take part in Laughter Yoga – or Hasya Yoga – which combines laughter with aerobic yoga exercises and deep breathing – taking the ‘feelgood factor’ to a whole new level!
Benefits of yoga and meditation
One of the main benefits of yoga is that it can be practiced at any fitness level and modified according to a person’s physical condition and life stage. Physically, the poses - or asanas - promote correct posture, tone, and strength. Mentally, yoga supports correct breathing techniques and can be used as a form of meditation.
Yoga has been reported to be effective in reducing the symptoms of a wide range of health problems, from backache to Multiple Sclerosis, and even Schizophrenia. The list of issues that yoga could be beneficial for gets longer every day. Whilst more evidence is needed, and many of these claims rely on anecdotal evidence, some promising studies indicate that this ancient wisdom does indeed have a basis in fact, especially for managing musculoskeletal conditions, back pain and stress.
Side effects of yoga
As with any form of physical exercise, there are some risks associated with yoga, but they can be avoided with careful practice and guidance.
Anyone with a pre-existing medical condition should both consult a doctor and work with a qualified yoga teacher with experience of their particular problem. Pregnant women should ideally only take part in pre-pregnancy or general sessions with an experienced teacher who can provide specific guidance.
It’s not uncommon for beginners to experience some mild soreness, particularly if they are used to a sedentary lifestyle. New practitioners should be especially careful to ensure that they fully understand instructions and guidance to avoid injuries, and ask for support when in doubt.
Overall though, the benefits very much outweigh any side effects, and it’s a form of exercise that’s both worthwhile and enjoyable to include in your wellbeing routine.