Here on the Hotcourses editorial desk we are obsessed with the latest health fads and fitness classes. We have tried everything from juicing to drinking slimming tea in a bid to improve our bodies inside and out. Although we can hardly call it new, we have recently come to the conclusion that taking up yoga could be the best thing we have ever done. The benefits of yoga courses are endless and perhaps it is time to stop focusing on calories and work on what’s on the inside.
The history of yoga dates back over 2,500 years, the earliest accounts of practices found in the Buddhist Nikayas. As we transport back to a time where calorie contents didn’t exist, the sole focus was always on the mind rather than losing weight. When our yoga addicted member of the office told us that the daily stretching would change our outlook, we all laughed and continued sipping on our peppermint tea. Now converted fans, when it comes to the benefits of yoga courses the science speaks for itself.
Whether you want to tone and get fit, work away some aches and pains after an accident or even sleep better at night, these magic poses are thought to help. So before searching for a yoga course near you, take a look at how the benefits might change your life (it’s all good, we promise).
To be able to touch your toes
When your instructor asks you to stretch down and put your palms on the floor, you will probably get to your ankles and stop. Despite feeling like you are surrounded by flexible super-humans, with regular yoga sessions your body will gradually loosen. This flexibility is great for any aches and pains in the body, as tightened muscles can often put extra strain on your knees, hips and back.
To be stronger
Find your core. Yoga is a workout that mixes strength with flexibility. Although cardio intense classes can have quicker results, this mix is better for you in the long run. A body builder who only lifts weights will commonly suffer from clicks and cracks, bad backs and muscle knots, put him in a yoga class and his muscles would be shaking in the dance like poses. Yoga is a great way to care for your body alongside other sports.
To have pain free joints when you’re eighty
Joints – those things we forget about as we squat, lift and run through our day to day lives. Many of us put unnecessary pressure on our joints when we exercise, and yoga is a great way of reversing this damage. Yoga poses gently push joints through their full range of motion, squeezing unused areas of cartilage. Although it may not be a top priority today, this joint work can help prevent degenerative arthritis, so you will definitely be grateful in the long run.
To have better bones
Again, something important we forget in our bid to get the perfect beach bod. It has been proven that the weight baring exercises in yoga can help to strengthen bones and ward off osteoporosis. Poses like the Warrior work the large bones of the hips and legs, while the Cobra and Locust moves can work the back and preserve the health of the spine.
To feel more healthy
Having a good circulation around your body is vital for living a healthy lifestyle. Without reliving our school biology lessons, yoga is one way to get your blood flowing. In simple terms, this means more oxygen will get to your cells, which can function better as a result. Yoga can also boost levels of haemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry the oxygen to the tissues, as well as thinning the blood making it less sticky. Thinking about all this makes us feel a little faint, but good circulation and blood flow means blood clots are less likely, decreasing chances of heart attacks and strokes.
What’s more, yoga is great for our lymphatic system. Lymph is the fluid that circulates around this system and when you stretch muscles, move organs around and come in and out of postures in yoga, you increase the drainage of the lymph fluid. This is actually a good thing, the lymph fluid is rich in immune cells and helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancer cells and dispose toxic waste products.
To feel happier
High levels of cortisol have been linked with depression and a raised blood pressure, so as yoga lowers these levels you will only feel happier. Feeling down? This is nothing that a king dancer pose cannot fix, with regular yoga practice being thought to lower levels of depression.
To lose weight
For us yoga is quickly becoming the wonder sport. Changing the construction of the body from the inside out, yoga burns calories and can help calm the mind to address eating and weight problems. Depending on how intense the class is, you can expect to burn up to 400 calories in an hour.
To try something new
There are many options when it comes to yoga, the newest craze being Bikram, or hot yoga. Developed by Bikram Choudhury, this is a series of 26 poses carried out in a room heated to around 100 degrees, with a humidity of 40%. A 90 minute class may sound like torture, but like all forms of yoga, Bikram gives all internal organs, veins, ligaments and muscles everything they need for optimum health, whilst sweating impurities from the skin. Why so hot? It is believed that before you change your body you have to heat and soften it. What’s more, exercising in high temperatures increases your pulse rate and metabolism, meaning you burn up to 800 calories per class.
Will yoga help me?
Sleep better – Research suggests that just eight weeks of yoga has been proven to significantly improve sleep quality for people with insomnia or sleep issues related to stress.
Our yoga expert says: Try the corpse pose, aimed at restoring the body and breathing.
With my migraines- Although it is difficult to establish what causes a migraine, studies show sufferers experience fewer headaches after three months of yoga.
Our yoga expert says: Try the bridge pose, which is good at relieving stress from the head.
When I’m pregnant – Many women worry about exercising during pregnancy, but yoga is something that is recommended by professionals, helping mums-to-be relax and breathe. Skip and poses that involve stretching the abs and avoid Bikram or hot yoga like the plague.
Our yoga expert says: Try the butterfly pose of the cobra during pregnancy to ease pains and relax the baby.
Inspired? So are we. With lots of great yoga courses listed on Hotcourses, it is easy to find something to suit you and fit in with your lifestyle. The benefits of yoga courses are clear to see, so when asking ‘can yoga change my life?’ the resounding answer is yes!
Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.