THE BENEFITS OF YOGA

30 January 2013 10:22 (UTC+04:00)

By Scott Fenwick

B.S. /Hons

scottfenwick8@gmail.com

Yoga has been practised for more than 5,000 years.

There are so many benefits to using yoga and I will share with you the most important benefits to enable better health. Most yoga classes focus on learning physical poses, which are called asanas. They also usually include some form of breathing technique and a meditation technique as well. Some yoga classes are designed purely for relaxation, but there are styles of yoga that teach you how to move your body in new ways. Choosing one of these styles offers the greatest health benefits by enabling you to develop your flexibility, strength and balance.

I will break down the article into 4 parts, which are flexibility, strength, breathing and posture.

I would like to introduce you to the wonderful Lizel Cabucana, the best Yoga Teacher in Baku, Azerbaijan. Lizel is now based at The Club Port Baku and conducts over 12 yoga classes per week including power yoga, lower leg based yoga, meditation and Hatha yoga. I have personally worked with Lizel and she is not just a good yoga teacher, she is exceptional. When I attend her yoga classes she does more than guide you through the postures. Lizel can help you to relax, gauge you to stretch more or back off and enhanced my experience with her personal and professional practice.

FLEXIBILITY

When some people think of yoga, they imagine having to stretch like a gymnast. That makes them worry that they are too old, unfit or "tight" to do yoga. The truth is you are never too old to improve flexibility. The series of yoga poses called asanas work by safely stretching your muscles. This releases the lactic acid that builds up with muscle use and that causes stiffness, tension, pain, and fatigue. In addition, yoga increases the range of motion in joints. It may also increase lubrication in the joints.

The outcome is a sense of ease and fluidity throughout your body.

Yoga stretches not only your muscles but all of the soft tissues of your body. That includes ligaments, tendons, and the fascia sheath that surrounds your muscles. No matter what your level of yoga, you are likely to see benefits in a very short period of time. In one study, by Timothy McCall, participants had up to 35% improvement in flexibility after only eight weeks of yoga. The greatest gains were in shoulder and trunk flexibility. You will feel amazing in just 8 weeks.

STRENGTH

Some styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga, are more vigorous than others. Practising one of these styles can help you improve muscle tone. An even less vigorous style of yoga, such as Iyengar yoga, which focuses on less movement and more precise alignment in poses, can provide strength and endurance benefits.

Many of the poses, such as downward dog, upward dog, and plank pose, build upper-body strength. This becomes crucial as people age. The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abdominal muscles. Poses that strengthen the lower back include upward dog and chair pose. When practised correctly, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.

BREATHING

With the deep, mindful breathing that yoga involves, lung capacity often improves. This in turn can improve sports performance and endurance. But yoga typically is not focused on aerobic fitness the way running or cycling are. Taking an intense power yoga class at The Club Port Baku gets you breathing hard, however, this can provide an aerobic benefit.

Most forms of yoga emphasise deepening and lengthening of your breath. This stimulates the relaxation response: the opposite of the fight-or-flight adrenaline boost of the stress response.

POSTURE

With increased flexibility and strength comes better posture. Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength. That is because you are counting on your deep abdominals to support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you are more likely to sit and stand tall. Another benefit of yoga is the increased body awareness. This heightened awareness tells you more quickly when you are slouching or slumping so you can adjust your posture. This is important for people who are working at the desk all day in the office or people who have very sedentary lifestyles. I urge you to use your break times or lunch times to develop stretching techniques to keep your posture. Lizel says, "I start every morning at 5am and this is the best time for me to wake up and start my day with stretching and meditation". "If you take a positive approach to yoga you will sense, initially in brief glimpses and later in more sustained views, that you are worthwhile or as yoga philosophy teaches, that you are a manifestation of the divine!"

January has been a fast month, it has gone so quickly. Did you join a gym? Quit smoking?

Changed your diet? Started running along the beautiful Boulevard?

Most importantly, did you finally join The Club Port Baku?

If not - it is about time you did!

Make it happen!

Scott Fenwick