If you’ve ever wondered who yoga is suitable for, our short answer is: everyone!
Regardless of whether you’re currently less fit or super active, younger or older, under or overweight… yoga will bring unique benefits to both mind and body. Try not to be put off by tight outfits, intimidating postures and fancy studios. Yoga is for everyone, we promise.
Why is yoga suitable for everyone?
First, to dissolve any preconceptions around flashy studios, tight outfits or glowing youth – let’s instead remember where yoga comes from.
Thousands of years ago, the forest Rishis (sages) of ancient India were inspired by the divine nature of the cosmos. They evolved asanas (postures) and meditations that could gently guide others into the same recognition.
Yoga was a gift to honour the body, and the universe. Typically practised by older men, they essentially wore whatever allowed the most movement – generally their underwear.
We’ll be honest. There can be a fad side to modern yoga… but remember, the practise was birthed with a vastly different signature. Yoga was intended to purify intention, so generally, that’s exactly what it does. It brings health, restoration and balance to both mind and body – something everyone can benefit from, no matter what their starting point is. And we mean that! Even those with chronic illness or mobility issues, will benefit from yogic breathing exercises.
When practised in an authentic manner, any superficiality or competitiveness is easy to stay clear of. Plus, you’ll always able to discern which teachers and studios you resonate with. With now over 3000 studios in Australia, we’re spoiled for choice!
Yoga benefits for beginners
A 2016 study by the University of Virginia, saw forty-two participants who had not practiced yoga within the last year, take part in an eight-week gentle yoga program. The study revealed benefits for those with health risk factors such as being overweight, sedentary, and at risk for type 2 diabetes.
By the end of the study, over than 80% of new yogis reported that they were calmer felt a better sense of overall physical functioning. It was noted that ‘even those who thought they could not do yoga’ found ‘benefits even after the first session.’
So that’s that! I guess it’s time to roll out the old (or new) yoga mat. It’s time to explore the combination of physical and mental exercises that have been upheld for thousands of years.
Still not convinced? We’ve listed some more of yoga’s key benefits below.
1. Bone Health
By gently moving joints (hips, shoulders, ankles, knees) through their range of motion, yoga helps to keep them lubricated, which is increasingly important as we age.
It’s understood that weight-bearing exercises (like those found in many yoga postures) can strengthen bones and help to ward off diseases like osteoporosis. Some, asanas like Downward-Facing-Dog help to strengthen arm bones, which are especially vulnerable. An unpublished study by California State University, revealed that regular yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. It’s believed that yoga’s ability to lower levels of cortisol may help maintain calcium in the bones.
Researching yoga’s effects on chronic pain, UCLA researchers examined women suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the lining of the joints). About half of those who took part in a six-week yoga program noted improvements in measures of pain.
2. Brain Health
Yoga and its forms (asana, pranayama and meditation), all require a relaxed mental focus. For example, syncing the breathing with movement, or releasing distracting thoughts. As such, an increasing amount of studies reveal yoga’s beneficial effects on the brain. One U.S study focused on participants aged between 55-79. They found that immediately after a 20-minute yoga session, participants were able to complete a set of mental challenges faster and more accurately than they did after a brisk walk or a jog.
Researchers are now beginning to explore whether yoga can also help stave off age-related cognitive decline. As it is, research has shown that areas of the cerebral cortex (the part of the brain associated with cognitive processing which becomes thinner with age) tends to be thicker in long-term meditators.
Flexibility is usually one of the first benefits when we think of when it comes to yoga.
You may not be able to touch your toes during your first go, but if you stick with it, you’ll experience some of yogic magic. Gradually, there’ll be an oh-so-satisfying loosening, and those postures that once seemed impossible will become a regular thing. Over time, you’ll naturally notice aches and pains beginning to completely dissipate.
Tight muscles can cause strain on joints, improper alignment, poor posture, and overcompensation in other parts of the body. For example, tight hamstrings tend to flatten the lumbar spine, and cause back pain. Enter yoga.
4. Heart health
At this point, many studies have shown that yoga and meditation may help reduce risk factors for heart disease. Remarkably, a review of 70 studies concluded that yoga shows promise as a safe, effective way to boost heart health.
By slowing the heart rate and inducing the relaxation response, yoga may also specifically help bring blood pressure down to safer levels. In 2016, researchers conducted one of the first randomised, controlled trials of yoga for blood pressure. They found that after twelve weeks of yoga, participants’ blood pressure levels had decreased. Amazing huh?
And there you have it. Yoga is not only suitable for everyone, but beneficial too. Why not start your own at-home practice with Adrienne, or online with our sister studio Living Flow? Better yet, pop in and practise with us!
Nisha is a freelance writer and Vedic astrologer, based in the magical Byron Hinterlands. As well as running her candle business, her life and loves involve: yoga, gardening and all things esoteric. You’ll find her out in nature, or curled up at home with a good book. Happy Buddha is one of her most treasured places on earth (and indeed where she met her fiancé!).