Since the very first Veda, the oldest written text in the world, the philosophies of yoga have promoted a proactive attitude toward the entire being, body and soul. This meditative form of exercise has subsequently benefitted the lives and health of its practitioners for the last five thousand years. Although still a relatively new form of exercise in the West, particularly the United States, the rate of those using yoga to build strength, increase flexibility, decrease stress and improve mood has grown exponentially in recent years.
Over six percent of all Americans practice yoga to date, while 8% express a great deal of interest in the yoga and another 4.1% expect to try yoga within the next year. These numbers indicate a two-fold increase in yoga since 2004 according to a Harris Interactive Service Bureau study published in the Yoga Journal in early 2008.
Since its steady increase in popularity in the Western world, yoga has been acclaimed for its effectiveness in strength building. Holding poses in precise positions builds strength throughout the body, without the damage of high impact exercise or stressful weight workouts. Yoga allows individuals of any age and ability the opportunity build their strength through its various exercises without feeling inadequate or limited. While some poses are advanced and require a great deal of strength and balance, even the most beginner in yoga can participate and benefit from an entire yoga session by repeating poses they can hold, or simply focusing on deep breathing and appropriate stretching. A complete yoga regiment strengthens the core, arms, legs and back on all participants, giving a well balanced workout.
Improved flexibility is also frequently cited as one of the most noticeable improvements experienced by those who practice yoga. According to a study published by WebMD, yoga practitioners experienced a 35% increase in flexibility after just 8 weeks of regularly practicing yoga poses. This improved flexibility stems from yoga’s ability to release built up lactic acid in the muscles of the body. This stored lactic acid causes pain, muscle stiffness and limits range of motion. Releasing the lactic acid trapped in the body enables the body to regain smoothness of motion. Some also cite yoga exercises as improving joint mobility by increasing lubrication within the joint.
Another extremely important aspect in the practice of yoga is the stress-relieving component. The Mayo Clinic recommends the use of yoga for its focused and calm routine, which “draws your focus away from your busy, chaotic day and toward calm as you move your body through poses that require balance and concentration.” It is this element of focused movement on a series of movements repeated again and again, almost like a meditation in and of itself, which allows the mind to release stress and refocus the mind. Deep breathing exercises also contribute to a decrease in stress levels.
Oxytocin levels in those who have just completed a yoga workout tend to be higher than in those who do not practice yoga. Oxytocin is the hormone commonly referred to as the ‘love hormone,’ or bonding hormone. Levels of this hormone are elevated in breastfeeding mothers, those touching or being touched by another person, and even those dining together. Boosting these levels naturally through yoga improves mood, staves off depression and even combats eating disorder behaviors such as binge eating and emotional eating tendencies.
The increase of yoga in Western society has encouraged scientists and doctors in the West and throughout the world to study the scientific and medical benefits of a regular yoga workout. There is hope within the medical community that yoga will help individuals with chronic conditions such as cancer, chronic pain, insomnia and chronic fatigue to more easily manage these conditions.
While the science races to catch up to what some cultures have known for centuries, The Aspen Club & Spa is offering a new, special yoga membership for only $125 per month. There are over 20 yoga classes per week to take advantage of, so sign up now for this very special offer! Yoga classes include Iyengar, Ashtanga, Hatha, Kundalini and much more! Learn more today about this membership and the wide selection of yoga classes available. Be happy, be healthy and start your yoga journey today!