On my journey to awesome wellness, I decided to take up yoga. I have done yoga on and off over the years (mostly off). I have tried a few styles of yoga including Ashtanga, Hatha and Iyengar. I never really stuck at it. The longest stint was about 1 year when I was living in Hawaii. I practised yoga with my wife and really enjoyed the sessions and the benefits I received. After coming home to New Zealand and having two kids, I didn’t make the time for yoga. After my recent health scare, I decided that I needed to make yoga part of my weekly fitness regime.
So what are the benefits of yoga?
There are many benefits with the main ones being:
- Flexibility – flexible muscles increase your movement and reduces muscle stiffness. Studies have seen people increase their flexibility by up to 35% after only 8 weeks of yoga.
- Improved muscle tone – especially for the more vigorous styles of yoga
- Increase muscle strength – Yoga targets most muscles and you can expect greater upper body strength, hamstring, quadriceps, lower back and abs strength. Looking for that 6 pack? Most yoga poses build core strength in the abdominal muscles.
- Heart health – Yoga can lower blood pressure and slow the heart which can provide benefits to people with high blood pressure or who are at risk of health disease
- Better Posture – Building core strength naturally improves your sitting and standing posture. If you have a desk job this is really important if you want to avoid common problems associated with ageing
- Lower stress – Many people experience reduced stress and longer states of relaxation after practising yoga. This is due to the focused mind and breathing practices that accompany the yoga poses
- Mental Clarity
- Improved Breathing – Some yoga styles help improve lung capacity due to the breathing techniques utilized
- Release of toxins – Bikram Yoga claims to reduce toxins through sweating
- Chicks dig it – OK, I thought I’d throw this one in here. Next time you are chatting to that beautiful young lass who mentions yoga is one of her hobbies you can casually mention that you do yoga too and watch for her surprised look and excitement as she realises you are a new age guy who takes his health seriously
Wow, that’s a lot of benefits! So while there are many different styles of yoga, I’m going to focus on talking about Bikram Yoga for this article. Bikram Yoga (also known as Hot Yoga) is a system of yoga that is practised in a 40ºC / 104ºF heated room and is made up of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises in a 90 minute class. The chart below shows each of the 26 postures in sequence.
Each posture is performed twice, allowing the student to get deeper into the stretch in the second posture. The 26 postures systematically work every part of the body and is claimed to support the internal organs, veins, muscles and ligaments in working optimally. Each pose focuses on a different part of the body but together the poses provide synergy and each pose builds on the last, extending the overall benefit to the body.
I tried Bikram Yoga several years ago when I was staying in Auckland, New Zealand and enjoyed it. I only did a couple of sessions. I then tried Bikram again at the start of the year after I heard that a Bikram studio had opened in my home town. They offered a good deal on one of the daily deal sites so I snapped it up. It included 10 sessions of yoga in 4 weeks. I think I made it to 5 but didn’t get to use them all. I stopped going mainly because I didn’t have the time to attend the classes regularly.
Fast forward several months and my unrelenting search for awesomeness, I went along to Bikram a few weeks ago and prepaid for 10 sessions. I didn’t want to commit to more than this initially as I wanted to see if I would attend regularly. So far I am 4 sessions in and really enjoying it. The first session was hard – just adapting to the hot room is difficult and I had to stop several times to rest and recover. Now I can complete the entire 90 minutes without rest and I am definitely improving my flexibility and skill doing the postures. I have set aside a regular time for Bikram which is 4pm every Sunday. This is a time I am not usually doing anything productive anyway so is a great time to go. I do find though that it takes a lot out of me physically and I am pretty jaded on a Sunday night! But the next day I feel fantastic!
I definitely recommend you giving Bikram or another form of yoga a try. Stick at it for 10 sessions and you will notice the immense benefits. And if you still need convincing just pop in to a class and enjoy the wonderful sight of the confident and beautiful women that attend these classes!