Yoga is an ancient practice created in India and that has won the world over. According to the International Yoga Union, Brazil has more than 5 million practitioners and, according to the trends in the world, this number only tends to grow.
This is because of all the benefits that the practice can bring to the health of the body and mind. In the following text, you will discover the true benefits of this practice!
Much more than stretching the body in different ways, yoga is a philosophy of life. The practice was developed in northern India more than 5,000 years ago and remains alive through its practitioners and new adherents.
In terms of philosophy, it is a mentality that seeks to “live in the present”, always in search of a union between body and mind so that, in this way, a better quality of life or contact with the divine is achieved.
In practice, on the other hand, the cliché is real: yoga is a way of stretching in different ways, stimulating the muscles and the body as a whole.
This practice has been shown to be quite beneficial for physical and mental health. Understand more about the practice in the following text!
Yoga can be a spiritual practice and, in this sense, has several different philosophical strands. The positions and exercises end up being shared, and the spiritual goals vary. Check out some:
Raja-yoga focuses on the development of the mind, using the practice of meditation and contemplation. Its main objective is to know reality, achieve awakening and enlightenment.
Karma-yoga is the religious practice of yoga. In it, the individual enters into union with the divine inner part and devotes life and all its actions to the divinity.
Jnana-yoga is a spiritual practice that seeks knowledge through questions such as “who am I?” and “what am I?”.
The practitioner normally studies with the help of a counselor, with whom he meditates and reflects on the world and himself.
Baktir-yoga is an Indian tradition of mysticism of divine love. It is a spiritual path that aims at connecting the person who practices with the divine (gods).
Tantra-yoga is a behavioral philosophy that aims at the integral development of the human being in its physical, mental and spiritual aspects.
Hatha-yoga is an ancient form of yoga. Hatha Yoga is an expression that can be translated by dividing the syllables into the words ha (sun) and tha (moon).
The meaning itself is more elaborate and concerns the search for the balance of solar and lunar forces, male and female as the ultimate goal of this practice.
The practical modalities of yoga are divided into several subtypes, which can be more active or more passive. Understand:
Kundalini is a quiet practice and very focused on meditation. Few positions are performed, which makes some people find this technique a little passive.
Still, it has thousands of practitioners and is a good gateway to start training the body-mind connection.
This technique was created by guru Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar. It is more active than the Kundalini, but it remains quite static, as it focuses on the correct and aligned execution of the postures, and not so much on doing one pose after another.
It can be said that it is the most postural technique of yoga, always focusing on the correct execution of postures and movements.
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga
This technique was created by the guru Vamana Rishi. It is a very dynamic and challenging practice that can be described as “meditation in motion”.
Its main benefits are found in the construction of strength, resistance and flexibility, being practiced through 6 series of postures that must be done in sequence.
For those just starting out, the postures are adapted so that the practice is done respecting the limits of each one.
However, the positions are challenging, making the sport ideal for people looking for more movement and energy expenditure.
Yin yoga is a slower, smoother and more meditative modality. It gets its name from the concept of yin-yang, in which strong and dynamic practices can be called yang, while all the more passive and peaceful practices can be considered yin.
Therefore, the main objective of yin yoga is relaxation, working mainly with the joints, as it is necessary to remain in a single posture for longer than in other modalities.
Bikram yoga should be practiced in a place with an ambient temperature of 40ºC and high humidity.
All sessions of Bikram yoga are the same and in them there is a sequence of 21 different postures.
The practice has generated interest in practitioners around the world, because, because the environment is warmer, they have an easier time performing the postures.
However, it is worth remembering that many people feel uncomfortable and even get sick precisely because of the excessive heat of the environment.
Power yoga is a strand of Hatha yoga and requires physical strength and body awareness. In it, a single sequence of postures is not practiced and classes last from 50 to 99 minutes, including breathing exercises, standing postures, on the floor and balances on the arm.
Integral yoga is a combination of physical and spiritual practices with psychological and philosophical approaches. In this class, breathing, posture and meditation or relaxation exercises are done as a way to raise the level of consciousness.
Like Bikram yoga, Hot yoga is also practiced in the heat, but, unlike Bikram, it is not necessary to always follow the same sequence of postures.
Vinyasa yoga can be defined as the combination of breathing and movement.
It is a more intense practice that tries to combine inspiration and exhalation with movements, just like Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, but it is not necessary to follow a specific sequence of postures or series.
The practice of yoga can bring several benefits to the physical and mental health of its practitioners. Know more:
Increased flexibility is one of the most obvious benefits of yoga. Just seeing people practicing you can already see that it takes a lot of flexibility to do certain postures.
Remember that you don’t have to be flexible to start yoga. Quite the opposite. Flexibility is an achievement of consistent yoga practice. In the beginning, making positions can be difficult, but over time, it becomes natural.
Builds strong muscles
One of the skills developed with the practice of yoga is strength. The postures help to strengthen the muscles because they require a lot of resistance to maintain balance, and this is very good for health.
Helps you lose weight
It is important to remember that there are different techniques, some more relaxed and others more intense. The quieter ones, where the focus is on meditation and not so much on exercise, may not help you lose weight so much.
During the practice of the most intense types, it is possible to increase the frequency of the heartbeat, which causes more calories to be spent, which can assist in the weight loss process.
It is also worth remembering that, however intense the practice is, if it is not accompanied by a good diet, it is likely that it will not be enough to lose weight.
Therefore, if you want to lose weight, it is a good idea to talk to a nutritionist to combine exercise with a healthy weight loss diet.
Even so, if you are sedentary, even the most gentle and peaceful practices can bring several benefits to your health and well-being.
Through yoga techniques, the practitioner acquires greater body awareness, which makes him more attentive to posture throughout the day.
Specific spinal movements, for example, can also help prevent hernias and nerve compression.
Prevents joint pain
During the practice of yoga, the joints can benefit, as the movements (done correctly) help to relieve stiffness and can reduce joint pressure.
This helps to prevent arthritis, as it makes the synovial fluid (which nourishes the joints) to flow, decreasing the friction between cartilage and bones.
Improves bone health
A study done at Columbia University between 2005 and 2010 looked at the possible benefits of yoga for patients with osteoporosis and indicated that activity positions can improve bone density and, consequently, prevent diseases such as osteoporosis.
According to the research, yoga puts more pressure on bones than gravity itself, which in turn stimulates osteocytes, the bone-producing cells.
The hypothesis that yoga helps to treat diseases such as osteoporosis is not yet widely accepted by the medical community and generates debate.
However, the researchers point out that it is also necessary to consider the benefits related to balance, movement and strength provided by yoga, which reduces the risk of falls and, consequently, of fractures.
The contraction and stretching of the muscles provided by yoga postures improves the drainage of lymph, a body fluid that contains cells (antibodies) that fight diseases.
As this system has no pumping, it depends on contractions of the lymphatic vessels and muscles to move around the body. Therefore, physical activity helps the lymphatic system to cleanse toxins from the body more efficiently.
Raises heart rate
It is wrong to think that the practice of yoga is quiet and does not demand a lot from the body. The truth is that, although not all modalities are aerobic, there are those who achieve some increase in heart rate,.
When the heart rate is increased regularly, the risk of heart disease, such as a heart attack, is reduced, and it is possible to relieve the symptoms of depression .
Reduces blood pressure
Two British studies published in The Lancet compared people with hypertension in two situations: while one group performed the Savasana (corpse position, in which they lie on their backs controlling their breathing), the other just sat on the sofa.
After 3 months, both measurements, diastolic (blood pressure during relaxation of the heart muscles) and systolic (blood pressure during contraction of the heart muscles), fell dramatically in the group that practiced yoga.
This indicates that regular yoga practice can assist in lowering blood pressure.
Regulates cortisol levels
Yoga helps to control the levels of cortisol ( stress- related hormone ) in the body. The excess substance can cause depression, osteoporosis, hypertension and insulin resistance.
Helps stay focused
Yoga, like meditation, helps keep practitioners focused and focused. Thus, in addition to studies and work, the activity can improve motor coordination, reaction time (reflex), memory and even IQ.
The decrease in respiratory rate helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (which controls automatic body functions, such as breathing and heart rate), reducing pressure and improving blood flow in the body.
With that, the feeling of relaxation is favored.
Improves tension in the limbs
The practice of yoga helps to perceive tensioned areas of the body and to dissipate muscular tension (stiffness).
This difference is noticed quickly with some practices, but for larger muscles, such as the quadriceps (which is on the thighs) and the trapezius (which is behind the neck), it may take more time for the improvements to be felt.
Improves sleep quality
Yoga can have a positive impact on the quality of sleep, which helps not to overload the nervous system, to give more disposition and to increase the quality of life.
Increases lung capacity
In yoga practice, it is important to inhale and exhale deeply. The point is that the practice ends up being brought to life, which makes practitioners naturally take a deeper breath.
This has a direct impact on the increase in lung capacity, which helps the person to have better nights of sleep, in addition to facilitating the practice of aerobic physical exercises.
Prevents problems in the digestive system
Yoga, like any other physical activity, improves bowel function and decreases the risk of colon cancer .
In addition, diseases such as ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation can be alleviated, as they can be triggered by stress, a symptom that the practice of yoga helps to alleviate.
The practice of regular yoga stimulates self-knowledge and, over time, it is common to experience good feelings such as empathy, gratitude and forgiveness, which can lead to an improvement in self-esteem .
The combination of poses and meditation reduces pain in people with arthritis, back problems, fibromyalgia , carpal tunnel syndrome and other chronic illnesses. When these pains are relieved, the mood improves and the need for medication decreases.
It can improve fertility
The hormonal balance and blood circulation in Organs genitals, as well as the stress reduction provided by yoga help to improve fertility.
Everyone can practice yoga. However, people who have joint problems or physical limitations should have some adapted or excluded positions, to avoid possible damage to the body.
Yes , it is possible to practice yoga on your own. There are mobile apps and video lessons spread over the internet through which you can learn a little more about the techniques.
However, it is always good to remember that the ideal is to have the help of a teacher, as he can observe you in practice and correct small posture errors that, if not observed, can be harmful.
An example is the position of the lotus flower, the one where you sit on the floor with your legs crossed over your thighs. Many students strain their joints before they have enough flexibility to fully perform the position, which can cause injuries.
Check out some positions that are considered essential for all those who are starting to practice yoga:
Dog stance looking down
The focus of this posture should be on keeping your spine aligned. If you need to bend your knees, feel free to do so. To help disperse the pressure on your hands, open them wide, keeping your fingers apart.
To correctly position the dog looking down:
- Start by standing, aligning your hands and knees. The hands should be level with the shoulders, and the knees to the hips;
- Open your hands wide and place them on the floor in front of you;
- Align your spine so that your hips point towards the ceiling. Try to keep your legs as straight as possible;
- Your head should be between your arms, so that you can see your knees;
- Stay in this position for 5 to 10 breaths.
To correctly position the mountain:
- Stand with your feet together;
- Open your toes, spreading your weight evenly over your feet;
- Inhale and raise your arms above your head, pressing the floor with your feet. You can also let your hands rest parallel to your body;
- Breathe deeply, slowly, always through your nose;
- Hold in this position for 3 to 5 breaths.
Warrior stance I
To perform this posture correctly, the most important thing is to focus on keeping your spine upright and aligned. To do it:
- Standing, take a large step forward with your left foot, keeping your right in the starting position;
- Lean your left knee forward, keeping your back straight;
- Try to bend your left leg until the entire portion above the knee is parallel to the floor. Remember to leave your right foot in the same place, stretching the entire right leg;
- Lift your arms towards the ceiling and stretch them as far as you can;
- Hold in position for 5 breaths and repeat with the other side.
Warrior II Stance
To make the warrior pose, make sure that your left knee does not extend beyond your ankle. If this happens, reduce the depth of the charge a little. To perform the pose, you must:
- Take a big step forward with your left foot to start;
- Extend your arms so that they are parallel to the floor;
- Bend the left knee so that it is at a 90º angle, keeping the right leg straight;
- Point your left toes forward and rotate your right foot to the right. Your left heel should be in line with the arch of your right foot;
- At the same time, twist the torso to the right, so that the left thigh is facing the front of the room and the right thigh is facing the back. Your left arm and head should be pointing forward and your right arm should be pointing backwards;
- Hold for 1 to 5 breaths.
To do the plank posture:
- Start on all fours, with your knees under your hips and your hands resting on the floor, directly under your shoulders;
- Lift your knees off the floor and extend your legs backwards;
- Keep your palms on the floor, with your hands shoulder-width apart, your shoulders stacked directly above your wrists and your core engaged;
- Keep your neck and spine in a neutral position, looking at the floor;
- Hold this position for 3 to 5 breaths.
Lower plank posture
When laying the lower plank, the shoulders should not be below elbow height. If necessary, you can flex your knees. To do the plank posture:
- Start in the Plank Posture with your palms on the floor, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above your wrists and legs extended;
- Slowly descend to a low plank by bending your elbows, keeping them close to your body, until they form 90 degree angles;
- Hold for 1 breath;
- Usually, this pose is followed by an upward facing dog, the next pose on that list.
Dog stance looking up
While performing the pose, feel free to drop your knees to reduce tension in the area. To make the dog looking up:
- Leaving the lower plank, lower your hips to the floor and keep the tops of your feet flat on the floor.
- Extend your arms to push your chest up. Pull your shoulders back, press your arms against your body and lean your head toward the ceiling to open your chest.
The position of the tree requires balance. If you are having difficulties, place your right foot on your left shin instead of your thigh. To perform the tree position:
- Start in a mountain pose with your toes together and your heels slightly apart;
- Bring your right foot to the inside of your left thigh. The knee of the right leg should be facing outward and the right foot should be facing downwards, towards the ground, at a 45 degree angle;
- Once you have found your balance, raise your hands to the prayer position in front of your chest or above your head, as you prefer;
- Keep your eyes focused on a fixed point in front of you to help you stay balanced;
- Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch sides.
To perform the pose of the dancer:
- Stand with your feet together;
- Bend your left knee and bring your left foot toward your buttocks. Grab the inner arch of your left foot with your left hand and slowly lift your foot toward the ceiling. At the same time, reach your right arm forward and upward towards the ceiling;
- Actively press the floor with your entire right foot as you begin to open your chest and pull your raised leg up. Keep your chest lifted;
- Hold on one side for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch sides.
If you are not comfortable, feel free to bend your knees until your back is extended and you can tilt your pelvis forward. To do the gripper posture:
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Flex your feet. Sit tall with your back straight;
- Lie on your legs, trying to keep your back straight. In other words, fold the upper body over the lower body;
- If you can, hold on to the outside of each foot or shins. Loosen the neck and let the head fall;
- Hold for 5-10 breaths.
There are several types of yoga class. Those for beginners, who have not yet acquired much flexibility and are becoming familiar with the exercise, as well as classes for long-time practitioners, who even have challenging positions.
The classes can be done in groups, in which the instructor has already planned a series of postures that must be done by the students during the class. Some postures aim at increasing flexibility, others at strength, relaxation etc.
Or, there are private or individual classes, which take place at the student’s pace, prioritizing their progress in practice.
Some tips that can help newcomers to classes are:
Choose the mode that suits you best
As we saw earlier in the text, there are several types of yoga. Some are more intense and dynamic, while others try to focus on breathing and concentration.
You must analyze your needs and also your limits (existence of previous fractures, diseases such as osteoporosis) and choose the practice that best suits your lifestyle and goals.
Don’t create high expectations
Especially in the first classes, you may not be able to perform all the positions suggested by the instructor.
For this reason, it is important to keep in mind that development is gradual and that doing a very difficult posture is not a talent, but an achievement.
With effort and discipline, each week, challenges will be met and new ones will be proposed.
Wear comfortable clothes
During classes, you will spend a lot of time stretching and bending your body. For this reason, it is important to avoid tight clothing, which makes breathing or large movements difficult.
On the other hand, shorts and T-shirts that are too wide can interfere with exercise.
Try to opt for cotton microfiber fabrics or another that has elasticity. There is no need for special shoes, as yoga is practiced with bare feet.
Have a mat
It is true that the practice of yoga does not require a large investment in specific materials, but, in order to be safe and without risk of slipping, it is interesting to buy a special mat, also called mat or mat.
The rug is easy to carry and can be used anywhere, such as in the park, at the gym or at home.
Depending on the type of yoga you decide to practice, you may need to purchase other materials. In this case, it is important that you seek information and guidance from the studios you frequent.
This tip is valid for any exercise and with yoga it would be no different. To keep hydrated during class, bring a bottle of water.
Remember that the ideal is to drink at least 2 liters of water a day to keep your body in balance.
The prices of yoga classes will vary widely depending on the region of Brazil, the availability of other courses in the region, the instructor and many other factors.
But, in general, there are gyms that charge values starting at approximately R $ 40 per class.
What you should keep in mind is that it is more important to find a good instructor than a cheap lesson. With a well qualified professional, you will learn to do the postures correctly, so as not to cause any damage to your own body.
The benefits of yoga can be enjoyed by everyone. However, depending on the individual’s physical condition, some people may have to adapt or remove another posture or breathing procedure.
This, however, can only be determined by an instructor who has the proper knowledge of yoga and the general functioning of the human organism.
Some specific conditions, such as pregnancy, age and joint problems, require more attention and care, often requiring temporary interruption of activity.
Do you need flexibility to do yoga?
Myth! You don’t have to have the flexibility to start practicing yoga. In reality, most people who start practicing (except for contortionists) were not as flexible as when after they started practicing.
Flexibility, strength, improved breathing and all the other benefits of yoga are achievements that the practitioner gains with time, effort and dedication.
Do you need to be strong to do yoga?
Another myth ! Like flexibility, strength is something that you acquire with the time of practicing yoga.
Yoga lose weight?
It depends . Yoga is a physical exercise and, like any physical exercise, uses up calories.
However, there are calmer and more meditative practices (which, as a result, do not expend as many calories) and others that are more active (which, in turn, expend more calories).
It is worth remembering, however, that it is not just because you do a more intense yoga practice that you will necessarily lose weight.
To lose weight it is necessary to combine physical exercise with diet, which should always be done with the assistance of a doctor or nutritionist.
You have learned more about yoga and all the benefits that this practice can bring to the physical and mental health of its followers. Are you curious? Are you going to enroll in a class? Tell us in the comments!