Following up from our post on preventive wellness, I thought it would be a good idea to delve into one of the most effective methods of relieving pain, preventing injuries and maintaining physical and mental health…YOGA.
Even though yoga has been around for thousands of years, it has recently grown rapidly in popularity. In LA especially, it seems people never leave home without their keys, iPhone and Yoga mat. Lululemon yoga gear is everywhere, even on people that don’t do Yoga.
But while the many aspiring film stars of LA practice yoga to tap into their Chi, it’s also a great way for a YOG (not to be confused with Yogi) to stay on top of his game and provide some balance for the mind, body and spirit.
Having poured over recent studies and articles on yoga, and also experiencing it for myself, the number of health benefits are staggering. I’ve narrowed it down to 7 so you can spend less time reading and more time in ‘Downward Dog’.
1. Strength & Flexibility
The kind of strength which is developed during a yoga class is much more functional and consistent with our every day activities than just lifting weights. Using only your bodyweight and gravity, yoga encourages a more total body strength workout which also engages core muscles and stabilizers around joints, helping us to prevent onset of chronic pain issues and also acute injuries.
As you build strength, you’ll also improve your flexibility and posture. This means that it’s important to mix yoga in with your weekly training schedule, particularly if you hit the weights often as this can often lead to muscle imbalances and tightness, leaving you prone to injury.
2. Lower stress levels
YOGs tend to live jam-packed lives, and are always on the go. The calming nature of yoga together with the meditative element helps our mind achieve a peaceful state by slowing down the mental fluctuations of anger, fear, frustration, regret and desire which all cause stress. And we all know what stress can do to us, if not, READ THIS for an example.
3. Better Sleep
A study from Harvard found that subjects with insomnia were able to improve the quality of their sleep with just 8 weeks of yoga. Another study showed that the sleep quality and well being of cancer patients dramatically improved after completing a short weekly program of Tibetan yoga.
4. Pain Relief
Trade in those prescription drugs for some ample doses of yoga. Several studies show that Asana combined with meditation reduced pain in people with arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain and other chronic conditions.
5. Boost Sexual Performance
I’m not just referring to the effect on arousal levels being surrounded by hot, sweaty women performing suggestive body positions (you’re not supposed to be looking around the room). Studies have found that 12 weeks of yoga can improve sexual desire, confidence, orgasm and performance in both men and women. This can be attributed to increased blood flow to the genitals, strengthened pelvic floor (core) muscles and also the control of the mind and breath.
6. Enhance your mood
Not only do some of the poses force you into powerful, confident body positions, yoga produces a positive chemical change also.
One study showed that consistent yoga practice increased Serotonin levels and deceased levels of cortisol improving depression. More dramatic left-sided brain activity by meditators has also been found to correlate with greater levels of happiness and strengthened immune systems.
7. Improve brain function
To maintain his level of success, the YOG needs his noggin firing on all cylinders. Practicing yoga helps you focus on the present, making you less distracted with your constant looping thoughts about past and future worries. Recent studies have also shown enhanced coordination, memory, reaction time and even IQ through Yoga.
Different Yoga Styles
There are so many different styles of yoga out there from Ancient Indian methods to Westernized boot camp style adaptations. The following common styles should cater to all of the YOG’s needs:
Based on ancient teachings, this is a rigorous style of yoga which follows a set sequence of postures and links every movement to a breath. Be prepared for a physically demanding session. YogaWorks has a number of locations around LA offering many different styles of yoga including Ashtanga. Great for beginners.
Referred to by many as “gym yoga”, this is a fitness-based approach to the Vinyasa-style yoga. It is also similar to the intensity and flow of Ashtanga yoga, without the repetitiveness as no two classes are the same. If you want a work out while improving your strength and flexibility without the routine this is your vibe.
Bryan Kest Power Yoga in Santa Monica will kick your ass, particularly if Bryan himself drops by to run the class, which is pay by donation too…
Around 30 years ago, Bikram Choudury developed a school where yoga classes were held in artificially heated rooms.
A great option to work on flexibility, but take a couple of towels and plenty of water with you because you’ll sweat like Joseph Fritzl on MTV cribs as you’re taken through a set series of 26 postures in 105°F (40.6°C). A good option to rid yourself of toxins from boozing the night before.
The good people at Bikram Yoga in Marina Del Rey will get you in shape fast and normally have great introductory offers if you’re not quite sure and want to try it out.
So there you have it, now you should be ready to add an ‘I’ onto ‘YOG’. For all you LA YOGs, stay tuned for our post featuring some of the million places to do yoga in YOGtown.