BY MISSY CORRIGAN
Health and fitness contributor
Yoga has been used as a restorative and healing practice for centuries, with most people today choosing to practice yoga to support overall well-being. The combination of postures, breathing techniques and meditation has been reported to promote positive physical and mental health, as well as support healthier habits and encourage a more active lifestyle. Even athletes enjoy yoga, adding it as a cross-training activity to support their main sport.
The combination of poses along with the controlled breathing techniques may help calm the mind and nervous system, reduce inflammation, alleviate minor aches and pains, support a strong immune system, promote better heart health, lessen symptoms of arthritis and reduce symptoms of depression.
Yoga may also aid in weight loss, reduce back and neck pain, improve cognitive function or even provide support with managing chronic disease symptoms.
In a 2018 study of patients with various types of cancer, patients who engaged in yoga reported better sleep quality, reduced fatigue, as well as improvements to psychological and physical health. Yoga has also been shown in studies to improve lung function in COPD patients.
Performing yoga poses can help improve core stability, balance, muscular strength and flexibility. Depending on the style of yoga, these poses can be held from a few seconds to 10 minutes or more. The poses can be done on the floor, standing, sitting in a chair or lying down. Chair yoga is a great option for individuals with limited mobility or balance difficulties.
Yoga brings together the mind, body and spirit and is generally considered a safe form of physical activity for all ages. Just recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended yoga practices for children and adolescents for self-regulation, focus and coping skills. In fact, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health cited a 2019 study that showed kindergartners doing yoga were more focused and less hyperactive than those participating in regular physical education classes.
There are many different yoga styles, levels and intensities. They can be dynamic and powerful or slow and intentional. They may focus on breathing, strength, balance, circulation or body awareness and can be calming, energizing, restorative or rejuvenating.
If you are new to yoga, it’s best to start with a gentle yoga class and to learn proper form from a qualified instructor. Whether you choose to practice yoga in a community center, fitness studios, outdoors and even in your own home, yoga can complement any workout plan, and like everything else, practicing consistently will yield the most benefits.
Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. You can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 773-1404.