Yoga is one of those things that I really enjoy and appreciate when I actually do it … but that somehow “slips my mind” (or my agenda) more often than I would like. When I get to my yoga mat, I feel like I am doing something for myself, like I am helping my body recover and heal, and like I am doing the right thing by “mixing up my workouts to maximize my benefits,” like I wrote in this post. Overall, the two biggest benefits for me are feeling more relaxed/ less stressed, and reducing tension (especially in my shoulders and neck, which is where I naturally carry my tension, and my hips, which is where I naturally carry my running tension).
Don’t get me wrong – to me, nothing beats the feeling of an exhilarating, sweaty run, and I certainly don’t to intend to give that up. But incorporating a bit of yoga into my weekly routine definitely works for me!
Relaxation/ Stress Release: I’m generally pretty bad at shutting my mind off (which is why I have to read a novel to get myself to fall asleep), but somehow, yoga allows me to do so. When I’m running, even if I’m listening to a podcast, I’m thinking about my to-do list or my work, but when I’m doing yoga, I can usually focus on just yoga. Even if it’s just a 20-minute class in my hotel room or my home, it’s a 20-minute escape that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And I always feel energized and relaxed afterwards!
Reducing tension and injury potential: Although I stretch for a few minutes after every run, I thoroughly believe that practicing a little bit of yoga at least one time per week helps me avoid injury (knock on wood!). When my body is telling me that it’s tired or sore, or I have a nagging pain somewhere, I’ll often take an easier running day or a day off, and try to fit in some yoga instead. A few minutes in pigeon pose (my all time favorite!) are sure to help release tension in my hips and help get me feeling better. One article I found advised that as your running increases, your yoga should decrease (and vice versa), but I believe the opposite – when I am running more, including yoga in my routine becomes even more important.(picture source)
Although those benefits are enough to convince me, there are many, many more benefits of practicing yoga. Some articles cite up to 38 benefits, but here are some of my favorites:
- Enhanced mood and improved happiness
- Increased relaxation, lower stress, and lower levels of cortisol in your body
- Lower blood sugar, lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol), higher HDL (“good” cholesterol), improved insulin sensitivity
- Increased flexibility, which can fix your body alignment, reduce injury, speed recovery, and reduce overall pain
- Better sleep: this article shows research tying higher sleep quality, lower fatigue, and improved quality of life to yoga
- Effective muscle toning/ strength building
- Improved brain function and memory
- Increased self-confidence and enhanced body-image
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and do some yoga! (picture source)
I love practicing in a studio, especially if I can get into a good hot yoga class. However, most of my yoga is practiced on my own due to my funky schedule. In a hotel room, all I need is an extra towel (instead of a mat) and my computer; at home, I roll out my mat even if I only have time for a quick session. There are some free yoga resources available online, and you can download many others for relatively low fees. I use Yogadownload.com and really enjoy their classes – some are free, and the rest are available for permanent download for low prices. I’ve heard good things about DoYogaWithMe.com, GaiamTV.com, Reflexion Yoga, and YogaGlo.com, but can’t recommend these firsthand. (None of these companies know I am posting this or are sponsoring me in any way, and these are not affiliate links). Enjoy!
So tell me in the comments: Do you ever do yoga? If not, would you like to try it? What exercise is most relaxing to you?