Body & Fitness

Gemma McCaw on how yoga can change your life

There’s more to this ancient art than flex appeal.

No matter what style of yoga you prefer, this 5000-year-old practice offers endless advantages – both physically and psychologically. And even if you’re like me and not an expert, you can still reap the benefits.

Adding yoga to your weekly routine can help to transform your body, mind and soul. It can improve strength, balance, endurance and flexibility. But the benefits are far more than just physical – yoga can help reduce stress, curb cravings and improve our moods.

Yoga provides the opportunity to unplug from the intense rhythm of everyday life and find a sense of inner peace and calm. It also allows us to look within and feel the connection of body and mind.

If you haven’t tried it, book into a beginner’s class and feel the amazing benefits of this practice.

Yoga can help you sleep deeper

Studies have shown that yoga can improve our slumber. Yoga is able to balance sleep cycles by regulating melatonin and reducing cortisol (our stress-inducing hormone) in the body.

This ability to deal with stress and focus on our breath enables us to bring attention to our immediate surroundings, body and mind, which helps us relax.

Yoga reduces cravings

High stress levels can result in changes to our eating habits, and can lead to increased consumption of food that’s high in sugar and fat. Yoga encourages breath awareness and strengthens the body-mind connection.

This can help us eat more mindfully, allowing us to experience the physical and emotional sensations associated with eating.

Yoga boosts your mood

Not only do we get feel-good endorphins from yoga, but it can also help prevent depression and anxiety. One study indicated an association between yoga, increased GABA (one of our primary neurotransmitters that acts to calm our central nervous system) and reduced anxiety.

Yoga helps you stress less

Yoga can be a powerful way to keep stress in check as it helps us stay calm and relaxed in our daily lives. The breathing techniques can bring our awareness back to the present moment and help us let go of worries.

By being more present, we’re not thinking about the past (which can create stress) or the future (which can cause anxiety).

Yoga pose 1: Downward dog

✦ Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees under hips.

✦ Walk hands a few inches forward and spread fingers wide, pressing palms into your yoga mat.

✦ Curl toes under and slowly press hips towards the ceiling, bringing your body into an inverted V, pressing shoulders away from your ears. Feet should be hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.

✦ Hold for 3 breaths.

Yoga pose 2: Warrior

✦ Stand with legs about 1 metre apart, turning your right foot out 90 degrees and left foot in slightly.

✦ Bring your hands to your hips and relax your shoulders, then extend arms out to the sides, palms down.

✦ Bend your right knee 90 degrees, keeping knee over ankle. Gaze out over right hand. Hold for 1 minute.

✦ Switch sides and repeat.

Yoga pose 3: Child’s pose

✦ Kneel comfortably with feet folded under.

✦ Roll your torso forward, bringing your forehead to rest on the mat in front of you.

✦ Lower your chest as close to your knees as you comfortably can, while resting your arms at your sides.

✦ Hold the pose and breathe.

Yoga pose 4: Cobra

✦ Lie facedown on the floor with thumbs directly under shoulders and legs extended with the tops of your feet on the floor.

✦ Tighten your pelvic floor and tuck hips downward as you squeeze your glutes.

✦ Press shoulders down and away from ears.

✦ Push through your thumbs and index fingers as you raise your chest toward the wall in front of you.

✦ Relax and repeat

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