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The benefits of yoga

Yoga is about being holistic when it comes to your health – it’s not just eating well and exercising. It’s also giving your mind some time to recover.

I am a freelance journalist dedicated to travelling and keeping fit and healthy. A tragic (but proud) cat lady, I believe in the importance of staying strong, active and healthy in the most practical ways possible. I’m also committed to laughing every day, even if that means at myself…which is usually the case. Robyn Box

Yoga has been a bit of a buzz word for quite some time now thanks to hot people like Jennifer Aniston and Miranda Kerr, but after a bit of research into why this bendy workout is so popular I found out it's not just a great way to stretch out those tired muscles and perfect the art of saying a handful of Indian words – it’s actually pretty darn good for your mind as well.

With many of us overlooking our mental and spiritual health in day-to-day routines it begs the question: just how good is our spiritual health? Not our fitness levels, but what’s happening in our minds and our inner self?

The Australian Psychological Association found one in four Australians experience anxiety, and one in three experience depressive symptoms. We can remind ourselves to bash out a Step class all we like, but when it comes to our inner zen there is another -option: yoga.

The Stroke Foundation recently launched a research program into what potential impacts yoga has on stroke victims, looking for improvement in physical function. What they found, however, was an overwhelming benefit in emotional and mental health.

“There is not much yoga can’t support or help heal,” says Sheridan Hammond, founder of yoga retreat Samudra in Dunsborough, around 2.5 hours south of Perth.

“It offers a good overall health choice because it doesn’t allow strength or flexibility to get ahead of one another, and it takes care of people’s health on all different levels,” including emotionally and mentally.

It’s not just the inner spiritual benefits that are impressive: yoga can improve cardiovascular condition, blood circulation and ease muscle tension. It’s a great way to learn how to relax plus, it works to improve the overall health of the nervous system, making us all round healthier people, and probably calmer ones too. And let’s face it – people like calm people a lot more than stress heads. 

Just keep in mind though that for all its spiritual benefits yoga is still a workout, so don’t get cocky and think you can just mosey into a class and bash out a session with no repercussions. There’s a real physical element to it, which can work your muscles as much as from a gym session. Mainly because yoga targets muscles that are not always hit on in ‘normal’ exercise routines.

In fact, even celebrities like Madonna reportedly took up yoga because the exercise routine she had for a hundred years wasn’t giving her or her body new challenges. Bench pressing back up dancers simple wasn't cutting the mustard anymore. Cue yoga.

“More often than not participants will feel better after each yoga session,” says Sheridan. “After 10 sessions (within a month) you will notice massive changes in the body.”

Essentially, it’s about being holistic when it comes to your health – it’s not just eating well and exercising. It’s also giving your mind some time to recover. So make a promise to yourself to try it. Don't feel disheartened if you're the only one in the room who can't touch their toes or resembles a praying mantis - the point is to do it...then do it again. Do it twice a week until you can feel a difference. And you will.

Once you can feel it, then you can make the decision on whether you will continue or not. But don't stop until you can feel yourself changing - be it in flexibility, serenity or strength. Once you can feel it, you'll be hooked.

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