You probably have heard that yoga can do wonders for your body and mind.
But before you even think about stepping out of your shoes and socks and onto a yoga mat, you want to understand why. How does it work and how do you get one of those super flexible ‘yoga bodies’?
The truth is, the term ‘yoga body’ is misleading. Although originally coined to signify the actual physical appearance and flexibility of a person who practices yoga, a ‘yoga body’ is much, much more than that.
Movement and mobility
Movement of any kind is powerfully healing for our bodies. It has the ability to improve blood circulation, prevent disease and enhance sleep to name a few. Movement happens in the form of anything from stretching, walking, dancing and everything in between. As you can imagine, your level of mobility plays a huge part in how you feel when you move.
Yoga is a very important type of movement for our bodies, because of its focus on improving mobility. Because yoga incorporates a mixture of stretching and strengthening, our bodies reap the benefits of not only improved flexibility, but also muscle toning, good posture and overall key mobility.
And yoga isn’t just for ‘yogis’, either. You’ve probably heard that yoga is an amazing supplement to other sporting activities. Runners, squat lovers and boxers alike flock to yoga because yoga’s focus on alignment keeps valuable joints healthy and strong for movements in their own sport.
So yes, having a ‘yoga body’ is about flexibility, but it is also about the overall mobility you gain through the movement of yoga.
Destress with breath
It’s often said that yoga is all about linking breath to movement. During class, you’ll regularly hear yoga coaches instruct not only a pose but also the related breath. For instance you’ll hear, “Exhale into downward facing dog. Inhale forward into plank.” The goal is to not only control your breath but also, to concentrate on your breath.
When you focus on your breath, your brain has a hard time focusing on anything else. Your need to immediately problem-solve the issues in your life diminishes. After a few classes, you’ll probably notice the stressful thoughts of the day slip away and you’re able to just focus on the present moment.
What you’re doing when redirecting your thoughts to the present is lessening the tension in your body. You’re actually decreasing your blood pressure, slowing your heart rate down and improving your body awareness. It’s truly a tool to destress both the mind and body.
As you can see, a true ‘yoga body’ will experience the benefits of yoga from the inside out. As Kate Pippos, our Head Coach of Yoga puts it, “On a deeper level yes, it may begin with the physical, but then it spills and free flows into all the layers of our being, creating a lasting change from the inside out and the outside in.”
On and off the (yoga) mat
The reason yoga is so intriguing is that it’s benefits are not only scientific but also can feel a bit mysterious. Oftentimes, you’ll feel a change after just one class. It usually isn’t obvious, and sorry to say, it won’t be that you are automatically flexible enough to touch your toes!
But instead, what you might feel is a difference in your reactions throughout your day. Perhaps an argument with your spouse dissolves quickly and lovingly. Or an issue you were having doesn’t seem as problematic. You might notice a spring in your step, or even the colours around you look a little brighter.
One theory of why this is happening is because what you practice on the yoga mat can be felt in your daily life (or as yogis call it, ‘off the mat’). As you invest more time into yoga classes (even 1 or 2 times a week can help you feel the difference!), what you experience on the mat starts to be what you experience off the mat.
You probably won’t make the direct link in your mind that your yoga classes are changing you. But, the shift is there and is happening even without you realising the connection. That’s why it feels a bit mysterious.
When you think of a person with a ‘yoga body’, they probably appear in your mind as light on their feet, relaxed smile and a confident posture. This isn’t really a coincidence.
So there you have it! Having the ‘yoga body’ isn’t just about appearance and flexibility, but also about mobility, mental health benefits and so much more.
Ready to work on your mobility, strength and flexibility? We’ve got 3 different types of yoga classes for you to check out: Flow, Align and Calm. Come check out our first class zen yoga spaces, along with everything else Virgin Active has to offer. Book your free tour at Virgin Active today