In recent years, yoga has experienced a surge in popularity, as evidenced by the increasing numbers of local studios, at-home fitness DVDs and fitness centers that have begun to offer classes. If you’ve previously stuck to cardio and strength workouts, yoga may seem like an easy way out, or it may not seem like exercise at all. However, practicing yoga has a number of physical health benefits.
“Most people will equate an effective workout with a long run or strength training session, but just because yoga isn’t a guaranteed sweat session doesn’t mean it’s not as good for you as a typical workout,” explains Dr. Robert Bulgarelli, cardiologist at Riddle Hospital.
Although yoga is slower than most traditional workout routines, the process requires more concentration and controlled breathing to achieve the series of poses set forth in a yoga routine. During your first class, it may seem like a series of poses that has little effect, but after a few weeks, most beginners will begin to notice an increase in their balance, range of motion and flexibility.
“Week by week, yoga might not seem challenging, but if you’re taking it seriously and pushing yourself with each class, you should begin to notice an overall difference. Yoga improves your circulation, builds strength and allows for deeper breathing, which, all together, will make for a better functioning body,” says Dr. Bulgarelli.
In addition to the physical benefits, yoga also offers something that the treadmill and elliptical might not: mental and spiritual health.
“Yoga addresses health from all aspects of a person’s lifestyle,” explains Dr. Bulgarelli. “Besides making you stronger and more flexible, it helps to keep your mental health in check, as well, by managing your stress levels.”
Most people are used to dealing with stress and have accepted it as a part of everyday life, but this acceptance of a stressful lifestyle can be damaging to a person’s health in the long run. Stress can be a symptom of serious health conditions like certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis or coronary disease. Furthermore, it can take its toll on everyday health by lowering your immunity to simple health issues like a sore throat or the common cold.
“Keeping track of and controlling stress levels is just as important as controlling your blood pressure or cholesterol. All of those factors have a serious effect on your health, but one of them, stress, we’ve just come to accept as a part of life,” says Dr. Bulgarelli.
The calming effects of yoga are so helpful that some people who struggle with conditions like depression, anxiety or insomnia are often referred to a yoga class, which can teach relaxation techniques or help you to channel bad moods or stress into your workout.
If you’re struggling with everyday stress and it has begun to take its toll, visit our website to make an appointment with a Main Line Health physician.