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The health benefits of yoga

Yoga is one of the most holistic ways you can exercise

A woman stretching her upper body out on the floor as she does yoga in her living room
A woman stretching her upper body out on the floor as she does yoga in her living room

Great for both your body and mind, practising yoga is one of the most holistic ways you can exercise. In fact, studies suggest that the ancient arts focus on strength, flexibility and breathing not only increases participants’ overall fitness levels but eases stress and promotes relaxation.

“Yoga is popular due to the mental benefits it provides,” says personal trainer and health and wellness coach Kristy Curtis. “It’s a good way to work on flexibility and mobility while practising proper breathing and mindfulness.”
Now that’s bang for your workout buck!

Types of yoga

There are many different styles of yoga, some more vigorous than others. No variation is necessarily better than any other, so the key is to choose a class appropriate to your fitness and interest level.

Among the most widely practised are:

  • Hatha: a gentle type of yoga, well suited to beginners

  • Bikram: a set series of poses performed in a heated room

  • Vinyasa: a variation of yoga where poses are synchronised with the breath to achieve a continuous flow

  • Ashtanga: a very physical, flow-style yoga

  • Yin: a slower style of yoga in which poses are held for a minute and eventually up to five minutes or more.

A man doing a standing yoga pose in his backyard

Health benefits of yoga

So why is yoga good for you? Having a regular yoga practice has been shown to improve heart health, blood sugar levels and high blood pressure. It’s also proven beneficial for those with lower back pain.

Other physical health benefits of yoga can include:

  • Improved flexibility

  • Increased muscle strength

  • Greater balance

  • Improved posture.

What are the mental health benefits of yoga?

Some of the long-term mental health benefits of yoga include:

  • Reduced feelings of stress and anxiety

  • Improved concentration

  • Improved energy

  • Improved body image (it could help you be more accepting and less critical of your body)

  • Increased mood of people with chronic pain

  • May benefit those with a diagnosed mental illness like anxiety or depression.

Related: 5 simple morning stretches for beginners

Is yoga suitable for everyone?

The short answer: yes! Yoga practice is suitable for almost anyone, no matter your age or fitness level. In fact, according to a 2017 survey, almost 2.2 million people in Australia practised yoga, making it one of the country’s most popular ways to exercise.

Kristy stresses that a good yoga teacher will carefully guide and observe beginners, modifying postures when needed.

“An asana pose should never cause pain,” she adds. “If it hurts, ease back on the stretch or don’t do it at all. It is important to keep within your physical limits.”

Related: How to start exercising for beginners

How long before I start seeing results?

If you practise yoga regularly, you should notice physical changes after eight to 12 weeks. However, like most forms of fitness, physical results will vary from person to person and depend largely on how much time you’re dedicating to your practice.

Keen to experience yoga benefits for yourself? You should always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen, particularly if you’re over 40, haven’t exercised for a long time or have a pre-existing medical condition.

Whether you’re new to exercise or training for a half marathon, check out The Check Up’s dedicated fitness section for more expert tips to help you achieve your goals.

Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.

About Kristy Curtis

Kristy Curtis is one of Australia and Asia’s leading wellness experts. She discovered her passion for fitness at a young age and has since transformed that passion into a career, with a successful personal training business and as a TV presenter. Kristy strongly believes while there are some things in life you can’t control, you can take ownership and responsibility of your health through eating good food, thinking positively and keeping your body moving. Every night before bed, Kristy completes a sudoku puzzle.