Loved for its mind-calming, muscle-soothing powers, there are many benefits to yoga for mental health and weight loss – here’s everything you need to know
From Meghan Markle to Dua Lipa, yoga is loved by many A-listers, and for good reason. Not only is it fantastic for toning the muscles (one look at Dua’s fit physique proves that!), It can help calm the mind and boost your performance in other workouts. “Yoga is great for runners – twists, stretches and breathing techniques all work together to improve stamina and running technique and ability,” confirms Chatty Dobson of London yoga studio Flex Chelsea.
WATCH: Dua Lipa shows off her impressive yoga skills on Instagram
“With each passing year we’re spending more and more time looking at screens, and anything that can help take you away from one of those is always a bonus,” Chatty says.
We spoke to expert yogis about all the reasons to take up the practice – we’ll see you on the mat!
MORE: What Meghan Markle’s mother Doria Ragland has taught her about yoga
READ: 7 royals who practice yoga to inspire you
Yoga benefits for mental health
“The simple act of stepping onto a yoga mat and away from your phone for 20 minutes, an hour, or however long you have, is great for your mental health in itself,” says Chatty. “When you add in the actual yoga, your mental health will bloom.”
Chatty explains that bringing our attention to our bodies and breath helps to remind us of the simple things in life. “We get caught up with little things, which turn themselves into bigger things and we often can’t see the wood from the trees,” she says. “When we break it back down to the simple parts of what keeps us going, life seems more manageable.”
Yoga can help remind us of the simple things in life
Yoga often comes hand in hand with breathwork and meditation, which are practices that help us to focus and listen to our thoughts and body.
“Deepening your breath calms you down,” confirms Chatty. “Think how shallow your breath be when you’re nervous. When you’re relaxed you breathe more deeply.
MORE: 6 easy ways to manage anxiety and make you feel like yourself again
“By focusing on slowing the breath and moving your body in time with that breath, you consciously relax your body and mind. Additionally, when you focus on the small things – where your feet are placed, if you’re activating certain muscles, you don’t have time to think about worries, “Chatty continues.
Yoga benefits for weight loss
If the idea of an intense cardio session leaves you cold, you’ll be pleased to know that regularly practicing yoga can help with weight loss too.
“Yoga is a form of exercise, so naturally conducting exercise on a regular basis will help with weight loss, strength and toning,” says Leah Bush, yoga instructor and yin teacher at Kensington studio. Rest.
“Some styles of yoga are more vigorous than others,” she adds. “Power yoga is a more dynamic practice which brings on a good sweat. Keep the consistency and a healthy diet and you will see the benefits.”
LOOK: Elizabeth Hurley shows off her impressive yoga skills in bikini photo
Unexpected benefits of yoga
Both the yoga pros we spoke to praised the sense of community you get from practicing.
“Yogis are typically very welcoming, you should find a great, positive community in a yoga class,” says Chatty, while Leah added: “I love the group participation of yoga and the sense of community it can build,” she says. “Through group sessions, you can find some incredible and long-lasting friendships”
READ: Kate Winslet’s yoga trainer Niki Perry shares the top 3 moves to revive and energize
From rocket yoga to vinyasa flow, to yin and hot yoga, there are different benefits from each practice.
Why you should try yin yoga
Yin yoga is one of the slower versions of the practice, with positions held for three to five minutes each. While you’re unlikely to work up a sweat, there are plenty of benefits of yin yoga, including improved flexibility, boosted circulation, improved sleep, enhanced mental focus, breath awareness and reduced stress, according to Leah.
Different types of yoga have different benefits
If you have tight muscles, Yin is a great one to try. “The additional time in each stretch allows for the muscles to effectively stretch, as well as stretching the spaces between your joints,” explains Chatty.
“As these spaces become more open, more synovial fluid is able to flow (think oil on a hinge) keeping you more mobile for longer,” she continues. “The majority of postures in Yin are on the ground, so it’s a calming practice, perfect for before bed.”
Why you should try hot yoga
Favored by Meghan Markle, who told Best Health Magazine, “I’ll do yoga a couple of times a week – hot yoga, specifically,” hot yoga is exactly what it sounds like. Yoga in a super-warm room.
“The heat element of hot yoga is there to warm up your muscles quickly, so that you’re able to get into deeper postures faster than you might in a cooler room,” says Chatty.
Hot yoga isn’t advisable for beginners though, Chatty points out: “Hot yoga is great for those who are well practiced and know their limits, but there’s also a slight risk factor as you’re able to stretch beyond your natural limit and potentially tear muscles. “
Dua Lipa shows off her yoga skills on Instagram
How quickly will you see the benefits of yoga?
This is dependent on the person, but generally you’ll see benefits with consistent practice. “Everyone’s body and mind are so different, each person’s time will differ when they start seeing and feeling the benefits of what a consistent yoga practice can provide,” says Leah.
MORE: Yoga essentials: 8 things every yoga beginner needs
How often should you practice yoga?
“The more frequently you practice yoga the faster you’ll see the rewards, both mental and physical,” says Chatty.
“You should practice as frequently as you’re comfortable with – if you’re forcing yourself to practice then you’re going to resent it, and that’s going to completely go against the mental benefits you could get.”
Leah suggests twice a week, which happens to be how often Meghan Markle said she practices.
Men are typically less flexible than women, which yoga can help with
Yoga benefits for men
Yoga is equally beneficial to both men and women, though men might find the flexibility side of things more beneficial than women.
“Stereotypically men have tighter muscles than women so the flexibility benefits that yoga brings are often greater in men than women, though that of course depends on body to body,” says Chatty.
READ: 11 mindfulness and yoga tips for children
Yoga benefits for children
Meghan Markle said her mother Doria Ragland had her practicing yoga for childhood – and with good reason.
Meghan Markle began yoga as a child
“Yoga’s fantastic for children of all ages,” says Chatty. “When children are young they learn discipline, control and about their bodies, and as they grow older respect for others and themselves, and learning to love their bodies and what they’re capable of, is invaluable.”
Your must-have yoga kit
The beginner’s yoga mat
Yogamatters Sticky Yoga Mat, £ 30, Amazon
This squidgy-soft yoga mat is a great choice for beginners and it’s slightly sticky, meaning your feet don’t slip around – ideal when you’re first learning the ropes.
The luxury yoga mat
Liform Travel Yoga mat, £ 89.95, Amazon
Once you’re committed to your practice, it can’t hurt to invest in a luxury yoga mat. Liforme has patterns on it to help with your alignment, is super-light and comes with a handy carry bag that it rolls up in easily,
The best yoga outfit
Free To Be Serene Sports Bra, £ 38 / $ 52, Lululemon
When you start pulling all the impressive shapes in yoga, you’ll realize seam-free is essential and this buttery-soft yoga bra fits the bill perfectly. You’ll hardly know it’s there, but it’ll keep you secure even if you go upside down.
Complete the look with Lululemon’s Align HR Pant 25, £ 88 / $ 98. These are undeniably pricey, but they’ll last you years, feel ultra-comfortable and are weightless so you can contort your body in every which way.
Best yoga strap
Casall Cotton-canvas yoga strap, £ 25, Net-a-Porter
A definite helping hand for beginners, anyone who’s not super flexible, or those of us just wanting that extra bit of push, a strap – or belt as it’s sometimes called – is one of the most simple aids for your yoga practice. Helping you to stretch further, or get into positions where your hands just can’t quite reach, this basic bit of kit is the perfect assistant.
Yoga Brick, £ 10 / $ 18, Sweaty Betty
It’s rare you’ll walk into a yoga class without seeing Jenga-style piles of these cork bricks lined up against the wall, and rightly so. One of the most useful aids throughout your yoga practice, the bricks – or blocks – can really help you get into poses that may have seemed impossible before.
We recommend getting two, just in case you need a bit of extra reach for both arms whether you’re forward folding, in bridge, trying out triangle and many more.
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