What is yoga and why should you start practising it?
Heard about yoga but not sure exactly what it is? We spoke to two expert yoga teachers to explain exactly what yoga is and break down its benefits.
Yoga has now become so popular it is commonplace to see men and women across the UK carrying their mats on the way to a studio to stretch and grow physically, mentally, and even spiritually.
If you haven’t done yoga before and are curious about what actually goes on inside these yoga studios, or wondering why people who practise the exercises are so fond of it, then this guide is for you.
With the help of two yoga instructors, we’ve broken down exactly what yoga is and why you should be grabbing a mat and joining the stretching revolution yourself.
Our yoga experts
To help explain yoga and its benefits, we’ve got the help of two experts. They have both shared with us the history of the ancient practice and how it can help your body and mind. They both have years of experience guiding yogis and shared their tips with us at The Recommended.
Our first expert is author and yoga teacher Eloise Skinner. Eloise has a breadth of experience teaching yoga and expertise in pilates, ballet, meditation, and mindfulness. As well as being a successful yoga teacher Eloise has given a TEDx Talk and spoken publicly on multiple occasions about yoga, meaning, purpose, and well-being.
Our second expert is Laura Seddon, who is one of the four founders of Udaya Wellness. She helps the team weave together the divine energies of yoga, spirituality and holistic wellness to create a sacred space for self-exploration and transformation. Laura is a seasoned yoga teacher and mindfulness expert who guides yogis on an inward journey through her classes.
What is yoga?
Yoga originates from India, has been practised for over 5,000 years and is a holistic discipline that combines physical poses, breathing exercises and meditation to boost physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being.
Unlike traditional workouts, yoga focuses on the mind-body connection and promotes overall well-being. It has been known to improve your flexibility, build strength, and enhance your posture.
Many yogis claim that it is not just about being the most flexible or achieving complex poses but embracing your personal journey and listening to your body's needs. Whether you're a beginner or experienced, there are various yoga styles and poses to suit different preferences.
From gentle and relaxing practices to more dynamic and challenging ones. Yoga is a great way to reduce stress, find inner peace, and improve your overall fitness. So, grab a mat! (If you don’t already have one, then why not check out our guide to the best yoga mats as recommended by experts?
Five reasons you should start yoga
Now you know the basics as to what yoga is, but why should you head to a studio or gym and start practising it? Well, according to our experts, there are many reasons to start stretching. They’ve shared with us why beginners should strike a pose and start training. If you want to start practising yoga after reading these, why not check out our guide to easy yoga poses for beginners? Here are yoga’s benefits from our experts:
1. Increased flexibility and strength
One of the main physical reasons that beginners pick up a mat is for an increase in strength and flexibility. Eloise says: “A few of the best physical benefits of yoga include an increased feeling of physical strength, mobility and flexibility.”
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With lots of yoga poses involving stretching, your flexibility slowly increases as your muscles are tested more and more. With the poses often being physically challenging, core strength balance and different muscle groups are improved as you have to stabilise yourself constantly.
2. Improved posture and keeps joints healthy
Eloise says that: “Yoga is great because it provides an enhanced sense of alignment and posture.” This is because much of yoga is about holding positions and standing up straight. Poses that feel uncomfy and shaky soon become steady with the help of good instruction.
Your joints are also kept healthy through flexibility with stretches and pose, helping to strengthen ligaments. Increased flexibility of the joints also reduces the risk of injury, keeping them healthier for longer.
3. Brain and mental strengthening
Another benefit of yoga is the mental strength it helps to build. Laura explains: “Yoga boosts brain function through your constant use and practice of control in your postures, breathing, and mental activity. This allows you to have better focus and concentration, and emotional impulse control. You then become more in tune with your senses and become more self self-aware.”
4. Reduced stress and overall health
Another great reason to start yoga is to reduce stress and improve overall health. Eloise says: “Mentally, yoga can help you to feel calmer, more grounded, more embodied and connected to the self. For those struggling with anxiety, insomnia or stress, yoga and meditation practices can help ease some of these symptoms.”
Laura reiterates this and said: “Not only is there scientific evidence that the benefits of yoga are more encompassing than just the physical. Daily yoga practice will help you with stress management, mental health, mindfulness, better sleep pattern and healthy eating.”
5. A sense of community
Both socially and mentally, the benefit of doing yoga is that you join a community of yogis. Eloise explains: “Yoga can also be a great way to connect with others, bringing a sense of community or shared values, especially when practised in a class setting.” Approximately 300 million people practise worldwide, so you have loads of people to share and practise poses with.
If you want to learn more about yoga and read expert led guides and reviews then head to The Recommended's fitness section exercise. Here you can read about the best yoga poses for flexibility, yoga mats, and the best fitness gifts for exercise enthusiasts.
Finn Byrne is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media. He works across several brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeforMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. Finn has previously written for publications including MyLondon, The Mirror, The Express, and The Star. When not writing Finn enjoys spending time on the football pitch and getting stuck into a book.