Historically yoga was more than just a method of teaching; it was a way of life. You dedicated yourself to a lifestyle and culture that surpassed meditation techniques and included healthy eating habits, bathing habits, social interaction and work. Its philosophy is rooted in a physical culture of health and well-being that is still emphasised today at yoga retreats and explains why over 15 million people in the world now practise this ancient tradition.
Every yoga asana (pose) has a different name and includes standing postures, seated twists, backbends, arm balances, inversions and core holds. The downward facing dog for example, is in itself said to calm the brain, energise the body, improve digestion, strengthen arms and legs and be therapeutic for high blood pressure. Whilst these benefits come as a given with most postures, the practice of yoga as a whole provides many more benefits than you might think…
1. Lowers stress and improves your mood
Some yoga methods use specific meditation techniques, which focus the mind on your breathing to quieten the constant ‘mind chatter’, relieves stress and allow you to feel relaxed. Practising these breathing techniques on a yoga and meditation retreat can also boost oxygen levels to the brain, leaving you feeling happier and more content with everyday life.
2. Boosts confidence
Aside from the uplifting spiritual values, the act of meditation can actually boost your confidence. The process works by releasing tension from your mind, so that you can feel confident about your physical body. Without any forms of anxiety, you are able to establish an internal connection with yourself. This is consequently reflected in your perception of others and will help to better your relationships by improving compassion and awareness.
3. Lowers the risk of injury
Exercise such as running is usually a series of rapid, forceful movements, which means that effort is at a maximum and there is a higher risk of injury and increased muscle tension. Often, strenuous exercise also engages an imbalance of opposing muscle groups, whereas yoga concentrates on balancing this activity. Unite your body and mind on a yoga and fitness holiday which will allow combining more intense workouts with low-impact yoga.
4. Helps you lose weight
Being overweight is a sign that there are imbalances in your everyday life and one major contributor to weight gain is excess stress. Practising yoga enables you to bring a deep sense of relaxation to your body and your mind, helping you to de-stress and allowing you to lose weight naturally.
5. Increases flexibility
People often say that they are not flexible enough to do yoga. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how tight your muscles are as yoga asanas works by safely stretching your muscles and help you to practise it further. Moreover, yoga also stretches other soft tissue in the body such as ligaments and tendons, increasing the range of motion in the joints and allowing you to move around more freely.
6. Improves muscle tone and strength
Many yoga asanas have a profound effect on your upper body strength, such as the downward and upward dog, whilst the plank focuses on your core. Likewise, standing poses strengthen your upper leg muscles and lower back. Essentially any pose will strengthen an area of the body if it is practised in the right way, without putting too much stress on specific muscle groups.
7. Benefits breathing and lowers blood pressure
If you practise yoga consistently, your lung capacity will increase as a result of the deep breathing process. This will then have a positive effect on more intense sports that you might be a part of, increasing your stamina and endurance. Furthermore, meditation and calming yoga asanas slow down your heart rate which in turn lowers blood pressure and have also been linked with improving the immune system and lowering cholesterol.
8. Improves your posture
By practising yoga you maintain a healthier weight, become more flexible and improve your muscle tone and strength. You will find that your posture will greatly improve because of this. Your abdominals and back muscles can now fully support your weight and you will be able to sit and stand tall, preventing niggling injuries, aches and pains.
The beauty of yoga is that it can be practiced pretty much anywhere, on your own or with other yoga enthusiasts. If you have been inspired to give yoga a go there is no better place to try it than on an amazing yoga holiday with destinations spanning from Thailand to St Lucia. Here we share our top 10 yoga retreats where you can enjoy a luxurious healthy holiday whilst profiting from the extraordinary health and fitness benefits yoga has to offer.