Is yoga really worth the hype?

Everything you have ever heard about yoga turns out to be completely true. Not only is it great exercise, yoga can be a great way to relax and unwind. Until I actually gave yoga a shot, I didn't believe it myself. Sure, taking slow breaths is supposed to help you calm down, but how could a bunch of random poses really be relaxing?

The truth is I was thinking about yoga the wrong way. Relaxation and de-stressing is the effect of yoga once you've finished a routine. But during a routine, you're often incredibly focused and maybe even tired, depending on the pose.

In fact, there are many, many benefits to practicing yoga regularly. Relaxation happens to just be one of them. Of course, it isn't the cure-all for every ailment, but yoga can completely replace your gym visits for sure.

A couple of the more obvious benefits of yoga is increased flexibility and balance. Even the simplest of poses can work toward this goal. Can't touch your toes without bending your knees? Yoga can help. As you move on to more complex poses, you'll be learning how to balance in precarious positions and how to stretch into seemingly impossible shapes.

Research has also shown that over a two-year period, regular yoga practitioners often have denser bones. This is because most of the poses use many different muscle groups at once and exerting much more force on the bone. This increases stress on the bones and your bones will react to that stress by thickening and becoming more dense.

As you advance to more complicated poses, you can also increase your muscle strength all around — especially your upper body. Holding up your body weight for an extended period of time will no doubt increase your strength. Your body weighs much more than most weights used in a local gym. And of course, by practicing yoga regularly, you can lose weight.

But don't get bogged down in muscle building. Primarily, yoga is about meditation and relaxation. The practice of yoga combines exercises for your body and brain to become more mindful of every part of your body. This is why it is often so relaxing. Yoga asks that you take slower, deeper breaths, which lowers your heart rate. This is great for relieving stress and anxiety.

Yoga gives you a small portion of time where your worries and stress melt away. It also gives you the calm and state of mind you might need to tackle an overwhelming problem. Another great perk is that you can make your yoga routine anything you want to be. There are routines made specifically for waking up in the morning or relaxing before bed. And there are ones that will work on your muscle strength. Just pick what you want to focus on and go for it. For me, yoga is a way to get in some exercise while relaxing after a long day.

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