The ancient Indian tradition of yoga has fast become a popular western exercise. Everybody’s doing it, the old, the young, pregnant women and even men! New Yorkers love it so much that they took part in a mass yoga session at Times Square.

But, if like me, you can’t even touch your toes then don’t despair just yet. You can start practising yoga at any age. After all, the world’s oldest yoga teacher is the ripe old age of 93. Whichever part of the suppleness spectrum you fit into, there’s a style of yoga that will suit you.

Physical benefits

Studies continue to reveal that yoga boasts an array of somewhat surprising benefits for both body and mind. Let us start by brooding over the extensive range of physical perks. They include posture improvement, strengthening of the immune system, better quality of sleep, cholesterol decrease, improved flexibility, improved stamina and improved efficiency of lungs and the cardio-vascular system. Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?

Mental benefits

Just as important as the physical benefits are the mental advantages, which are too in abundance. It can improve confidence and help sustain a positive mood, thus countering both depression and anxiety. Stress may also be reduced, concentration can be improved, social skills increased, and it can bring an all round sense of calmness and clarity, whilst helping you discover your true nature.

If you’re athleticism is a little more advanced than yoga, don’t turn your nose up just yet. Yoga is a great way of conditioning and preparing the body for sport. It can help prevent injury and may also be used as an effective warm down.

Pregnant women

Pregnant women can also reap the benefits of this body and mind entwined exercise. Yoga can bring a state of peace and calm to you and your baby… But what you may find more interesting is that it can help relieve pain during labour and childbirth!

Types of yoga

So those are the benefits, but what exactly is yoga? There are too many types to go through them all, so let’s focus on the three core styles: Hatha, Ashtanga and Iyengar.

  • Hatha – This is the most popular form of yoga and involves controlled movement, flexibility, concentration and controlled breathing. Its yoga postures and breathing techniques challenge you to reach a higher state of consciousness through meditation.
  • Ashtanga – For those of you looking for more of a challenge, there is Ashtanga, otherwise known as power yoga. This form of yoga is a tad more demanding on the body, as each sequence requires continuous movement.
  • Iyengar – A branch of Hatha yoga that requires the use of a range of props designed to aid body alignment and performing the perfect position. Although admittedly more difficult, it provides the benefits of yoga in its full capacity.

So whether you’re just looking to improve your health and fitness, or seeking something a little more spiritual, yoga could be the answer you’re looking for.

Photo from international yoga teacher, author, and co-founder of  Miami Life Center Kino MacGregor. Visit her website here.

BOE Magazine