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Benefits of Yoga

Did you know that yoga can increase strength, improve flexibility, and ease aches and pains?  There are many benefits that extend beyond your mat.

Why You Should Try Yoga

What is yoga, and why is it so popular? Yoga is a series of stretches and poses that you do with focus on breath. Yoga offers the powerful benefits of exercise and since yoga is gentle, it is available to any fitness level.

Yoga is a 5,000-year-old discipline from India. It was developed as a practice to unite the mind and body. There are many branches of yoga. All yoga styles can help balance your body, mind, and spirit, but they achieve it in various ways.

Some yoga styles are intense and vigorous while others are relaxing, restorative, and meditative. No matter which type you choose, yoga is a great way to stretch and strengthen your body, focus your mind, and relax your spirit.

Here are a few Benefits of Yoga

Yoga improves strength, balance, and flexibility.

Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain. When you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility. If you just went to the gym and lifted weights, you might build strength but at the expense of flexibility.

Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. During your first class, you probably won’t be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. However, if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, seemingly impossible poses will become possible. You’ll also probably notice that aches and pains start to disappear. That’s no coincidence. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a compression of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain and inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue.

Slow movements and deep breathing increase blood flow and warm up muscles while holding a pose can build strength.

Try it: Tree Pose
Balance on one foot, while holding the other foot above or below the knee (but never on the knee). Try traditional tree pose with the hands in prayer at hearts center, overhead for extended tree pose, or out to the side to open the heart space.  Focus on one spot in front of you, while you balance for one minute. 

Yoga helps with back pain relief.

Yoga is as good as basic stretching for easing pain and improving mobility in people with lower back pain. Lower back gets tight, which happens more often than not after being glued to a work chair for hours on end. The practice helps to stretch and strengthen muscles that support the back and spine, such as the paraspinal muscles that help you bend your spine, the multifidus muscles that stabilize your vertebrae, and the transverse abdominis in the abdomen, which also helps stabilize your spine.

Try it: Cat / Cow pose. On all fours, feet hip width apart and hands shoulder width apart. Start with a neutral spine on the inhalation lift the chest, arch the back and lift the tailbone. On the exhalation, tuck the tail bone in, arch the back upwards and draw the chin towards the chest with the shoulders sloping forward. Repeat.

Yoga can ease arthritis symptoms.

Gentle yoga has been shown to ease some of the discomfort of tender, swollen joints for people with arthritis.  People with various types of arthritis who practice yoga can regularly reduce joint pain, improve joint flexibility and function. Many people turn to yoga as a way to exercise gently, reduce tension, and as an alternative or a compliment to physical therapy.

Check with your doctor first

Talk to your doctor about fitting exercise into your treatment plan. What types of exercises are best for you depends on your type of arthritis and which joints are involved? Your doctor or a physical therapist can work with you to find the exercise plan that gives you the most benefit with the least aggravation.

Helpful tip: Don’t be afraid to ask your Yoga teacher for alternatives, modifications, and safer options for your practice. Most postures can be modified to accommodate participants who are still in the process of building strength and range of motion for more advanced poses.

Yoga helps you sleep better

Research shows that a consistent bedtime yoga routine can help you get in the right mindset and prepare your body to fall asleep and stay asleep.  Stimulation is good, but too much of it taxes the nervous system. Yoga can provide relief from the hustle and bustle of modern life because it forces you to slow down and focus on your breath. Practicing Yoga regularly means you’ll be less stressed, tired and will lead to a calmer more relaxed life.

Try It: Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose. Slide your tailbone against the wall and bring your legs up vertically. Feel free to use a cushion under the head for more comfortable position. LUTW posture is fabulous for increased blood circulation, lower blood pressure and easing of foot tension. Try this posture 3-5 minutes before falling asleep.

Yoga boosts metabolism

Metabolism consists of the chemical processes that create energy in the body and are regulated by the endocrine system. Yoga has a powerful, stimulating, and strengthening effect on the organs and can boost metabolism burning more calories. Twisting yoga postures massage abdominal organs, regulating their functions, improving local circulation, and cleansing them of toxins.

Along with the physical postures, breath techniques can help warm and energize the body, further boosting metabolism.

Practicing Sun Salutations will be especially helpful in boosting the body’s metabolism. Twisting poses, back bends, forward bends, and inversions are all used to stimulate the endocrine system.

Try it: Prayer Twist Standing with feet together sink the butt towards the heels. Tip the torso forward about 45 degrees. While keeping the spine long. Brings the hands to heart s center, bring the navel to the spine and twist the right elbow to left thigh. At this point focus on starting straight ahead or turning your gaze upwards.

Yoga helps you manage stress.

We all have day to day stress and most of us find it hard to find outlets to help us with that stress. Do you ever notice yourself holding the telephone or a steering wheel with a death grip or scrunching your face when staring at a computer screen? These unconscious habits can lead to chronic muscle tension and fatigue which can increase stress and worsen your mood. As you practice yoga, you notice where you hold tension: It might be in your tongue, eyes, or the muscles of your face and neck. If you simply tune in, you may be able to find your tension spot and let it go.

Yoga can help reduce stress because it promotes relaxation, which is the natural opposite of stress. You don't have to wait to feel stressed out to do yoga, and you shouldn't!

Try it: Meditation. You don’t need to be a Yoga guru to meditate. Find a quiet space preferably in the morning or before you go to bed, a void of distractions where you simply close your eyes and breath. Some people like to play nature sounds in the background or use one of the many guided meditations offered on the web. Stay tuned for upcoming meditation tips.

Namaste from all of us at KG Group!