When you scroll through Instagram, it seems like everyone you know is hanging one-handed scales and two-handed coasters (in front of a mountain or on a scenic beach, no less).
But for those of us who are unfamiliar with this practice, simply pushing the dog face down can be a problem.
The good news is that you don’t have to be the most flexible person in the room to reap the benefits of yoga. However, you may be wondering about the benefits of interval training for your body and mind.
Well, let’s look at Ohm: You don’t have to go to a yoga studio every day (or at all) to see physical and mental changes.
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Whether you’re looking for gymnastic flexibility or a calmer mind, yoga has endless benefits. A 2012 study found that yoga improved flexibility and posture.
No doubt you’ve heard that your balance can also be improved. But is there any science to support this? Yes, according to a 2014 study. Researchers found that young men improved their balance after three hours of yoga per week for 5 weeks.
And if you thought yoga was too gentle to be a strong exercise, think again. A 2015 study found that a 12-week program increases muscle strength and endurance.
If you’ve been skipping yoga to make time for a more intense workout, know that research shows yoga is just as good for the heart as cycling.
There are also many general health benefits: 2013 studies found that yoga can reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, and relieve symptoms of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Recent studies have also shown that practicing yoga regularly can do wonders for your mental health and mood and reduce depression.
But can the average person really reap these benefits, or do you have to spend half your salary on unlimited access to a yoga studio to see the difference?
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First, “We know from exercise that the more active you are, the more benefits you get,” says William J. Broad, science editor and author of The Science of Yoga.
“Yoga is no different. Exercising once a week is fine. Exercising three to four times a week would be even better,” she said.
But just like with yoga pants, one size doesn’t fit everyone. Back pain therapist Lauren Fishman, who has studied yoga and used it in rehab exercises, believes that even a minute of training can be enough to change someone’s worldview:
“It can feel frustrating, angry, scary, resourceful, kind, fun, and just a minute of meditation,” she says.
While this kind of thinking likely won’t lead to Cirque du Soleil shows, it doesn’t mean you won’t see or feel results.
“Once a week yoga gives you time each week to focus on your breathing, which in turn gives you the opportunity to attend classes,” says yoga instructor Heidi Christopher. “Being in the moment gives you a perfect time from the rest of the world and resets your system.”
An hour of yoga doesn’t provide the same calorie-burning effect as an hour of cardio. But it increases circulation, moves oxygen, and “gets rid of all stuck body parts,” says Christopher.
“If you do the exercises weekly, depending on which class you’re in, your flexibility will improve over time, resulting in fewer injuries, and you’ll feel tension in all of your muscles,” Christopher says. Not to mention a stronger core relieves back pain.