Yoga 101: Basics for Beginners

Practicing yoga can clear the mind and tone the body from the inside out.

By: Marina Delio

To those who have never practiced it, yoga may just look like a series of relaxing stretches. While stretching is certainly a key component, sore muscles the next day tell a very different story.

Yoga is a full-body workout that is quite literally beneficial from head to toe. From increased strength and flexibility to decreased stress, anxiety and insomnia, practicing yoga has numerous advantages for both mind and body. Whether you’re beginning with a yoga DVD in the privacy of your own home or taking a class in a yoga studio, the practice can help you feel better than ever.

So grab your yoga gear and find your inner yogi! As with any new exercise regimen, check with your doctor first to make sure yoga is right for you. In the meantime, read on to find out how yoga works to improve your health and happiness.

Increased Strength
Yoga is a form of strength training that uses the weight of your own body. Slow burn poses will have your muscles shaking — in a good way! Core strength is built even when going through poses that focus on other areas of the body.

When practicing plank and side plank poses, for instance, you’ll quickly notice toned arms, shoulders and abs, while chair poses will tone gluteal muscles. Improved strength not only helps prevent injury and makes everyday tasks easier, it also boosts your metabolism.

Improved Flexibility
Don’t underestimate the importance of stretching. Not only do the deep stretches of yoga feel great, you will find yourself standing taller after your practice. Yoga’s focus on lengthening and stretching will make you look and feel long and lean.

Whether you’re tight from other workouts or from sitting at a desk all day, hip openers and poses for the chest and spine improve posture.

Immune System and Detoxification
Did you know that practicing yoga could boost your immune system? Stress increases the likelihood of catching a cold or the flu, and yoga keeps that stress to a minimum.

The circulatory, digestive and lymph systems work to eliminate toxins from the body. Yoga is one of the best exercises to stimulate those detoxifying systems. Poses like spinal twists gently massage internal organs, aiding digestion, and circulation is improved through poses like downward dog, when the head is positioned lower than the heart.

Mental Benefits
Our lives are busy and stress can take a toll on us mentally and physically. Yoga is a way to relieve that stress and anxiety naturally. Give yourself the gift of one hour to focus only on your own wellbeing. There is an unmistakable calm and peaceful feeling that comes from practicing yoga. You may even find that you’ll get a better night’s sleep after your yoga practice has washed away the stress of the day.

In addition, as you breathe your way through challenging yoga poses, you are improving your mind-over-matter strength. This skill will carry over to other areas of your life, and you will be better equipped to deal with challenging, anxiety-provoking situations.

Marina is a mom of two and author of the Yummy Mummy Kitchen blog and cookbook. Marina loves cooking, healthy living, crafts, and gardening. She lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, little girls, cat and five chickens.


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