It's true that yoga practice improves flexibility and increases range of motion (and for seniors, slows the loss of it) in many areas of the body, including the hips, back, shoulders, and legs. But yoga also boasts a wide array of other benefits—including some that may come as a surprise. Increased Strength. Yoga involves supporting the weight of the body in ways that many of us are unaccustomed to. For example, bending into a lunge; holding the arms outstretched to the sides or overhead; and in pushup-style positions like the high and low plank. Holding these poses over several breath cycles will naturally build strength. Improved Balance. Postures that involve standing on one foot, or that emphasize moving the body in unaccustomed ways, are particularly good for developing the stabilizing muscles and also for training the vestibular system of the inner ear, both of which are critical to good balance. Enhanced Mental Wellbeing. By encouraging deep, belly breathing and a sustained focus on the flow of the breath, yoga calms the sympathetic nervous system and reduces the stress response. As a result, yoga practitioners tend to end their sessions feeling refreshed, invigorated, and better equipped to face all aspects of their lives. Yoga practice has been positively linked to all of these benefits and more, making it an excellent choice for a life-long exercise form, and a truly life-enhancing pastime.
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