The ancient practice of yoga continues to gain popularity for good reason: It works. Research shows cultivating the practice not only increases overall fitness, but it has heart-health benefits, improves body image, and may help with weight loss and/or maintenance (via Harvard Health).
Beyond the physical benefits, yoga has some impressive mental health benefits, too. A 2018 study found that yoga may positively impact overall brain health, brain structure, and brain function, as well as ease neurodegenerative declines.
One of the perks of yoga is that it can be done almost anywhere – the park, in your bedroom, in a studio, or on your lunch break in the office. Just pick a spot where you’re able to move comfortably, one that allows you to move through the poses while reducing the risk of injury.
You should also dress the part. Wear supportive clothing, like breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics. Also: Use a non-slip yoga mat for extra cushion for your joints. Don’t forget to clean your yoga mat after every use.
When cultivating a yoga practice, pick a style that suits your lifestyle and preference. Not only are you more likely to stick with it, but different styles may align better with your physical or mental fitness goals. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, fiery yoga experience, Bikram, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, or Power yoga are great. Data from a 2018 study shows that Power yoga, in particular, may even count as a moderate-vigorous exercise since it gets your heart pumping.
Hatha yoga brings relaxation but also challenges your strength. It focuses on breath control, flexibility, posture, and building core strength while you move through various poses. According to a 2016 study, increased core strength and improvements in standing balance are noticeable after 21 days of Hatha yoga.
On the calmer side of yoga are styles like Yin, Restorative, and Kundalini yoga. The poses of Yin and Restorative yoga are generally more passive. Yin yoga is meant for strengthening and lengthening the connective tissues near the joints. Meanwhile, Kundalini yoga is intended to bring full awareness into the body through meditation, mantras, poses, and breath work. Restorative yoga can relax the body and relieve chronic stress.
Before you start, it’s a good idea to learn some basic poses of the style you choose. Getting familiar with the names and what the moves look like helps prepare you for what to expect. Feel free to go slowly, and don’t feel bad if you need to modify some poses to suit your needs.