Yoga may be a discipline that’s more than 5,000 years old, but it’s never been more popular here in the U.S. According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, more than 36 million adults practice yoga, up from 20.4 million in 2012. And the number of people ages 18 to 44 taking part has doubled since 2012.
The practice of yoga relieves pain, strengthens and adds flexibility to the body, improves posture, and heals the mind from stress and anxiety. Because yoga has been proven to be therapeutic, many practice this form of exercise and way of living every day. Yoga consists of hundreds of poses (postures) each designed to positively affect the mind and/or body. Here are two of Yoga’s best poses that work on the complimentary goals of strength and flexibility.
Strength – The Plank
The Plank has become one of the most popular exercises for strengthening the abdominal region of your body (the core), and yet very few people actually know it is a Yoga pose that is thousands of years old. Part of the reason it has been around so long is because it is one of the simplest, yet most effective strengthening workouts you can do. Its benefits are many including:
- Builds Strength in Your Most Vital Area – Planking will help build your core muscles groups including the abdominals, the obliques, the chest and shoulders, and the upper and lower back muscles. These muscles are responsible for everything from your ability to walk, to proper digestion, so their importance cannot be overstated. As your abdominal muscles become stronger, everything else simply works better. Moreover planking directly strengths your chest, neck, shoulders, bottom, hamstring and calve muscles.
- Reduces Back Pain and Improves Balance and Posture – Planks work on all of the muscles in your trunk responsible for maintaining good posture, balance, and supporting your back. If you do planks regularly and correctly, you’ll find you’re able to sit and stand with straight and stable posture, you will be able to perform better in physical activities, and you will have fewer if any back problems.
- Produces Calm – Planking is holding a fixed position for a predetermined period of time. This act when done properly can have the effect of focusing and calming the mind. The goal with planking is to breath though it and as you do, you will find that planking gives your mood a boost and your mind becomes clear.
Flexibility – The Pigeon
If you want a pose that provides flexibility for the most important area of the body, you should try the hip opener known as the Pigeon Pose. Stress and tension can build up in the hips and create tightness, and practicing this pose can make for supple, more flexible hips and tons of comfort and relief. The Pigeon pose stretches the groin, inner/outer thigh, and release muscles surrounding the hips. Pigeon will help you better be able to do a variety of other poses and will also improve balance, walking, and leg strength. It is one of the best poses for runners, as it lengthens the hip flexors, lower-back and groin muscles. It also helps alleviate lower back pain and deepens the hip opening.
Yoga should heal not hurt, so it is important to fully understand how to do a pose correctly, and then be gentle with movement once stepping onto the mat. Do not push or manipulate limbs and joints to go deeper into a pose. If you feel any discomfort or shortness of breath discontinue the pose.