As any passionate yogi or exercise instructor will tell you, there’s never a bad time to adopt a yoga practice. In fact, it’s one of the few exercises out there that you can begin at any level. That’s because yoga, in and of itself, is an exercise that focuses around a myriad of different poses, stretches and deep and restorative breath-work that doesn’t require you to have very much endurance or stamina whatsoever. All you need is your mat and your willpower and you’re ready to rock and roll.
But if there’s one time of year when you can arguably reap the most benefits from adopting a yoga practice, experts agree that it’s probably the holiday season. This time of year can often be filled with a lot of stress as a result of the social and financial pressures placed upon us. It can often be a sad time for people grieving. Whether it’s over something that happened recently or a long time ago, the holidays always seem to drum up certain emotions that we don’t have to face head-on during other times of the year.
Luckily, yoga can be a wonderful respite from many of these constraints and burdens we feel around the holidays. It provides a way for our bodies to destress, stretch, get stronger and heal and is an excellent way to cope with the isolation and anxiety brought on by the COVID pandemic, explains Paula Jasinski, yoga practitioner, environmental scientist, president and director of science communications for Chesapeake Environmental Communications and founder of Green Fin Studio in Richmond, Virginia. “Whether you take classes in person or virtually, both the practice and community surrounding yoga help reduce stress and remind us that we’re not alone—we’re doing something that other people have turned to for more than 5,000 years,” she says.
If you’ve been contemplating the idea of picking up yoga, here are some reasons to do so this holiday season.
It can help you destress
The holidays can be a stressful time for many. The pressure to attend so many social gatherings, especially after an entire year of social isolation, not to mention the financial burdens brought on by having to buy gifts, can be a lot to take on for most. Yoga can help reduce some of this burden, notes Jamie Bacharach, Dipl.Ac of Acupuncture Jerusalem and yoga instructor, lessening the stress surrounding the holidays and leading to improved mental health. Research supports this. In fact, multiple studies, including one published in the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, have linked yoga to a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol.
It can help you build muscle
The prospect of “building muscle” can often sound a bit overwhelming—like something that would take some serious monumental effort to accomplish. That’s not always true, however, especially when it comes to yoga. “Depending on the kind of yoga being practiced, any number of muscle groups will be put to the test during a yoga routine,” explains Bacharach. “Muscle endurance in particular is tested as different yoga poses put our bodies under stress and force them to adapt to rigorous conditions for longer and longer periods of time.” Not only does this lead to improved strength, but according to Bacharach it will also improve performance when you’re performing more traditional weight lifting as well.
It can reduce anxiety symptoms
If you’re feeling particularly anxious this holiday season, especially when you think about the fact that you may be around groups of people at holiday parties and family gatherings, you’re in good company. Anxiety can be challenging, but yoga can help you cope. In fact, one study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, which looked at 34 women with diagnosed anxiety disorder, found that they experienced a reduction in their symptoms after two months of attending yoga class twice a week.
It can improve your flexibility
Flexibility might not sound like the most important trait, but if you’re looking to enhance your overall fitness, it’s good to be flexible. In fact, being flexible can help reduce your risk of injury and improve your posture and balance, which is particularly helpful if you also like to weight lift or do barre. “Yoga can help improve flexibility by increasing muscle length, improving muscle tone, improving circulation and promoting tissue elasticity, thus enabling your muscles to stretch further. Improved flexibility will lead to improved physical performance, relief of stress on joints, and diminished chance of muscle injury among other benefits,” adds Bacharach.
You can do it virtually
While the prospect of attending a yoga class in person might be a little overwhelming, considering we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, know this: You can attend a yoga class virtually with Aaptiv from just about anywhere and still get an unforgettable experience that gives you all the mind- and body-boosting benefits of yoga. Check it out here.