Easy Ways to Check Your Sugar Intake

You might not have a sweet tooth, but that doesn’t mean that your daily diet doesn’t contain sugar. One of the most common reasons is that sugar comes in various forms; by and large, all that we consume on a daily basis has some amount of sugar content in them. Even food items that are far from the category of sweet, contain sugar, namely bread, sauces, dips, biscuits and processed foods.

Though it is known that sugar consumption leads to multiple lifestyle diseases, we don’t always the take necessary steps to control the intake of this artificial sweetener. Let’s get into the bitter-sweet truth of this matter and try out some easy options to follow that may help maintain a healthy lifestyle sans sugar.

Reading Nutrition Labels
The creativity of the manufacturer knows no bounds when they try to make their food items look healthy, with crafty names of not-so-healthy ingredients. Don’t get fooled by the ‘sugar-free’ label in the list, read through the marketing jargon by keeping an eye on the nutrition labels and make a smart choice.

Moreover, the involvement of sugar is sometimes masked under names of ingredients like dried cane syrup, honey, sucrose, molasses, corn syrup, invert sugar, brown rice syrup, and maple syrup. This is done with the intent to give you an impression that you are consuming very less or no sugar at all. So, make sure you go through the labels of all products before you dig into them.

Watch Out for Those Sugar-Coated Messages
While opting for sugarless food items from the store, make sure you pick up foods that don’t have the sweet substance in any form. If any of the foods you buy have sweeteners in their ‘hidden’ forms, be alert and avoid putting them in your cart.

It may surprise you that only 1/6 th of the sugar we consume knowingly comes from desserts that we love, and most of the sugar comes from sweetened beverages and foods that most of the time don’t fall under ‘sweet’ category.

Befriend Protein, Fibre, and Healthy Fats
You may be surprised to know how much sugar is actually lurking in the daily food we eat. Unhealthy carbs laden with sugar induces high blood sugar level and drop just as fast, giving your hunger pangs another chance to return.

Diet experts suggest that to alter this process, include healthy fats like nuts, flaxseeds, avocados, olive oil, and protein such as lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans, soy products, low fat dairy products etc. in the diet. It slows down the release of blood sugar in the body and keeps the tummy full for longer, and keeps sugar cravings at bay.

Junk is Sugar in Disguise
Junk and processed foods are the main sources of calories and hidden sugar intake. Food stuff like pizza, cakes, condiments, granola bars, energy bars, dips, and french fries have sugar hidden in them.

Though some of these are marketed as low-fat, sugar free, and fat free, the truth is that they are storage houses of of hidden sugar and synthetic sweeteners. The best way to avoid falling for hidden sugar trap is to avoid all forms of processed food. Eat the real thing, instead.

It’s the same case with packaged fruit juices and flavored yogurt, they contain more sugar than advertised. By gulping down fruit juices, you are depriving yourself of the most essential fibers and all the natural benefits of real fruits.

The Good Food Guide

Juggling multiple responsibilities at work and for the family can affect sleep, add stress, reduce ‘me’ time, and disrupt food habits. While some of these factors may not be in your control, the choice of having healthy and energy-boosting food is certainly in your hands. The human body is one big machine, and the food you eat is converted into fuel to run that complex structure.

How the Body Turns Food into Fuel
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fat are among the main sources of energy that keep the body going, with carbohydrates being the most important source. The human body can also use protein and fat for energy when carbs have been depleted. When you eat, the body breaks down nutrients into smaller components and absorbs them to use as fuel. This process is known as metabolism.

Carbohydrates are of two types – simple and complex, and both are converted to sugar (glucose). The body breaks the sugar down in the blood, and the blood cells use the glucose to provide energy.

The Best Food and Fluid for Sustained Energy
Complex carbohydrates present in high-fibre cereals like wheat bran flakes, muesli, oats, whole-grain bread and pastas are the best type of foods for prolonged energy.

Eating legumes like rajma, chana, soybean, and starchy vegetables like sweet potato, yam, tapioca have the same effect on the body. The reason is that this type of food is digested at a slow, consistent rate. Complex carbohydrates contain fibre, which takes a longer time to digest in the body, as it is absorbed slowly. They also stabilize your body’s sugar level, which in turn causes the pancreas to produce less insulin. This gives a feeling of satiety and reduces hunger.

A healthy, energy-producing diet is made up of protein (preferably chicken, eggs, and fish), legumes (lentils and beans), and a moderate amount of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (til seeds, flax seeds, almonds, walnuts, pistachios and certain oils like olive oil, rice bran oil).

Along with food, adequate fluids are also essential for sustaining energy through the day. Water is necessary for digestion, absorption, and the transport of nutrients for energy. Dehydration can cause lack of energy and trigger other issues in the body. Drinking 6-8 glasses of water each day is highly recommended.

Foods to Avoid
Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, should be limited.

Be it candy, cookies, or sugary beverages and juices, simple carbs are broken down and absorbed quickly by the body. They provide an initial burst of energy for 30 to 60 minutes, but are digested so quickly they can result in a slump afterwards. Alcohol and caffeine should also be in the avoidable category. Alcohol is a depressant and can reduce your energy levels, while caffeine usually provides an initial two-hour energy burst, followed by a crash.

Scheduling Meals for Sustained Energy
It is best recommended to have three meals and three snacks a day, and to never spend more than three or four hours without eating. Also, try to include something from each food group for every meal, keeping in mind that food high in fibre, protein and fat take a longer time to digest.

Are You up for the 7-Day Sugar-Free Challenge?

Remember your reaction to the sugar-free challenge thrown at you? Most people who are in such a situation end up daydreaming about delicious sugary desserts and beverages, while also fighting with their inner demons to stay away from delicious treats.

A sugar-free challenge for sugar lovers isn’t an easy task. But, what if we take it as a challenge to test ourselves, and to know the limits of our willpower. How long can a sugar lover hold back? That’s exactly what should be done when such challenges are thrown at you at the workplace.

If you are a sugar lover or not, it is good to try out such a challenge. The meaning and consequences of a ‘sugar challenge’ will dawn upon you at that hour; complete abstinence from refined sugar and food items that are either made of sugar or contain sugar like chocolates/sweets/bakery items. Why bakery items? Because even bread/toast/buns contain sugar in good quantities.

Sugar consumption is an addiction and is termed a ‘slow poison’ among health food promoters. It makes you sluggish and gets stored as fat. Such revelations about sugar may come across as a bummer to your previous eating habits and that’s why it is important to take up such challenges.

Such challenges have the potential to become group activities in an office environment and a fun activity too. The next big step in such a challenge is deciding on the number of days for the challenge. 1-day challenge is not enough to know your capabilities, so is 7-days good enough?

Most people start a challenge with full gusto. The first 3 days are usually easy because the excitement level is pretty high. However, on the 4th day the challenge becomes an Ogre because birthday invitations come up and other reasons to celebrate emerge in the form of anniversary, farewell parties and more. Don’t be too harsh on yourself if you do succumb to the seduction of a cake or sweet at any celebratory event. Don’t look at yourself as a failure. The best thing to do is re-boot your mind and re-start the challenge the very next day. Come up with a systematic strategy to curb the sugar craving.

First, stop sugar intake in tea or coffee. Secondly, when the sugar craving comes to haunt you, opt for healthy alternatives like dates/dried figs/fruits/chikki (as they have jaggery in them, which is a healthy alternative to refined sugar). Also, a busy work routine and a clear and committed mind can help stave of sugar cravings.

Jaggery is not regarded as sugar. It is comparatively healthier than sugar due to its trace mineral composition. Ideally, sugar is acidic in nature where, generally, pathogens breed. In the sugar-free challenge, you may realise that your constant effort is to make the body alkaline by having more of veggies/fruits/whole grain etc. Sugar makes you crave for more sugar and if you restrict it, it leads to mood swings and behavioral changes. Also, it dehydrates your body and speeds up the aging process.

Sugar substitutes:

You took up this challenge, braved it out and opted for natural sweeteners present in fruits, dates, raisins, anjeer, jaggery, honey and sweet potato to name a few. Sumptuous barfis can be made of dates and other dry fruits. It is also recommended to use Stevia as a sugar substitute during these 7 days. But, remember that the added benefit of a ‘no sugar day’ is that we tend to avoid sugary desserts which are also rich in fat and carbs. It is easy to find ‘sweet substitutes’ (pun intended), and set small milestones during the challenge to reach the larger goal.

Divorce sugar from life:

The benefits of staying off sugar are sure to make you feel lighter, increase the metabolic rate, enhance productivity and aid in getting rid of toxins. Imagining a better version of yourself acts as a motivation. Moreover, the success of the 7-day challenge can be extended to a fortnight and slowly the sugar craving will be a thing of the past.

What is Anxiety, and How Can You Get Rid of It?

Telling someone to calm down when they’re anxious or having a panic attack is not okay. What you must realize is that anxiety is a very real problem, and not just a figment of someone’s imagination.

Do you know what it’s like to live with anxiety every waking moment of the day? Well, it’s somewhat living with the fear that anything can go wrong at any moment. Psychologists have compared anxiety to the feeling that you are being watched, at all times.

Living with anxiety is tiresome, and both emotionally and physically taxing. However, timely intervention and action can help you work on it and even get rid of it.

What is Anxiety?
Anxiety has been defined as a state of uneasiness that arises when you are worried about the uncertainties associated with the future or a situation which may or may not have even taken place. A certain amount of anxiety is experienced by everyone at some point or the other. It turns into a disorder only when you begin to have panic attacks or it hampers your daily lifestyle.

The symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks are very real and are both psychological and physiological. They include dizziness, chest pain, headaches, breathlessness, sleep problems and so on.

How to Control Anxiety
All the sympathy in the world will not do you any good unless you decide to take action yourself. We could ask you to stay calm in tense situations and count to ten. But that never really works, does it? You will realize that anxiety control is an elaborate procedure, one that can be perfected over the due course of time.

Let’s start with the basics. If you feel an attack of anxiety coming up, take deep breaths. No matter what the situation, we advise you to step away for a brief moment and focus on deep breathing. Inhale and exhale, and count your breath. That shifts your attention to your breathing and calms you down.

It’s very easy to skip a few steps and go on medication. But anxiety medication makes you groggy and dizzy. Instead, you could opt for meditation. Meditating for even five minutes daily could control anxiety.

Reduce caffeine intake because it only makes you jumpy, and gives an adrenaline rush. That could agitate you further. Instead, opt for calming drinks like green tea or chamomile tea. Try to organize your life. That includes cleaning up your room and organizing your desk too. Keeping your surroundings clutter free would leave you feeling relaxed and centred, it helps prevent anxiety attacks.

Breath and Its Relationship with Workouts

Breathing can change drastically within the course of a workout. Whether doing yoga, running on the treadmill or cycling, breathing isn’t the first thing we think about. We just do it, sometimes with more force and sometimes slowly.

But breathing patterns can make a real difference in the workout. How you breathe can have an effect on your exercise. Depending on the activity that you perform – practising yoga, lifting weights, running or stretching – breath awareness and proper technique can help you maximize your workout results and reduce your chances of injury.

Incorrect Breathing Can Stall Pre-Exercise Warm-Up
Reaching a balanced point in breathing can reduce stress, and bring your body and mind to a relaxed state. The nervous system is the control panel for our body. Our breath brings us to a conscious place where we realize relaxation response is as important as the stress response.

One way to find this balance is to lie flat on your back and rest your hands on your belly. Feel the rise and the fall of each breath. Follow your own instructions and see if you can feel both physical components of breath. Try this exercise before diving into your workout and experience a more focused, powerful sweat session.

Improper Breathing Ruins Gained Strength
Anyone who lifts weights knows there’s a peak point while holding weights.

Muscles exert maximum capacity when you block respiration. You need to know how to contract muscles in order to brace the load during heavy lifting, and maintain stability for posture. When you maintain good posture, you utilize core muscles better in your favor. When you hold your breath during a heavy lift, it creates a pressure response. This practice can increase blood pressure, which can reduce oxygen flow and even make you faint. So, it should be used with caution by someone who’s already very familiar with all the other aspects of weightlifting.

One of the best exercises to hold your breath and strengthen your core muscles is when you are in a plank position. Suck your tummy in and hold your breath for as long as you can. Then let your stomach out keeping your back flat. The movement should just be the abdominal area. Inhale. Suck your tummy in. Control your breath. Exhale.

Incorrect Breathing Tanks Endurance
Controlling the breathing while running is often a challenge even for seasoned athletes, especially as you increase speed and if you are running on an incline. But, proper breathing can help you get around the track.

Let your lungs be the boss of the workout session. A natural breathing pattern is best in this scenario. High-intensity sports such as football, basketball, fast-paced cycling or running can also help to decrease respiratory muscle fatigue by strengthening the intrathoracic pressure (where the chest and lungs are located).

Bad Breathing Reduces Flexibility
Similarly to yoga, stretching also involves full-body movements that aligns with breathing techniques. When you lift arms overhead, it doesn’t make sense to exhale. Follow the concept of ‘root to rise’. Rooting is to exhale and rise is to inhale. You can feel the energy flow when practicing this. It is very important to take deep, long breaths when stretching the body to avoid pulling a muscle.

Better Breathing, Good Workouts
Whether your goal is to become faster, stronger or more flexible, there’s a proper way to breathe to achieve that target. If you are trying to improve strength when you are lifting weights, it will help you to lift heavier weights. If you keep the rhythm in endurance every time better, that’s going to help with an endurance workout.

A final payoff to proper breathing other than physical benefits is a sense of serenity. That’s what breath can remind us – we only have this moment and we want to find a sense of contentment with ourselves.

The Health Benefits of Deep Breathing Exercises

Breathing is one of the easiest and useful exercises that can be done anywhere and anytime. It’s quite disappointing that we give far more importance to everything else, like going on a diet or other forms of exercise but something as vital as breathing is ignored.

Deep breathing methods have a great impact on the body, and with these techniques, you can practically overcome several health risks, including heart attacks. Some of the benefits of deep breathing are:

  • Lowers your heart rate deep-breathing
  • Helps release accumulated toxins
  • Improves digestion
  • Increases blood oxygen levels
  • Reduces stress and tension
  • Helps in weight control
  • Increases metabolism
  • Improves circulation
  • Reduces changes of heart diseases

There are more such positive outcomes that are highly beneficial to your body with a proper deep breathing exercise.

Deep Breathing Technique
Here’s an exercise that will help you improve your breathing technique. With this, you can train your body to breath in a more efficient manner.

The first thing you need to do is completely exhale all the air out of your lungs and make sure they are empty.

Now, inhale through your nose slowly by filling in your lungs and abdomen. Make a count till 5.

Finally, using your mouth slowly exhale all the air from your lungs again.

Repeat this twice a day for at least 5 minutes each time. One best time of the day to perform this exercise is early in the morning when you wake up. You could also schedule it during any time of the day depending on your other activities. This is one of the best ways to keep your mind free from stress and have a healthier heart.

Breathe to Calm Your Mind

As clichéd, as repetitive, as boring as it may sound, our breathing pattern holds the secrets to our mood regulations, mental balance and ability to pick up arts like singing and dancing.

Something as involuntary, inalienable and vital as breathing often goes unnoticed because no one really cares to stand outside and observe themselves doing that thing that comes so naturally to all human beings.

But the key here is that although everyone breathes, there are different ways of doing it. There are several schools of breath therapy that recommend different types of changes in the breathing practices and different types of exercises to perfect these changes:

Somatic Breath Therapy
Somatic breath therapy works on the core philosophy that everything breathes and all matter is in a perpetual state of particle exchange. In human beings, this mechanism of breathing is what triggers consciousness and sets in the motion of life. Your current rate and rhythm of breathing reflect your general health. Breathing can be both voluntary and involuntary and SBT trains one to choose to breathe with no pauses which leads to a higher consciousness whereby the person’s conscious actively associates with the subconscious.

This can be extremely helpful for the professionals because most problems, like stress or fatigue, emerge when the suggestions of the subconscious are repressed and not heeded to. If the professional learns to actively engage with the subconscious they can be more mindful of the true needs of the body and mind.

Pranayama
It is the very own Indian method which is one of the limbs of the Yogic process. When translated, it literally means ‘extension of life-force’. Obviously having transcendental and spiritual overtones to it, it means the trance that is induced when the in-going breath and the out-going breath are made to meet and merge. More commonly it is a breathing technique one can learn from a yoga instructor.

Despite the fact these spiritual dimensions may not be universally relatable, the benefits of this breathing technique have too many positive attestations and practical benefits to ignore. From inducing mental peace to improving concentration and skin-health, it is said to work very well on. Stressful individuals and many corporate employees have reported better work performance owing to the practice of Pranayama. Thus, why not give it a try at least once?

Professional Breath Therapies
There are a lot of organizations that work towards a more scientific approach to breath therapy stripping it off its mystical and other-worldly connotations. This involves personalized one-to-one sessions with the professional gauging his/her specific needs and then therapies are tailored as per the unique requirements of the client in question. Sometimes group sessions may be conducted as well.

These methods are usually aimed at and effective in the case of rehabilitating chain smokers and tobacco users.

4 Breathing Exercises to Help with Stress

Jobs are no cakewalk these days, even if you work at a confectionary.

Long hours with few breaks, stressful targets to achieve, and the peering eyes of your boss are just a few reasons working professionals are reporting more and more instances of work-related anxiety. If you have noticed, whenever you get agitated, angry or highly emotional the breathing becomes shallower and your reactions become less measured.

Breathing, while an involuntary action, can definitely be controlled and should be calm if one wants to get through the day with minimal stress.

Deep breathing helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, or PNS. This system is responsible for all the activities that happen in our body when it is at rest. It functions in a manner opposite to that of the sympathetic nervous system, which generally controls the primal instincts of fight-or-flight.

Doctors believe that by voluntarily changing the depth, pattern and rate of breathing you can change what signals are being sent to the brain. The breath, according to the yogis of old, is the vehicle of praan or the essential life force, we draw it in with every breath we take. Research even shows that changing the breathing pattern can help you access the autonomic communication network of the body, which can have powerful effects on ones thought, emotions and behaviour.

Here are some simple breathing exercises that are not time-consuming and yet very rewarding.

Equal Breathing
One of the easiest breathing exercises, sama vritti, or equal breathing is something you can do for a few minutes anywhere, be it at work, at home or even in the park.

To start, inhale for a count of four and exhale for the same count. Yogis were said to be able to increase this count by many minutes, but you can still aim for six to eight counts per breath. This exercise calms the nervous system, increases focus and reduces stress. If there’s any difficulty breathing, try this exercise before sleeping. It is very beneficial and effective.

Pythagorean pattern
This might sound a little challenging, but it is rather simple. Inhale slowly for five seconds, hold the breath in for three seconds and finally exhale slowly for four seconds. You may need a clock to ensure you are doing it for the right span of time, and do not try to unnecessarily prolong the duration. This exercise is known to keep yourself grounded in the present moment and help bring your panicked mind back on track. Try and hum a low sound when you are exhaling.

Alternate Nostril Breathing
Nadi Shodhanam, or alternate nostril breathing, is considered to be one of the most potent relaxation techniques out there. It infuses a sense of calm and centred awareness in the individual when practised regularly.

To do this exercise, first sit comfortably. Hold your right thumb over the right nostril and inhale through your left. At the peak of the inhalation cut off the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale with your right nostril. Continue for a few minutes. People have reported feeling as if they have just had a coffee after doing this exercise. This is a good way to calm down and for balance. Try this before an important meeting or a sales pitch and see the difference in your performance.

Abdominal Breathing
One of the easiest breathing exercises that can be performed, abdominal breathing can help you reduce blood pressure and stress. To do this exercise, put one hand on your chest and another on your stomach.

Take six to ten breaths a minute, long and deep, enough to ensure that your lungs expand and stretch your diaphragm. Do not allow your chest to rise and fall, make sure you are breathing from your diaphragm. Doing this exercise for about ten minutes every day can cause a palpable difference in your heart rate as well as blood pressure and leave you feeling calm and relaxed. While it may be difficult to control your breath at first it will get easier with time.

Do not discount breathing as being merely an involuntary activity. As far as your well-being goes, how you breathe has a lot to do with it. So make sure you are breathing right every day and making the most of every breath you take.

How to Incorporate Desktop Yoga into Your Workday

Long hours at work can be gruelling, not only because of the mental fatigue caused by performing demanding tasks, but also because the way you sit or stand at work can result in a body that’s achey, tired, sore, or even cramping.

Dangers of Desk Work
Desk workers, in particular, run the risk of damaging their health from too much sitting. CNN reports that “[t]here’s a direct relationship between time spent sitting and your risk of early mortality of any cause, researchers said, based on a study of nearly 8,000 adults. As your total sitting time increases, so does your risk of an early death.

Yikes. Somehow that desk chair doesn’t feel quite so relaxing anymore! Luckily, this same study found that getting up to move every thirty minutes or so reduced the negative side-effects of sitting significantly.

So, for a few simple movements that can help get that blood flowing, increase mental clarity, and stretch out tight muscles, read on!

Desk Yoga
You’d probably feel a bit odd performing a Downward Dog pose in your cubicle, or a Tree Pose behind the till – we would, too! But incorporating a bit of yoga into your workday doesn’t need to involve a wardrobe change or even a yoga mat.

Here, we share with you a few exercises excerpted from Elena Brower’s Office Yoga Sequence for Yoga Journal.  Brower is an experienced Yoga Teacher and author, and she’s put together several simple stretches that can easily be performed at your desk to loosen, lengthen, and relax tense bodies.

The Exercises
Sit: Begin by sitting with both feet flat on the floor, hands in your lap. Spend one or two minutes just being present and noticing the sounds around you.

Stretch: Still sitting, straighten your arms and raise them above your head, palms touching each other. Reach your fingertips toward the ceiling and imagining your spine lengthening, for five breaths.

Chair Pose: Slowly rise to stand, your feet hips width apart. Widen your hands to shoulder width and gently bend your knees as though you were going to sit down into a chair. Keep your weight in your heels and stay for three breaths.

Forward Bend: Stretch back up to standing, then gently fold forward to touch your toes (or as close as you can get!). Keep a slight bend in your knees and take 3-5 deep breaths into this posture.

Seated Cat and Cow: Return to your seat, feet flat on the floor and hands in your lap. With each inhale, gently round your back, bringing your chin into your chest – this is cat. With each exhale, arch your back, bringing your chin to the ceiling. Repeat 3-5 times.

Seated Simple Twist: To loosen a tight spine, sit tall in your chair and gently twist to the right, with your left hand on your right armrest, and your right hand behind you. Hold for 3-5 breaths before switching to the other side.

Sit: Finally, return to the beginning sitting pose. Sit for a few moments and notice any changes in your body. Are your breaths slower? Can you feel your heart beating? Does your neck feel looser? Absorb the feelings within your body and the environment around you.

 

A True Quick Fix
This simple set of movements will only take a few minutes, but it can have immense benefits for your wellbeing. A quick desk yoga session can help to reset your sense of calm and focus, increase blood flow to your extremities, and loosen stiff muscles, too.

It may seem counterproductive but taking this kind of break every half hour to move your body can actually make you more productive at work, by helping to stave off the dangerous side-effects of work-related injuries.

Prioritise yourself and your wellbeing, and everyone wins!

Namaste.

Yoga Demystified: The Art and Science Behind an Ancient Practice

If you aren’t one of the millions of people globally who have taken at least one yoga class, you’ve almost certainly heard of it. Yoga, which blends stretching poses with mindful breathing, has exploded in popularity over the past decade. It’s gone from a little-known traditional practice to a mainstream pastime, with devoted practitioners and dedicated studios popping up in virtually every city.

But where did yoga originate? And why is it so effective at reducing stress, increasing fitness, and boosting mental health? In today’s post, we’re going to dive into the history of yoga, the art of practising, and the solid science behind its efficacy.

The Birthplace of Yoga
Yoga Basics explains that some scholars believe yoga originated almost 10,000 years ago in Northern India. “The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda,” they explain. “The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests.”

Over the next few thousand years, yoga shifted, evolved, and gained in popularity, with the practice eventually making its way to the West in the late 1800s. And although thousands had been practising yoga for centuries, it gained popularity as a pastime in mainstream culture when a Russian-born woman and yoga devotee, Indra Devi, opened a yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947.

Devi was one of the first women to practice yoga and many now refer to her as the Mother of Western Yoga.

Yoga Explained
The practice of yoga involves moving through a series of postures, called asanas, often with guided breathing. Some types, like Vinyasa yoga, ask you to move through postures fluidly one after the other, while others like Ashtanga yoga ask you to hold postures longer and move through a set of movements repetitively.

Bikram yoga is performed in a heated room, which is thought to increase muscle flexibility and help participants sweat. There are also variants of yoga practice for relaxation (often called yin yoga) and prenatal yoga classes specifically designed to avoid risk to pregnant yogis.

All you need to practice yoga is comfortable clothes (many choose fitted leggings and tank tops for ease of movement) and a yoga mat to increase the traction of your palms and feet with the floor. If you’re doing a fast-paced or challenging type of yoga, you may also want a small towel and water bottle.

Yoga Body
The physical benefits of yoga are hard to ignore, especially if you’ve ever taken a class. It’s common to emerge from a class experiencing that blissful post-yoga feeling of loose limbs, stretched muscles and a light sweat. But how exactly does yoga benefit our bodies?

Vox Magazine analyzed over 50 studies to establish whether there are proven, measurable physical benefits of a regular yoga practice. Their analysis discovered that the popular practice works to “help alleviate lower back pain, improve strength and flexibility, and reduce inflammation in the body — which, in turn, can help stave off chronic disease and death.”

Among the most important studies they analyzed were:

2005: The Annals of Internal Medicine established that yoga was an excellent treatment for chronic lower back pain and began to be recommended as a course of treatment for those suffering from low-back pain.

2013: The Journal of the American College of Cardiology states that yoga can have a positive effect on conditions like atrial fibrillation, which is a pattern of abnormal heartbeats that worsens over time.

2014: The Journal of Clinical Oncology established that yoga can have health benefits for women undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Given these studies, it seems that a lovely relaxed feeling is just the beginning of the many health benefits of yoga – and there are also significant benefits for your mind, too.

Yoga Mind
One of the reasons yoga has jumped in popularity in recent years is that it offers a meditative, mindful quality missing from many other exercise routines. Along with strengthening your body and stretching your muscles, yoga can also calm the mind and ease stress.

In fact, the Harvard Medical Journal states that yoga can “reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression”.

By working to harness the power of mindfulness, yoga can calm the arousal system – lowering heart rate and blood pressure. That feeling of calm after a good yoga class isn’t just in your mind!

A Powerful Combination
When you blend the mind-body benefits of yoga together, you’re looking at not just another way to work out, but a powerhouse practice that can have lasting benefits for your physical and mental health.

Choosing to establish a daily 30-minute yoga routine means that you’ll be able to work towards easing lower back pain, reducing stress and tension, increasing muscle tone, and helping to manage anxiety and depression. It’s one of the best habits you can choose to adopt!

If you can’t shell out for a yoga studio membership, don’t worry. While the class atmosphere can definitely help motivate and create a feeling of community, there are thousands of free yoga class tutorials readily available for you to follow along with online.

With yoga, wellbeing is literally at your fingertips.