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6 Health Benefits of Yoga

If you've ever wanted to try yoga, it's time to get out the mat.

“Whether you are a fitness fanatic or just starting a fitness program, yoga is for you,” says Martha Bates, a certified yoga instructor who teaches at Your Blue Store, our retail store in Warwick, Rhode Island. This mind-body exercise includes physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation.

Say "om" for better health

By practicing yoga, you can:

  1. Improve flexibility and strength. Yoga stretches your muscles, and the body often responds quickly. Standing poses work the muscles in the lower body, and inversions, like downward dog and arm balances, strengthen the upper body.
  2. Stand up straighter. When done correctly, almost all poses in yoga strengthen the core muscles in your stomach and back. A strong core leads to better posture, which can help prevent back and neck problems.
  3. Ease stress and anxiety levels. Yoga involves breathing exercises that force you to pay attention to your breath. Deep breathing can help you relax almost instantly, which can help relieve stress and anxiety. Martha says that many people find an inner peace through yoga. As a result, they're able to handle life better.
  4. Improve heart health. A study found that people who practiced yoga showed a significant drop in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, when compared to people who didn't work out. Practicing yoga regularly can also lower your resting heart rate and improve blood circulation.
  5. Lose weight. That same study found that yoga was just as effective in helping people lose weight as cycling and brisk walking.
  6. Reduce low back pain. Research shows that practicing yoga for several months can ease chronic low back pain, help you function better, and enrich your quality of life.

Getting started with yoga

More than one hundred styles of yoga are practiced in the United States. Ask your doctor if there are any types that you should avoid. Then find a class taught by a certified instructor.

Martha says a typical yoga class consists of a warm-up, a work phase that includes flowing poses and deep stretches, a cool-down, and a final relaxation phase. Bring a yoga mat, a water bottle, and a positive attitude. Martha explains, “Yoga classes are non-judgmental and non-competitive, there is no perfect pose—there is only ‘your’ pose.”

Try a free class at our stores!

Free yoga and other fitness classes are available to Blue Cross members at Your Blue Store locations in Cranston, East Providence, Lincoln, and Warwick. To sign up for a class, visit Your Blue Store.

Information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. You should not use the information provided for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. You should consult a physician in all matters relating to your health, and particularly in respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention. Any action on your part in response to the information provided here is at your discretion. BCBSRI does not recommend or endorse specific tests, procedures, advice, or other information provided in this article.