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5 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 to exercise, yoga may be the exercise for you. 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. 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.
    Many poses in yoga can 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.
  4. Reduce low back pain. 
    Practicing yoga for several months may ease chronic low back pain, help you function better, and enrich your quality of life.
  5. Improve sleep.
    Yoga has been shown to be helpful for sleep in studies of older adults, people with arthritis, pregnant women, and other groups.*

Get started with a free yoga class

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. 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.

You can take online exercise and mindfulness classes (including yoga) at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, through the Your Blue Store Studio Facebook group. The online classes are open to everyone, and videos of the classes can be viewed anytime on the Facebook group. Classes are different every day, and all fitness levels are welcome.**

*National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

**Not all exercises are suitable for everyone and any exercise program could result in injury. Always consult with your physician before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have an existing health condition.

SOURCE: This article was adapted from The Rhode Ahead, the BCBSRI member publication.