Being a woman today is very different than what it was like 20, 50 or 100 years ago. From the balance of career and home life to heeding the expert recommendations for healthy living, there are a lot of things to think about.
The ancient practice of yoga was developed by male Indian sages and gurus. But over time, as this practice has evolved and been past down, the number of women doing yoga and those who are considered some of the modern experts on yoga, has increased dramatically.
According to Yoga Journal magazine, of the 15.8 million Americans who are practicing yoga, a whopping 72 percent of them are women. While men may roll out their sticky mats in the hopes of meeting a cute yoga gal with a hot yoga body, women tend to turn to yoga to improve their health, not so much their love life.
Even though I ended up marrying my yoga teacher, I can assure you that what drove me to my first yoga class and what keeps me practicing six days a week is the love I have for this ancient practice that has given me so much, including an awesome husband and an adorable daughter.
So, to all the ladies out there whose interest in yoga is piqued by Jennifer Aniston’s arms or the peaceful demeanor of their yoga-loving colleague, here is what you need to know about yoga and women.
The benefits that yoga can impart onto the female’s mind, body and spirit are as innumerable as the number of yoga postures. Yoga has been shown to help improve the symptoms of PMS, menopause and insomnia. It has also been shown to improve body image and confidence. Its stress-reducing abilities are amazingly relevant, given today’s fast-paced and frenzied lifestyles.
Here are just a few research studies that have lauded the benefits yoga can have for women:
- According to the Mayo Clinic, some of yoga’s benefits are stress reduction, weight loss, improved fitness levels, and management of chronic health conditions.
- A study published in the journal, Psychosomatic Medicine, found that a long-term yoga practice can decrease women’s stress and boost their mood.
- A study undertaken by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found that women with breast cancer who took yoga classes during radiotherapy reported less fatigue and enjoyed better health than those who did not practice yoga.
- A report in the Psychology of Women Quarterly showed that yoga is associated with greater body satisfaction and fewer symptoms of eating disorders than traditional aerobic exercise like jogging or using cardio machines.
For a woman, yoga can be practiced at all stages of her life. But yoga should be tailored to specific stages, like pregnancy or during menstruation, as these conditions warrant refraining from certain poses.
Here are a few yoga postures for women:
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I): These powerful poses will create long and lean legs, a strong and toned abdominal center and sleek arms and shoulders. Step your feet four-feet apart, bend your right knee and lift your arms over your head, palms touching each other. Gaze up at your hands for five breaths, straighten your knee and pivot to the side by bending your left knee. Stay here for five breaths.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II): Directly from Virabhadrasana I, open your arms so that your left arm extends in front of you and your right arm behind you. Gaze beyond the tips of the fingers of your left hand and hold for a count of five breaths. Pivot sides and do the same on your right side.
Upward Bow or Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana): Back bends are a surefire way to charge the nervous system, open up the thoracic spine and call on the strength of the legs. Since this posture is a more advanced movement, it may have to be modified depending upon your ability, strength and flexibility. As you lift into this posture, ground yourself down with your feet as you keep the upper arms turning outward. Spread the shoulder blades across your back and keep your neck loose.
Women should always seek out a yoga teacher who is not just qualified, but also makes them feel comfortable and supported. It is important to share your health conditions and injury history with your yoga teacher and women who are menstruating are advised to refrain from doing inverted yoga postures. Women who are pregnant should take special prenatal yoga classes.