More and more people are doing the downward dog than ever before. But just what are the benefits of yoga on positive thinking? And how can you incorporate yoga into a healthy holiday? Matt Lindley gives you the lowdown here…
The psychological and physiological benefits of yoga
Yoga to keep fit: For a lot of people, yoga is one of the very best things that you can do to feel good. The physical benefits are obvious. Yoga can help you relieve back pain, increase physical fitness, lung capacity and flexibility. Because yoga is all about deep breathing and stretching, it increases the oxygen supply to different parts of the body, which helps to ease tension and improve circulation.
To relieve stress: But more than that, yoga is accepted by most psychologists as an effective complimentary therapy for all kinds of stress-related disorders. Psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, cardiac disease and high blood pressure can be alleviated with regular yoga practice.
How, you may ask? Yoga encourages you to focus on your breath and your body, which brings you back to the present moment and stops you worrying about the past and the future. Yoga makes you feel more comfortable in yourself, more motivated and less affected by the outside world. It helps you focus on positive aspects of life and is a major contributor to your psychological well-being.
Yoga and psychotherapy: In the US, psychologists and psychotherapists have been using yoga as a compliment to talk therapy. The idea is that it’s not only the mind but also the body that needs to be worked on. “Talk therapy such as cognitive-behavioural therapy can be helpful in finding problem-solving strategies and understanding your own strengths and what’s happening to you, but there are times when you just need to kind of get moving and work through the body,” says Melanie Greenberg, PhD, a psychologist at Alliant International University.
To be part of a group: Taking part in group yoga sessions can foster a sense of belonging and of being a part of something much bigger than just yourself. This is really positive. It’s a collective experience of everyone moving together, breathing together and in the end relaxing together that is rarely experienced elsewhere.
A yoga-informed outlook: Simply incorporating the principles of yoga into your everyday life – compassion, non-judgement, spirituality and the connection between all living things – is likely to make you feel less stressed and improve your mental health.
Enjoy practicing yoga at a yoga retreat?
If you practice regularly, going on a yoga retreat could be the perfect healthy holiday to recharge your batteries.
Practising twice a day in a new environment will help you break free of old patterns and familiar routines, at the same time as deepening awareness of your body.
Spending time away from the distractions of modern society will help you find peace with yourself and inspire you to live a healthier lifestyle when you return home.
Here are five great yoga retreat ideas around the world:
Tilton House, UK
Set in the idyllic rolling hills of the South Downs in Sussex, Tilton House (www.tiltonhouse.co.uk) regularly hosts weekend Hatha sessions for all in their yurt. Included in the package is comfy accommodation, food, massages and country walks. Its close proximity to London makes Tilton House an excellent addition on a trip to the capital. See HotelClub for London accommodation (www.hotelclub.com/United-Kingdom/London-hotels).
The Yoga Farm, Costa Rica
Yoga retreats don’t come much more picturesque than The Yoga Farm (www.yogafarmcostarica.org) near Pavone, Costa Rica. As well as yoga sessions on a deck overlooking the ocean, the centre offers surfing lessons and two healthy vegetarian meals per day. Yoga Farm is completely off grid with solar panels, a garden for growing their own food and eco-friendly accommodation.
Les Passeroses, France
Les Passeroses (www.passeroses.com) near Angouleme in south-west France is the perfect retreat for anyone wanting to practise Iyengar yoga in a rustic, rural setting. The light and airy converted barn yoga space has been voted by some teachers as their favourite place to take classes. A typical day will involve two sessions of yoga, meditation and as many philosophical discussions and cups of chai tea as you wish.
Yoga Barn, Bali
In the mountain village of Ubud, Bali, visitors can enjoy a spiritual retreat in one of Asia’s most enchanted hideaways (www.theyogabarn.com). The centre runs seven yoga classes per day – ranging from Yin Yoga to Ashtanga – in two mud-walled studios overlooking the rice paddies. You are free to pick and choose the ones that suit you. An on-site café serves mainly raw-vegan foods, ensuring you’ll eat well and feel healthy on your trip.
Lotus Yoga Retreat, Goa
Situated right on Goa’s beautiful Patnem Beach, Lotus Yoga Retreat (www.lotus-yoga-retreat.com) is the perfect getaway for ocean lovers looking to unwind in a natural, peaceful setting. The retreat contains at least two yoga classes per day, along with accommodation in bamboo huts and vegetarian buffet meals. Guests are encouraged to book a massage or explore Goa’s sacred temples and colourful markets in their free time.