Happy World Yoga Day - an Ode to Yoga!

I have to admit that I have always ever been really doubtful and sceptical about yoga - the only experience I have made for a long time was hugely esoterically touched which - to be honest - never really was my thing (fair enough if it's something for you though). However, just recently I have exercised it more often and I have been truly surprised - positively surprised and also impressed. Yoga can also be not-esoteric, but rather incredibly exhausting, challenging,  soothing and FUN! 😃  I came home with sour muscles - mostly, I was aching even worse than after climbing for three hours in the gym. And, I felt calmer, more relaxed. So I started doing some research - why is yoga good for us? What benefits does it have? Does yoga have an impact on our mental strength?

The University of California in Los Angeles has found out that yoga has positive impact against stress and mood swings - even more than other sports. Yoga aims to calm our thoughts and impulses. It supports calming our brain, stilling our senses and altering our perception in terms of increased mindfulness. We generally become better able to detach from what stresses us.  

Scientists recommend easy endurance training for our heart and yoga for our mind. Being able to control our mood, emotions and mind is definitely recommendable - both in sports and our every day life. We all know the one or other person who every now and then has emotional outbursts, reacts snappy on whatever you say or appears like a big grumpy bum. Despite the fact that it is hard to deal or even work with such people - wouldn't it uncomfortable for them to always appear moody? What if YOU are known as someone who is difficult to hang out with? 

One of the main reason why yoga can help us destress and decompress is its focus on breathing. The deep and slow yoga-breathing stimulates the vagus nerve. What is the vagus nerve and what impact does it have on our anti-stress level? It is the biggest cranial nerve of the parasympathicus, regulating most of our inner organs such as our heart, lungs and digestive system. If the vagus nerve is stimulated our heartbeat slows down, we reduce stress and we find an inner balance.  

Another study shows that people who regularly do yoga sleep better. This significant correlation is mediated by the perceived stress reduction. Our body needs enough sleep to recover from hard training or stress. Particularly if we are doing sports, the importance of sleep is not to be underestimated. If we don't let our body rest enough, we shouldn't be surprised if our performance goes down. Unfortunately, I haven't found any studies about climbing but there are studies, e.g. with tennis players, that show that after an evaluation period where the athletes had to sleep 10 hours every night for 5 weeks, they showed a significant improvement in their performance: they ran faster and hit the ball more precisely compared to their sleeping rhythm before. But enough about sleeping, what other effects does yoga have?

Yoga can be a great compensation for athletes of all sports. Climbers for instance can train muscles which are normally neglected when climbing. A holistic strengthening of the body is highly recommendable as it prevents injuries and mal positions. Stretching increases flexibility, but also strengthens the muscles. Moreover, tendons and the conjunctive tissue (fascia) are stretched and the blood circulation is fostered.

Despite all these positive effects of yoga, it unfortunately doesn't help with one thing: loosing weight. Well, I guess that's when it's good to go back to climbing, cycling, swimming, hiking, etc. 😉


P.S. Many good climbers have already discovered the positive impact of yoga - they are either giving classes themselves or regularly post photos of them doing it. Check out following athletes: 

For good yoga classes in Tyrol and Vorarlberg, check out the following: