Since September is National Yoga Month, we talked with a couple of local instructors to learn more about the many benefits of yoga.

Some of the most commonly talked about benefits are the physical ones, like improved flexibility, increased strength, and better balance. These are why many people have started to include yoga in their fitness regimens. But beyond being a good workout, yoga has other physical benefits.

“Practicing yoga can help increase respiratory capacity, improve circulation, and enhance digestion,”‘ says Jackie Schechinger, a Green Bay yoga instructor and wife of OSMS physician Dr. Steve Schechinger.

Yoga also has a positive effect on a person’s mental health.

“The increased awareness to mindfully breath helps calm the nervous system and increase oxygen flow in the blood, which causes this wonderful duality of feeling calm yet energized,” says Jen Berres, owner of and instructor at Jenstar Yoga and Dance in De Pere.

While everyone can benefit from the strengthening and stress-reducing outcomes of yoga, it can be especially beneficial for two types of OSMS patients – athletes and those living with arthritis.

Yoga and Athletes

Competitive athletes are always looking to improve athletic skills and reduce the risk of injury. Yoga can help with both!

“Athletes tend to have a ‘go hard’ mentality about training, and a yoga practice brings balance to this mindset by teaching athletes to slow down and be in the moment,” says Jen. “It also creates better body awareness, which allows athletes to gain more range of motion, fluidity of movement, strength, stamina, and coordination. It is definitely a game changer, and many of the best athletes in the world are incorporating yoga into their routines.”

Yoga can also help with injury prevention and recovery.

“The improved body mechanics, balance, stability, and flexibility that an athlete can experience from yoga all work together to reduce the risk of injury,” says Jackie. “But perhaps the most important benefit for athletes is the increased mental awareness and focus to overcome an injury and elevate training and performance to the next level.”

Yoga and Arthritis

Despite the pictures of headstands, arm balances, and intricate twists that you may see on social media, yoga can be gentle enough for people living with arthritis.

“Yoga helps those with arthritis see better overall physical functioning, in particular increased joint range of motion, flexibility, and balance,” says Jackie.

Together, these outcomes can help reduce joint stiffness and pain so that people can continue to live actively.

“Joint pain is uncomfortable, but if you stop being active it can only get worse,” says Jen. “I have seen clients with arthritis feel a world of difference after only a few yoga classes.”

Learn more about yoga and arthritis from the Arthritis Foundation.

If you are new to yoga – no matter your age or activity level – it’s important to find a style and instructor that fits your needs and allows for appropriate modifications for individual restrictions, limitations, or injuries.