The Various Benefits Of Yoga For The Body, Mind And Soul
Yoga has been practiced in India for 6000 years. And, while it has its origins in Eastern culture, it has hit the Western world by storm.
Today, more than 19 million Americans practice yoga, and millions more do across the world. It is also a multi-billion dollar per industry.
Those who do yoga report various reason for engaging in this unique fitness routine, some of which include:
- Build strength
- General fitness
- Peace and contentment
- Reduction of stress
- and much more
If you see yogis (persons who practice and teach yoga), you can see how well-developed their bodies are. They don’t necessarily bulk up, but you can tell that they have strength and endurance.
The Main Benefits Of Yoga
Since the movements and poses in yoga are deliberate and yet slow, they do not strain muscles. Instead, the movements allow for better blood circulation, better stretching of muscles and it helps strengthen the joints.
Endurance, or the ability to bear pain for prolonged periods of time is also increased with consistent practice of yoga.
As the body gains strength, so it also gains endurance. As the mind is able to control its reactions to stresses, so it learns to modify its perception of pain.
What most people do not realize is that yoga is not just an exercise regimen or a workout but the slow and deep breathing is meditative. It allows the person to quiet their mind as they quiet their body by concentrating on breathing slowly and deeply. The first thing you’ll notice is that the slow and deep breaths cleanse and remove the clutter from your mind. You’ll also notice that if you feel agitated, the slow deep breathing of yoga calms you down.
The effect of yoga is cumulative. This means that if you consistently practice yoga even outside of your scheduled yoga classes, the good effects on your mind and your body increase the longer you practice yoga. For instance, when slow and deep breathing becomes a habit, you can see how it helps you relax even in the most tense and intense moments of your work day.
The cumulative effect is that your body learns to avoid stress reactions. Stress reactions are the body’s way of preparing us to fight or to flee situations which are perceived to be dangerous and threatening.
This helps you when a barking dog chases you while you are jogging. However, when the stress reaction is prolonged or recurrent as when your body prepares to rush to meet deadlines all day, every day or prepares to “fight” with people who make life difficult for you, you are living with stress. Stress becomes a way of life and it overwork the heart and causes a lot of wear and tear in our organs.
Stress which is chronic or prolonged alters the chemistry in the brain, too. It makes you irritable and it affects your concentration and focus. It increases your vulnerability to diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease. Yoga, because it helps you relax and neutralize stress, also helps you avoid these lifestyle diseases, as well.
Yoga’s meditative component increases your self-awareness. This means that you become more aware of how you feel and what you are thinking. This makes it easier for you to self-evaluate, reflect and modify your emotional responses to everyday stresses and adversities.
When you learn to modify your emotional responses, you also learn to put things in perspective. You’ll find yourself resisting anxious and depressing thoughts. The slow deep breathing which increases blood flow to the brain also helps to lift mood. You become more positive in your outlook.
Since yoga keeps the mind clear, it becomes possible to process information faster and to absorb them more readily. It does not make you smarter by increasing your IQ, but you learn to focus and make decisions more readily. You learn to use your faculties more purposely.
4 Surprising Benefits of Yoga
There are many physical benefits yoga of practicing yoga regularly, for example, improved flexibility, and core strength etc. However, the nonphysical advantages are less well documented, but still very much a benefit. Some of the non-physical benefits of regularly engaging in yoga are outlined below.
1. An elevated mood and increase in contentment
When practicing yoga you are encouraged to regulate your breathing using meditation and deep breathing techniques. This enables you to slow your breathing; leaving you, feeling much more relaxed. However, there has also been research carried out that points to a stimulation of brain activity, leading to a more positive mood. The study found an increase in Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)-ergic activity for those that practiced yoga regularly.
The study was conducted over 12 weeks and compared a group that carried out a walking activity compared to a set of participants practicing yoga regularly, finding higher levels of GABA in the yoga group. Low levels of GABA have been associated with anxiety and depression.
2. Improves concentration and focus
Yoga has been proven to increase a person’s ability to focus and concentrate. Research has shown that people are far more able to focus and maintain their concentration after a yoga session. Researchers compared a yoga group to one that had performed a regular workout at the gym and found the gym group, on being asked to perform tasks, lacked focus.
There were no definitive answers as to why this may occur. However, researchers pointed to the fact that yoga increases your self-awareness and leads to a less anxious state where cognitive function can be improved.
3. Improves mind/body connection
Yoga has long been shown to improve the relationship between mind and body, predominantly through the use of poses and particular breathing techniques. Particular poses and breathing techniques have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and throughout the nervous system.
The ‘conversation’ your body has between the mental and the physical can be improved by many types of movement and exercise. Yoga is excellent for this very purpose as it encourages movement to be synchronized with breathing regulation. Ultimately, yoga is about unity of mind and body, with them being two sides of the same coin.
4. Increases self-knowledge
Self-awareness or self-knowledge is encouraged by many psychotherapists and natural healers. Those seeking this should be warned that it is not simple. However, yoga can bring about this awareness and the rewards are great. Once this has been attained, life becomes a much richer experience, with an outlook on life and general positive attitude that enables the yoga practitioner to experience physical sensations not usually felt within the confines of normal consciousness.
Feelings not encroached on by word or thought can be a revelation, leading to subtle but definitely noticeable changes in the mind and spirit. By learning to ignore the chatter of the mind whilst strengthening the body, you are able to unlock the secrets of self-knowledge.
The above are just a few examples, the tip of the iceberg so to say as to the non-physical and overall benefits of yoga. Yoga is just plain wonderful, get started today!
Why Choose Yoga?
Yoga has been around of thousands of years, it is a cherished practice in Eastern culture and is used by millions in the United States. While some may not know this, yoga is a science, and not some mystical hocus pocus as some believe it to be.
Reasons To Choose Yoga
The rapidly advancing urban life on today’s generation seems to have taken away both the space and the time – the space in terms of parks for running or safe pedestrian streets for walking.
Lack of open spaces and growth in the concrete jungle has made many reconsider the options of a healthier lifestyle and being in the midst of nature for exercise. With that, came the growth in the gym culture.
More and more people love to work out at a gymnasium with modern equipment to maintain their fit frame. However, busy schedules have wreaked havoc on the time men and women can spare to go somewhere for exercise.
Also, many are too tired and drained both physically and mentally at the end of the day to jazz up for some strenuous exercise. If you are one of them and yet want to remain healthy and fit, then you could consider yoga.
Yoga soothes the body and the soul and is a great option for the 21st century.
Breathe In and Out
Firstly, yoga is a great option for inner peace. One could do that with various Pranayam poses which essentially translate to breathing techniques and control.
The regulation of air in our body leads to a boost in metabolism as well as oxygen in our system, leaving us fresh and energized. It is done sitting cross-legged on the floor and controlling the air input and output through the nose.
Sometimes the hands are also used for added benefits.
More Benefits Of Yoga
- Then there are multiple poses for one to try. They aim at increasing your flexibility and balance.
- They also target the core muscles and strengthen them.
- Yoga is great for weight loss and pain relief too.
- Since it goes slowly, there is not much stress on the body to perform and keep up.
- One can do them at a steady pace and aim at perfection of each pose for the best results.
- If you are overly ambitious and have a fit body that is used to working out, then you could try the Surya Namaskar. It is a combination of 10 poses with alternate breathing in and breathing out methodology for each pose. Needless to say, it targets every part of your body and can be strenuous.
Prep up with some yoga style stretching, do the entire move for 10 reps twice and then end with some Pranayam for the best results.
The Poses and What They Target
However, if this is difficult as a beginner, then there are plenty of standing, sitting, lying, balancing and relaxing poses for you to practice.
You could alternate them and do it thrice a week for optimum results. Mountain pose, pyramid pose, raise hand pose, forward bend pose, downward facing dog and warrior pose are some of the standing pose which is fairly simple for all beginners.
This essentially stretches your entire body. If you are working towards developing your core strength and balance then the plank pose and the tree pose are a must.
There is always the issue of back and neck pain or fat accumulation in the back due to sitting and working the entire day.
Focusing on the spine, the cat-cow stretch, the cobra pose and the bridge pose bring in some great benefits if done properly. The Staff pose, head to knee pose, seated forward bend, cobbler’s pose, seated wide legged straddle are some seated poses targeting the thigh muscles and could be attempted after the body is warmed up.
Lastly, there are tons of resting poses to put you in a relaxed frame of mind towards the end of a workout session.
Some of them are pelvic tilts, legs up the wall pose, happy baby pose, Goddess pose, child’s pose, etc.