What is Yoga Good for?
The short answer to this question is: everything. Regardless of your feelings about the practice, yoga is good for a lot more than you think. There is a good reason that this ancient practice has prevailed over the past 5000 years. Most sports and exercise styles tend to be fads that will usually fade after a while. However, yoga has been around longer than all of these and it is increasing in popularity. Yoga is not just a sport though, it is a way of life and this lifestyle is what makes it so unique. The experience of yoga is different for everyone, but the overall benefits of the practice are universal. Unlike most physical activities, yoga is beneficial to the mind, body and spirit and helps people to connect with their inner power and increase self awareness.
Improves Flexibility & Builds Strength
Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increases range of motion. With just one class you will notice looser muscles and with regular practice poses will become easier to move into. Increasing flexibility will help to release tightness in the hips, knees and hamstrings which can be the source of uncomfortable physical aches, for example lower back pain.
You can increase muscle tone and definition with a yoga practice. Instead of lifting weights the body becomes the weight in various postures and tis results in change in muscle tone with a regular practice. Although yoga is not usually considered aerobic exercise, there are athletic styles of yoga, such as Power yoga, that will make you sweat and some research has found that it is as good as aerobic exercise for improving health. With a regular practice you will focus less on how yoga can sculpt your physique and instead focus on yoga as a way of thinking, feeling and being. A sculpted body is a byproduct of the practice and will no longer be the goal.
One of the main benefits of practicing yoga and the reason most people tend to continue with the practice once they start is that it is so effective in lowering feelings of overwhelm and stress. Stress is a common problem of modern life; it is responsible for many psychological and physiological health issues and can be very debilitating. A yoga practice that combines postures, with breath work and mindfulness can help to clear your mind while giving your body the attention it deserves. and make you more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Through slow, deliberate breathing patterns the mind becomes relaxed and you are able to focus on your movements without distractions. This means your stress levels lower during practice but it also trains your mind and body to deal with stress off the mat. Waking early to dedicate time to your personal practice can help to start the day calm and clearheaded.
Boosts Immune System
We live a world full of stressors and stress wreaks havoc on the immune system. Psychological stress can impact many systems in the body, weaken the immune system and increase chronic inflammation reducing your body’s ability to fight off illness. Recent research has shown that yoga can boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Yoga can help stimulate the four main physiological systems that are linked to the immune system: the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems. Different yoga poses will stimulate different systems in the body resulting in improved immunity. Twists in particular can help to detox the body and flush out toxins that could lead to illness.
An intangible but much loved side effect of practicing yoga is its ability to increase overall happiness. A regular yoga practice has been shown to help with depression and anxiety. Yoga has an amazing effect on the mind and the body and increases serotonin levels, which results in feelings of happiness. A lot of the unhappiness we feel comes from our thoughts and feelings, a meditation and yoga practice can help to manage these thoughts. As Patanjali said 'Yoga is the process of quietening the mind'. This stilling of the mind and increased awareness of thoughts and feelings with a full practice of yoga, including meditation can help to change your perspective and begin to reshape your attitudes, views and thoughts. By connecting your mind, body and spirit through yoga and the power of breath, it allows you to experience emotional well being as well as the more tangible physical benefits. Step onto the mat today and find out first hand why yoga is good for you.
Have you tried yoga? What benefits have you noticed?