The Benefits of Yoga
An ancient multi-purpose spiritual, mental and physical practice which originated from South East Asia over 3000 years ago – Yoga encourages mental and spiritual well-being through a series of exercises, postures and breathing techniques which focus on building strength, flexibility, awareness and harmony in both the body and the mind.
This is probably one of the most obvious benefits of yoga, helping to lengthen and strengthen your muscles in a safe and effective way; making you feel longer, leaner and more flexible both physically and mentally. A greater range of motion can have numerous advantages helping to prevent lower back pain, as well as various other aches and pains. Regular yoga practice can improve flexibility considerably – poses are held for several rounds of breath, encouraging muscle tissue to stretch and relax. Enhanced flexibility can generate confidence to try new things not only during yoga, but also outside of yoga in everyday life.
Being stronger brings with it a great many benefits, it allows the body to do more physical activity without fatigue, and reduces the risk of injury. Improved strength also helps to keep joints in good shape and protect against arthritis, back pain and other degenerative conditions. Not only that, but healthy muscles are also more physically attractive, boosting confidence and self esteem.
Yoga also helps to increase core strength – this is important for correct posture, spinal health and improved metabolism.
With the improved strength and flexibility comes better balance, focus, coordination and stability. Balance comes from improvement in strength, alignment and focus – building strength and subsequently acquiring superior balance in the lower body, helps to reduce the likelihood of falls and other types of injuries.
It is often argued that yoga aids both physical and mental balance – the balance of the body and balance of the mind, which brings with it both an inner and outer sense of calm, as well as helping to improve posture.
The metabolism describes a chemical process which is continuously working inside the body to digest food and keep the organs functioning. The body requires energy (calories) in order to be able to carry out these activities – the amount of energy required is described as the basal metabolic rate (BMR).
More energy is required to maintain muscle cells than is needed to maintain fat cells, therefore those with more muscle than fat, often have a quicker metabolism.
Being active and engaging in strength training activities such as yoga helps to improve muscle strength as well as burn calories.
Poor posture can lead to a wide range of physical complaints, most commonly back and neck pain, it can also promote negative body language – indicative of low confidence, lack of motivation/interest etc. Yoga is an excellent way of encouraging positive posture, focusing on core strength and correct alignment, helping you to stand up tall whatever you are doing.
Protection Against Cartilage and Joint Breakdown
Yoga is often popular with people with arthritis as it helps to promote healthy joints and cartilage. Regular yoga practice can help to improve joint flexibility and reduce joint pain, as well as helping to lower stress and improve general well-being. This can also help to protect the spinal vertebrae by keeping the joints supple and strengthening the surrounding soft tissues.
Improved Cardio and Circulatory Health
Yoga is believed to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure, helping to promote healthy heart function.
Recent studies suggest that there is increasing evidence that yoga is beneficial for people with high blood pressure and heart disease. “A large number of studies show that yoga benefits many aspects of cardiovascular health” says Hugh Calkins, M.D. director of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Johns Hopkins.
Help Combat a Number of Chronic Pain Related Disorders
Yoga is not only a wonderful practice for helping to stay healthy, it can also be highly beneficial for a number of chronic pain related conditions, such as back pain, joint related problems, headaches and more.
Better Overall Health and Wellness
Regularly practising yoga not only improves overall levels of fitness as a result of the exercise – the breathing techniques and meditative elements also bring with them a sense of well-being, calm, and contentment – helping to combat stress and depression.
Practising regular yoga is also a wonderful way to boost overall well-being and also helps to exert some control over the frantic activities of the mind.
Yoga isn’t merely beneficial for improving strength and flexibility, it can also help people sleep better, especially those suffering from insomnia.
Sleep deprivation is a common disorder which many people suffer from right across the world – it can lead to various chronic health problems, some of which are of a more serious nature including heart disease and stroke , as well as psychological disturbances such as increased stress, anxiety and irritability. Recent literature appears to confirm that the practice of regular yoga can significantly decrease sleep disturbances, and can serve as an effective non-pharmacological intervention for restorative sleep as it combines various postures, breathing techniques and meditation. It can also cause a significant reduction in the time it takes to fall asleep as well as improving the overall quality of sleep, which in turn improves general well-being and health.
Yoga Is For Everyone
One of the greatest benefits of yoga is that this practice is for everyone, regardless of their age or occupation. The idea that one has to be naturally flexible to do yoga is a great misconception; flexibility comes as a result of regular practice. Flexibility is also about the mind, not just the muscles – often if an individual has their mind made up that they can or cannot do a particular activity, this become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Regular yoga practice is good for both the body and the mind.