Anyone who practices yoga regularly could assure you of the numerous benefits they experienced first hand. However, try telling a yoga newbie how weekly practice heals aches, increases happiness and boosts the immune system while improving strength and flexibility, and they might turn their head at you. After all, how could one practice do so much good for the body?
First, you must understand that yoga is more than following simple movements. It involves getting into a mindset of healing while practicing the deliberate, conscious flow of body motions. You can practice yoga in your home or a studio, following the instructions of a certified Yogi. No matter how or where you practice, you will experience a wide range of yoga benefits.
Yoga is a workout. When practicing yoga, you use your body weight in strength training. Many yoga poses challenge you to hold yourself up in steady positions, requiring strong, stable muscles. As you perfect these poses, your muscle builds. It is similar to a traditional workout, but instead of using steel weights, you are using your body weight.
Traditional strength training in the gym will build muscle while neglecting flexibility. Through yoga, you increase muscle tone and flexibility at the same time. Yoga will move your body through its full range of motion, remaining steady in poses to stretch muscles and joints. While these poses may be uncomfortable to rest in, they should never be painful. They should be challenging enough that your body gently opens, welcoming the stretch.
Maintaining good posture throughout the day is challenging. The head is like a heavy bowling ball being supported by the spine. Yoga helps bring awareness to the body, making it easier for you to tell when you are slouching or neglecting your posture. As you continue to practice yoga, you build the strength and flexibility needed to keep the shoulders back and head up.
A sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to spinal disks. They require movement to be healthy and safely support the body. Yoga will stretch the spine in different ways through backbends, forward bends, and spinal twists. All of these flexibility-increasing movements allow the spine access to vital nutrients.
Yoga increases blood flow and improves circulation to your hands and feet. It will bring more oxygen to your cells, making them function better as a result. Yoga will also increase the hemoglobin in red blood cells, preventing blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
The movements practiced throughout yoga can facilitate the drainage of lymph nodes, helping the lymphatic system fight infection. Psychological stress can lead to illness, but yoga helps the body to destress, therefore boosting immunity. Regular yoga can even help decrease the inflammation that occurs throughout the body.
People with high blood pressure may feel tentative about engaging in new exercises. However, certain yoga practices offer movements that can aid in reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke. Along with yoga, meditation and breathing practices can assist in lowering blood pressure.
Yoga allows for a sense of total body awareness, making it easier to tell where a part of the body rests in relation to another. Throughout our practice, we learn to balance our weight equally on both sides. As we get ahold of this sense, we increase our stability and therefore our balance.
Yoga brings the mind to the present moment. The goal is to be mindful without focusing on the uncontrollable future. Your focus should be on what is happening to the mind and body in that moment. Guided, meditated breaths are a big part of the yoga practice. These grounding breaths can be repeated throughout the day to bring your focus back to what matters— the now.
Yoga helps you destress and focus on the present moment. If you focus on the present moment, you cannot feel stress toward the future because it is not a real situation yet. If you commit to the yoga practice, it can change the chemical composition of the brain, making you feel happier after just one class.