The Health Benefits of Yoga

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The Health Benefits of Yoga


10 Reasons Yoga is Beneficial to You

The practice of yoga has become more and more popular in The West over recent years; however it still has the image of being mostly about popping your leg behind your head, sitting in the lotus position and all sorts of fancy “show off” poses! The truth is there are numerous benefits and many more aspects to it than just the physical practice (which of course is still very important!)

Here is a taste of what yoga has to offer as a transformative element in everyday life:

1. Relaxation

At its very core, this is what yoga is all about. The relaxation you can find on the mat soon becomes present in and through daily life. Letting go of worries, spending quality time on yourself and, of course, releasing tension in the body, all help to unwind and soften. In today’s often stressful and fast paced society this is a crucial benefit in terms of long-term holistic health.

2. Improving the breath

One essential aspect to yoga is the awareness of the breath. This has many benefits in itself, for example, developing a long smooth breath calms the nervous system and can help relieve anxiety issues. It also keeps you safe throughout the physical practice – if your breath becomes ragged and uneven, you’ve taken the pose too far and should take a step back. On top of this, using pranayama (breath management) exercises can help clear the lungs, steady the mind and prevent colds and flus.

3. Awareness of the body

Many people who start yoga have no idea where their arm or leg is at the beginning! We’ve all been there – you look up during trikonasana (triangle pose) and your arm is dangling somewhere instead of shooting straight up to the ceiling as you thought it was! Over time, the awareness improves significantly. This is a huge benefit to overall well being as you can relate more to what is going on in your own body, choose the foods and habits which serve your health and avoid injury in yoga, but also other activities.

4. Stillness and comfort

Yoga teaches us to have more stillness in our lives. To be able to sit in a comfortable position for a length of time is another significant benefit of yoga. At first, this can seem impossible – especially as many people find their legs and hips too tight. This is where the physical poses (called “asana”) come in, allowing these muscles to stretch and relax, the back to strengthen, and sometimes in a more demanding practice, help you realise the relief of a simple rest with the legs crossed! Many “advanced” yogis strip their practice back to basics, realising the importance of a stable, strong seated position, an aligned yet relaxed downward facing dog pose, or a well balanced tree pose, resting into the stillness.

5. Management of the mind

Being able to sit comfortably also has the benefit of allowing time for meditation. The common misconception of this important aspect of yoga is that the aim is to empty the mind. This is not the case, instead it is about being able to sit with the thoughts, letting them come and go naturally without giving them any importance in that moment. The repetition of a mantra (a practice called japa), is also very useful in managing the mind, as it is a rare occasion when you know which thought is coming next. If your mind wanders, you bring it back to the mantra. Doing this, or any form of meditation every day can help let go of

worrying, anxiety, and stress. It gives more control and relaxation to the mind.

6. Better sleep

A lot of people find their sleep patterns become more settled, the quality of rest improves becoming easier to fall asleep and stay asleep due to the connection to a long, deep breath pattern. The practice of Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep), in which you are led through a series of visualisations and a systematic relaxation of the body, can also be very useful in resting the body, mind and emotions.

7. Strength and flexibility

Of course, this is probably quite obvious! What doesn’t always translate though, is that you don’t have to have a demanding, pouring-with-sweat kind of practice for this to come true. Choosing the style that serves you, your body and schedule in the best way is the most important aspect of introducing yoga into your life. This is how you develop an enjoyable, regular practice, which will mean the increased strength can be built slowly and steadily, with improved flexibility coming to you in a healthy and sustainable way.

8. Keeping your muscles health

Stretching and toning generally means happy muscles! Often also finding some that you were not aware of in the first place (yoga can sometimes seem “floaty, easy and something for the girls”, until you wake up the next day after a strong class, feeling all your muscles!!) Using the muscles in this lower impact, steady way will also mean that they are more likely to stay happy and healthy when you go for high impact activities such as running, helping to prevent injury.

9. Improving circulation and digestion

Yoga helps to keep the body healthy, inside and out. All of the organs are given a good massage, helping the blood go where it’s meant to, encouraging balance in the glands, and helping the systems of the body to work efficiently. This gives what we call a “yoga glow”! You can also feel this inside and out!

10. General happiness

Feeling good overall, promoted by all of the aforementioned benefits, comes hand in hand with yoga! This is why people have been using this practice, living it, breathing it, teaching it and sharing it for thousands of years. The word yoga translates in many ways: one popular meaning being “union”. This can be in so many ways – union of body & mind, of breath, of the self to the total. Whatever it means to you, explore, relish the journey and give yourself some time and space. Find a teacher and a style of practice that suits you. Make it realistic and enjoyable. Open your mind, don’t take it too seriously, but see what it can give you
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