When you look at the internet today, you’ll see a lot of posts about yoga. In fact, the world is buzzing with yoga and it might leave you wondering, ‘what is yoga really all about?’.If you think yoga is just for curvy and flexible women, you’re wrong. Yoga is more than losing weight and looking good in a yoga pants. It’s a philosophy. It’s a way of life. And it might just do you a lot of good.
Yoga came from the Sanksrit word, “Yuj” which essentially translates to “union” or “yoke”. According to the ancient scriptures, yoga leads to the union of the man’s consciousness and the universal consciousness. Basically, it focuses on bringing balance and harmony to the mind, body, and the universe.
Yoga has been around for 5,000 years but some researchers believe that it’s 10,000 years old. It was first discovered in the ancient texts Rig Veda and was then gradually refined by the Brahmans and Vedic priests. The first systematic approach to yoga was presented by Pitanjali’s Yoga-Sutra which defined the yoga practice as “eight-limbed path” towards enlightenment.
If you constantly do yoga, you’ll probably notice a lot of difference in your lifestyle. For instance, you’re more careful of your food intake or you’ll notice that you’re sleeping better ever since you started yoga. Sometimes, though, some people will barely notice any difference and this may be because they’re stuck on the body level thereby preventing them to fully maximize the benefits of connecting the breath, mind, and body.
The wonderful thing about yoga is that: when you finally achieve the perfect harmony, it could make a lot of changes in your life. You become stronger, calmer, and most importantly, happier.
11 Benefits of Yoga
As yoga becomes more popular, more and more people are also drawn to the discipline. Along with the goal of reaching self-realization, here are 15 other benefits you can enjoy from practicing yoga:
1. Weight Loss
This is probably the most popular and desired benefit of yoga. The matter of whether or not yoga is effective in weight loss has been debated for years. But stretching and meditation isn’t there for nothing. The flow of postures done bring about a lot of benefits. For one, it helps in detoxifying the body and mind. It helps you become aware of your surroundings and essentially lead you to start a healthier diet.
Different yoga types that focuses on cardio and strength-building like power yoga and vinsaya yoga are also effective in burning fats as they are fast-paced. The combination of the two helps in burning calories as well as in increasing muscle mass.
2. Improves Flexibility
Improved flexibility is usually the first benefit that yogis notice as they start their yoga journey. Regular yoga practice can stretches and tones your muscles and at the same time also makes them stronger. Gradually, you’ll feel your body loosen and you’ll be able to do poses you never thought you’d be able to do before.
If you experienced pain and muscle aches the next day after yoga, you can expect those to disappear as you continue practicing since yoga also helps in correcting the alignment of the spine and in improving the flexibility of the ligament. If you stick to your regular yoga routine, you’ll be able to notice an improvement on your sitting, standing, and walking posture.
3. Better Diet
Yoga also helps promote a healthier lifestyle in most people. It encourages deep breathing which helps you focus on the sensations in your body. It also helps you become aware of everything that is going on inside your body therefore shifting your focus on addressing hunger and satiety.
Moreover, yoga may also inspire a lot of people to become a conscious eater. As a result, a lot of people who practice yoga have shifted into a strict vegetarian-diet. They stop seeing food as a way to cope and instead they start seeing it as a way to refuel the body.
4. Improves Brain Activity
Another popular benefit of yogas its ability to improve focus. It helps your brain recall and process information more accurately. Aside from that improvement in the reaction time, IQ, memory, as well as coordination is also shown by people who constantly practice yoga.
In addition, meditation coupled with yoga has the ability to enhance your intuition therefore developing a person’s ability to fix their attention on the things that are needed to be done. According to a study published by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, brain activity is improved with just 20 minutes of yoga. Can you imagine what an hour-long yoga can do to your brain?
5. Boosts Energy
If you find yourself having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning to start your day, try doing five different yoga poses and notice how it improves your energy and mood throughout the day.
Need a boost in the middle of a hectic day? Try doing a few asanas to help kick-start your nervous system. You’ll be surprised with how much yoga affects your energy levels throughout the day.
6. Strengthens the Immune System
Yoga is also helpful in keeping harmful microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria at bay through cleansing practices, or kriyas. Through a series of bending, twisting, and inverting mixed with proper breathing techniques helps the body focus more on the parasympathetic nervous system which helps in the resting and digesting activity of the body.
A study in Norway has shown that yoga affects the immune system at a cellular level therefore influencing the gene expression in strengthening the immune system. Doing a series of poses also affects the drainage of the lymph which helps the immune system to effectively fight off bacteria, drain the body of toxic metabolic by-products, and destroy malignant cells.
7. Relieves Stress
Cortisol plays a very important role in stressful events. In fact, it is popularly known as the stress hormone in the body. Stressful events can cause the cortisol levels to increase. Yoga, however, helps reduce the cortisol levels in the body thereby reducing stress. Mindfulness also helps in getting rid of the stress that has been accumulating in your body.
If you’re drained with all the work you did throughout the day, head on to your favourite yoga studio and spend some time doing some poses while focusing on your breathing. It’s important to remember that these two are important for an effective meditation.
8. Better Sleep
For many people, especially those with insomnia, yoga has helped them sleep throughout the night. Since yoga helps in relieving stress, it goes without saying that it could also aid in helping a person sleep better at night. One of the main causes of insomnia in most people is stress. Instead of thinking constantly about your problems, try channelling it by doing a restorative yoga. This type of yoga is extremely helpful in calming your nervous system which helps in helping you sleep better.
9. Improve Balance
Regular yoga practice can help improve both your body and mind’s balance. Postures that help you balance such as the mountain chair pose helps you develop muscle memory and increases your proprioception. People with poor balance usually have a problem with their proprioception. Standing with one foot on some yoga posture also help in strengthening the muscles of the foot.
Balance is especially important in the elderly. This is also the reason why yoga is recommended for them. When they develop a proper balance they experience less falls and this could also help in delaying their transfer to an assisted living facility.
10. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Yoga has also shown to have an effect in the cardiovascular health of a person. In fact, a study which included 19 people with heart failure resulted in patients with improved heart health and an improved ability to perform exercises. Larry Phillips, a cardiologist at the NYU Lagone Medical Center have also stated that yoga helps in reducing blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, and stress – all of which are symptoms and risk factors of cardiovascular disease.
Yoga also increases the heart rate as well as decrease the accumulation of arterial plaques. This can help in decreasing the risk of having heart attacks.
11. Build Bone Strength
You can never deny the fact that as a person age, their bones also start deteriorating and osteoporosis can result.
Doing yoga poses can help in delaying bone deterioration. For instance, the bridge pose is great in stretching the back, chest and neck. Tree pose, is another classic pose that helps in bone strengthening and at the same time aids in stretching the muscles on the lower extremities. Other poses such as downward dog and upward facing dog also helps in strengthening the bones in the arm which are more prone to osteoporotic fractures.
Moreover, since yoga also helps in reducing the cortisol levels in the body, it could also be of help in maintaining the calcium levels in the bone.
The best thing about yoga is that it is a suitable exercise for all ages. Whether you’re a teenager or a senior, you may be able to practice yoga and enjoy all of its benefits. Start by doing some simple poses and work your way up. The important thing to remember that small steps can take you further than you can expect.
Grab your mat, breath in and out, and start busting up some yoga moves!