People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years. While the original purpose was to elevate to a greater spiritual level, it became clear that yoga benefits the person as a whole. Modern scientific research has shown that the tremendous overall health benefits of a yoga lifestyle. Yes, yoga does improve the body, but surprising scientific research has shown that it changes the brain, as well. It’s about becoming a better version of yourself and getting in touch with the real, authentic you as the brain becomes more uncluttered. It keeps us focused on the present. While yoga begins on the mat, it extends to our entire day as greater compassion and awareness becomes a part of our life.
Yoga won’t provide untold riches, although the physical benefits are remarkable. The world is already filled with abundance, much of which we ignore. The real beauty of yoga is that it grounds us to the present, connecting us to the abundance that is within our grasp. A better, more fulfilled life is within our reach when we let go and simply accept what is there
Each yoga pose, which usually involves stretches, has its own purpose and benefit. The practitioner becomes aware of tension and learns to release it. Yoga poses are very specific, and perfection comes with practice, but it is not the ultimate goal. Yoga involves a lot of stretching, but, more importantly, it creates balance by increasing flexibility and strength.
Whatever type of yoga you practice, your body and mind simply improve. Yoga is extremely diverse and individual, which makes it important to work at your own level of comfort. Don’t use the person next to you in class as a guide, or even the teacher. Work the poses in the best way for you. This isn’t a speed contest, and you have nothing to prove. Yoga is a lifetime commitment, not a competition.
Even if you are not used to exercising, you can practice yoga. You may not be as flexible as the next person, but you will get there. Yoga is always a work in progress and never a competition. While it is a physical practice, yoga will inevitably touch on your spiritual side. It unifies mind and body to become one. Research conducted throughout the 20th century has found a myriad of physical benefits to practicing yoga.
Relief from Stress
Our lives are filled with daily stressors, and we know that stress can cause tremendous damage to the body and mind. The boss wants to talk, your spouse is upset, the mortgage is overdue, and the kids want the keys to the car. Just another typical day. Holding yoga poses, stretching muscles, being focused on the presents, and breathing deeply and slowly helps us achieve a state of greater relaxation and harmony. We are able to consciously choose our response to stress instead of being at its mercy. Remaining calm under difficult circumstances is a choice, and yoga can provide the tools.
Yoga and Pain Relief
Studies have proven that practicing yoga can provide tremendous relief for people suffering from multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other chronic conditions. We’ll discuss its amazing effect on the auto-immune system and cardio system at greater length in other chapters.
Yoga and Breathing
Yoga combines physical movements with breathing. Slower, deeper breathing can alleviate stress.
Yoga and Flexibility
Yoga involves a lot a stretching, which strengthens muscles. Since yoga impacts the entire body, flexibility and elasticity from head to toe. It also loosens tight, tense muscles and helps us become more relaxed.
Yoga and Weight Management
Yoga does not burn up as many calories as some other exercise regimes. However, it does increase body awareness. People who practice yoga become more aware of what they eat and the effect such food has upon their health. This usually leads to better, healthier eating habits and a natural loss of unwanted weight.
Yoga and Circulation
If your blood isn’t supplying your body and brain properly with oxygen, your health will suffer. You need proper circulation for the brain to function, energy, and the growth of cells. Sluggish circulation can cause nerve and tissue damage, blood clots, dizziness, among other problems. The thorough stretching in most yoga poses will improve circulation. The Camel Pose described in this book is an excellent way to improve circulation.
Yoga and Cardio Health
For patients who have experienced heart surgery, depression and anxiety can be a natural result. Yoga can be helpful in managing this type of post-operative stress. It can also lower blood pressure, serving as a preventive heart-healthy measure. The specific heart benefits will be discussed in a separate chapter.
There’s No Hurry – Take Your Time
These benefits will take time to achieve. Yoga is not a two-week miracle program. So, as you begin with your yoga sessions, allow sufficient time for the results to manifest themselves. You should see a huge difference in approximately two months. Whatever your reason for practicing yoga, you should notice an improvement in all aspects of your being.
Note: There was a great article on the topic published by Harvard Medical School called Yoga benefits beyond the mat definitely worth reading