Yoga can ease the pain of arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other chronic conditions.
Yoga, as we know it today, more commonly refers to the asanas or the physical poses that practitioners do as some form of exercise. However, yoga is much broader than that.
The word “yoga” comes from a Sanskrit root word that means connection. The physical aspect of yoga is only a part of the whole lifestyle. Yoga is actually a spiritual, mental, and physical practice that has been around since 3000 BC, according to some scholars, but only became popular around the mid-nineteenth century. And because it is a holistic practice, its effects do not only include physical benefits but also positive changes in one’s mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual health. We present here some of the most powerful benefits of regular yoga practice.
1. Yoga makes you flexible and strong.
If you want to get your blood sugar levels down and decrease the risk of diabetic complications like heart attack, blindness, and kidney failure, you should consider starting yoga today.
When you see practitioners stretching their limbs into poses that look pretty daunting, you know for sure that flexibility is a huge part of their practice. And because muscles and bones, joints, and ligaments become looser and well-oiled with flexibility exercises, aches and pains also begin to disappear! Tightness in the hips and hamstrings cause pain, but flexing them regularly can improve their condition and even result in better overall posture.
Regular practice of yoga also tones the muscles and builds them for strength. Good muscles protect our bodies and make us look better, too. Yoga builds healthy bones and wards off osteoporosis. Holding a pose in yoga is akin to lifting one’s own weight, which increases bone density over time.
2. It helps you breathe and relax well to achieve inner peace.
Research shows that yoga helps decrease the episodes of and pain intensity caused by migraine.
Yoga has a lot of breathing exercises that promote inner calm and peace. Breathing deeply and properly plays an important role in maintaining mindfulness during the practice. When you do yoga, you have to be in a zone where your mind is not troubled by worries, stress, or problems. You have to relax your body, slow your breath, and focus on the present. This practice calms the mind and lowers blood pressure.
It is a fact that yogis take fewer breaths that are full and complete, which is very calming. This brings more oxygen into the bloodstream. Yoga teachers even say that when you take fewer breaths, it is tantamount to extending your lifespan.
3. You get to recharge through your yoga practice.
If you’ve got the blues, cheer up with yoga.
There are practitioners who do yoga in the morning, before setting out to work. This gives them a good supply of energy to complete their daily tasks. Others find it more beneficial to go for a session at the end of the day to refresh themselves and recharge their batteries after a long, tiring day at work.
Whether you do it in the morning or in the evening, yoga definitely results in increased energy, which is a good thing to have no matter what time of day. Consistent practice will increase the serotonin levels in your body while decreasing monoamine oxidase and cortisol. Serotonin is a chemical found in the body that improves a person’s mood. Meanwhile, monoamine oxidase is an enzyme associated with depression while cortisol is known as the stress hormone.
4. Yoga boosts immunity and keeps illness at bay.
Inverted poses allow blood from the legs and pelvis to flow into the heart, infusing the blood in this critical organ with a fresh supply of oxygen.
A Norwegian study in 2013 involving experimental yoga program sessions found that yoga improves immunity at cellular level. The researchers noted that the positive changes were significantly greater among the yoga practitioners as compared to a control group who went on a hike as they listened to relaxing music. When a person does yoga, the changes in gene expression happen while the practitioner is still on the mat—it is an instant result.
If you are familiar with how our lymphatic system works, you’ll understand that when a person contracts and stretches their muscles and organs (as while in the practice of yoga), the flow of lymphs, which are rich in immune cells, in the lymphatic vessels is improved resulting in greater immunity. The body is then better able to fight infection, destroy cancer cells, and get rid of toxins.
People who have low self-esteem will benefit from regular yoga practice. Practitioners also experience feelings of gratitude and empathy, and desire for forgiveness.
Real health is not just about physical health. Real health includes mental and emotional well-being as well. With yoga, you can be sure that all these areas are supported. Through the asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), and meditation, yoga offers a holistic health package.
Mitchel Bleier, a yoga teacher of about two decades and owner of a yoga shala in the United States, says, “As you breathe better, move better, and circulate better, all the other organs function better.” Regular practice does not only increase blood flow in the body, it also causes blood pressure to drop and increases heart rate, which consequently lowers the risk of heart attack and assuages depression.
6. Practicing yoga also develops inner strength.
According to research, yoga practice is associated with mindful eating. This awareness helps curb cravings and, eventually, promotes weight loss.
For people who have made yoga part of their lifestyle, even during bad days when they have to drag themselves out of bed, they go through the asanas and make no excuses. And this fire and discipline that fuels their regular yoga practice is carried over to other areas of their lives. It is simply one of the benefits of practicing yoga—it builds the will and helps one make positive changes in their life.
It is not surprising to see that once you start your regular yoga practice, you’ll find yourself watching what you eat, quitting smoking, or overcoming your other dysfunctional habits. Because you will have developed inner strength, the benefits could be seen as outward manifestations apart from the various inner changes that only you would feel.
When a person starts doing yoga, the glow can definitely be perceived physically. But more importantly, crucial changes also happen inside the individual and around them. Their relationships are positively affected, their aura is charged with joy and happiness, and their personal universe becomes full of peace and love.
About Aimee Morales
Aimee Morales is a freelance writer and editor. She is the founder of FLOW, a small community of writers who write for healing and inspiration. She started the Freelance Writers' Guild of the Philippines (FWGP) in 2010 and served as its president until September 2020. Balangay Productions published her first book, “Why Mandaya Teens Have Sharp Black Teeth” in 2015. Five years later in 2020, she published her second book (an eBook) titled, “Alignment: Lessons on Writing”. Aimee is a single mother, tai chi and eskrima practitioner, and creator of the #santoshaproject - a personal effort to encourage more people to incorporate the Santosha gratitude practice into their daily lives.
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