Yoga has been around for thousands and thousands of years. There are different styles, types and teachings. Whatever yoga practice one does the aim is to be in the present, focused in the body and in a state of flow. Today, the yogi is thought of flexible but there is so much more to it and anyone can do it, even me who still can’t touch my toes!
Let’s get into the positive effects on not only the body but the mind and the spirit. What is yoga trying to teach us in the busy society we live in today and what can we gain from this ancient practice? The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuji”, which means union. This union meaning of the body and the mind. In Kinesiology we study this connection between the body and the mind and the benefits of yoga are many.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
- Improve flexibility and mobility. There is even chair yoga for those with limited ability.
- Building strength comes from stretching and toning the body.
- Better posture- helps put the body in a correct posture, walking taller and sitting with a straight back has huge benefits.
- Gives support to the immune system
- Opens sinuses and facilitates drainage especially using Om
The mind-body connection is one we are starting to reconnect to as a society but there is still so much more to go. This is especially important with all the distractions our current world has. Putting our bodies into physical harmony has an impact on our overall well-being as well.
Mind and Spirit Benefits of Yoga
- Yoga aims to stills the mind and get us in tune with the body
- There have also been studies shown improvements in anxiety and depression
- Although meditation has many benefits some of those who are depressed are stagnant and do not have much physical movement in their lives. Being in a meditative state and practising yoga allows for the flow of qi in the body which then impacts stagnant stuck energy within us as well.
Benefits of Yoga on Stress
- Many studies do show a decrease in stress when compared with the control group and lower levels of cortisol have scientifically proven so. If you have ever done a yoga practice, even without science backing it people will report a significant feeling of calm after they leave the mat.
- Yoga helps regulate the adrenal glands which can cause issues if the fight or flight response is consistently activated.
“When you get stressed – what changes? Your breath. When you get angry – what changes? Your breath. We experience every emotion with the change of the breath. When you learn to navigate and manage your breath, you can navigate any situation in life.” – Jay Shetty
Focusing on the breath is a simple yet very powerful tool that if used more commonly today would be very calming to society as a whole. If we just stopped and focused on the breath, which is the primary focus of yoga, there would be significant benefits. There is even Nidra yoga which is just for sleeping (helping you sleep deeper) and karma yoga for doing kind deeds without getting acknowledged or expecting anything in return. These different styles of yoga show that there is a wide range accessible to all levels and doesn’t have to be handstands or curling yourself into a pretzel.
More Physical Benefits
- Pain relief- yoga is also said to be a pain reliever. Those with chronic pain have shown in studies reduced levels of pain and arthritis, as well as other inflammatory conditions, have shown significant improvements.
- As mentioned above improves inflammation which is arguably the largest cause of disease today and various studies show the reduction in inflammation.
- Better balance and coordination
- More efficient lung exhalation
- Releases tension in muscles in the body
- Control blood pressure and a healthy heart
- Spine protection also results from doing a proper yoga practice
The mind-body connection that is so important is strengthened by yoga as well. The breathwork also increases energy and awakens the chakras in the body.
- Drains lymphatic system (which helps fight infections, get rid of toxins and even rid of cancerous cells)
- Yoga is also said to increase libido
- Gives you more energy
- Allows for more focus (coordination, memory, and reaction time have been shown in studies)
More Benefits of the Mind and Spirit
- Develops awareness of the body (current awareness during the yoga practise as well as noting transformation that occurs over time)
- Encourages self-care by noting what areas of your body need attention
- Develops compassion and friendliness as well as being equanimous
- Improves self-esteem
And if we didn’t convince you of this yet, here’s one last reminder: Deep and calm breathing is a crucial part of every yoga practice. As a beginner, cultivating the proper breathing is so important so that it can become automatic and an important part of the yoga practice. So grab a mat or a place to practice and start to reap some of the many benefits of yoga.
Kristyn Wagner – CCM Graduate, Kinesiologist and Mind Body Medicine Practitioner.
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