Over the last few decades, there has been an upsurge in the popularity of yoga. Not only has research proved the many benefits of yoga, but medical professionals and celebrities are also adopting and recommending this incredible practice. While some deem yoga as just another fad and associate it with new age mysticism, others vouch for how amazing this form of exercise feels. What they do not realize is that what they regard as just another workout will benefit them in ways they never imagined.
A. What Is Yoga?
Before we get into the benefits of yoga, it is important to understand what yoga really is. Many people call it an ancient method of training, and others call it a set of difficult poses. But the word ‘yoga’ actually means union. It is a practice that connects the body, mind, and spirit through different body postures, meditation, and controlled breathing.
The renowned Yogi, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev calls yoga “an expression of life.” He says, “Yoga essentially means finding the keys to the nature of the existence.”
Yoga is not just about bending or twisting the body and holding the breath. It is a mechanism to bring you into a state where you see and experience reality just the way it is. If you allow your energies to become exuberant and ecstatic, your sensory body expands. This enables you to experience the whole universe as a part of yourself, making everything one – this is the union that yoga creates.
The founder of Yoga, Patanjali said, “Sthiram sukham asanam.” It means that a posture that seems firm and comfortable is your asana. You might be surprised to know that an asana is only a preparatory step in the practice of yoga. It is a means that helps you achieve the greater good. Yoga aims to create perfect harmony between your mind, body, and spirit. When you fine-tune yourself so that everything functions wonderfully within you, you will bring out the best of your abilities.
The perfect unison can be achieved through Hatha Yoga and its various branches (Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Yin Yoga, Kundalini Yoga), depending on what you like and the problems you are looking to tackle through the practice.
B. What Are The Benefits Of Yoga?
Yoga as a practice has countless benefits that positively affect you both physically and mentally. The picture above gives you an overview of how yoga affects your body over a span of time. Mentioned below are the different ways yoga helps you overcome health and wellness issues. There are about 77 benefits listed. Take a look.
C. The Internal Health Benefits Of Yoga
Whether it is reducing your blood pressure or raising your pain tolerance, listed below are a few things that yoga works on internally. These are some positive changes you will feel within a few days of practice.
- Enhanced Circulation – The very first thing that yoga does is improve the circulation of blood. This means better transportation of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Improved blood flow also indicates healthier organs and glowing skin.
- Lowered Blood Pressure – When you practice yoga regularly, the blood circulation in the body is enhanced. This also allows oxygenation in the body. There is a significant reduction in blood pressure as the body calms down.
- A Drop in The Pulse Rate – Yoga reduces the strain in the body, thereby easing it down. When the body relaxes, the pulse rate is lowered. A low pulse rate indicates that your heart is strong enough to pump more blood in a span of fewer beats.
- Lowered Respiratory Rate – Yoga involves a whole lot of controlled breathing. It entails filling your lungs to their full capacity, thus allowing them to work more efficiently.
- Better Cardiovascular Endurance – Yoga improves oxygenation in the body and also lowers the heart rate. This results in higher cardiovascular endurance.
- Stimulation Of Organs – When you practice yoga, the internal organs are massaged, thereby increasing your resistance to diseases. Also, once you are attuned to your body, after years of practice, you will be able to tell instantly if your body doesn’t function properly.
- Improvement In Gastrointestinal Health – Studies have shown that with regular practice of yoga, the digestive system is activated, and indigestion, gas, and other stomach related diseases are eliminated. Overall, the gastrointestinal functions improve in both men and women.
- Increased Immunity – Yoga and immunity go hand in hand. As yoga works towards healing and enhancing every cell in the body, your body automatically becomes more immune.
- Higher Levels Of Pain Tolerance – Yoga not only works towards reducing chronic pain, but it also increases the level of pain tolerance.
- Increased Metabolism – A balanced metabolism is necessary to achieve ideal weight. Yoga keeps the metabolism in check.
- Renewed Energy – Yoga has this ability to rejuvenate you. Most Yogis feel energized after a session of yoga.
- Improved Sexuality – Yoga increases your self-confidence and offers complete relaxation and more control. This gives your sexuality a much-needed boost.
- Sleep – Yoga helps you relax your mind completely. It helps you work on unnecessary tensions, thus facilitating better sleep.
D. The External Health Benefits Of Yoga
There are so many benefits the internal body experiences that we can only feel. However, yoga also works on the external body, making it possible for us to see the benefits. Read on. You will be pleasantly surprised by these yoga health benefits.
- Keeps Premature Aging At Bay – Everyone has to age, but it is important you age gracefully, and not before time. Yoga helps you detox, thereby eliminating toxins and free radicals. This, apart from other benefits, helps delay aging too. Yoga also relieves stress, which is another important factor to beat aging.
- Improves Posture – It is in the very nature of yoga to teach you how to control your body. With regular practice, your body will automatically assume the right stance. You will look both confident and healthy.
- Increasing Strength – When you practice yoga, you use the weight of your own body to increase your strength. This is an amazing method of strength training.
- Allows You To Maintain The Ideal Weight – With an increased or regulated metabolism, and a workout that helps you build lean muscle, yoga can work wonderfully to reduce, increase or maintain your ideal weight.
- Balance – Yoga also aims at increasing balance and focus as it allows you to gain control over your body. Regular practice will improve your ability to balance the poses in the class and focus well outside the class.
- Integrated Function Of The Body – As mentioned above, yoga means unison. When you start practicing yoga, your mind starts to work in union with your body, and this enhances movement and grace.
- Instills Full Body Awareness – When you practice yoga regularly, you will become increasingly aware of your own body. You will begin to notice yourself making subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will make you comfortable in your own skin.
- Increasing Core Strength – When your core is strong, your body is strong. Your core holds the weight of the body. It also helps you heal better and increases your resistance to injuries. Yoga works on the core and makes it strong, flexible, and very healthy.
E. The Emotional Health Benefits Of Yoga
Yoga creates a strong connection between the mind and the body, and this enhances your emotional health beautifully.
- Uplifts Your Mood – When you practice yoga, your body is filled with refreshing energy that uplifts your mood almost instantly.
- Reduces Stress – When you are on the mat, you focus on the practice. This means that all your attention is concentrated on the matter at hand, and your mind slowly drains out the stress and troubles that are plaguing it.
- Anxiety Management – A combination of feel-good stretches and controlled breathing helps you overcome anxiety.
- Fights Depression – When you practice yoga, repressed feelings surface. While you may feel sad, the negative energy is released. This helps to combat depression.
- Allows Self-Acceptance – Yoga brings about a journey of self-awareness and betterment of health. Your self-esteem improves, and you become more confident.
- Builds Self-Control – The controlled movements teach you how to render that self-control to all the facets of your life.
- The Benefit Of The Mind-Body Connection – When you coordinate your breath with your movements, your mind becomes calm and peaceful.
- Brings About A Positive Outlook To Life – With regular practice, many hormones in the nervous system are stabilized. This makes you more positive, and you tend to look at life with a refreshed perspective.
- Reducing Hostility – Yogis vouch for the fact that their anger is greatly controlled with the regular practice of yoga. The breathing and meditation calm the nervous system, thereby reducing anger and hostility. Less hostility means a lowered blood pressure. This automatically promotes a stress-free and healthier approach to life.
- Better Concentration – In less than eight weeks of yoga practice, you will find yourself to be more motivated. You will also be able to concentrate better.
- Improved Memory – With enhanced blood circulation in the brain and reduction in stress, your memory is bound to expand.
- Attention To Detail – When you practise yoga, you need to be attentive and follow the instructions closely about how to coordinate the breath and movement, and which leg or arm to move. This is also called Yoga for the brain, and it makes you very sharp. You tend to pay more attention to detail.
- Better Social Skills – As you practice yoga, you learn how every aspect of life is interconnected. With practice, you evolve from enriching yourself personally to connecting with the community. This helps improve your social skills.
- Tranquility And Calmness – The breathing and meditation help you disengage from your thoughts. This helps you calm down. With practice, you will notice how the calmness is no longer just a part of your practice – it becomes a way of life!
F. Yoga Working On The Body Chemistry
It also works on the chemistry of the body, altering the blood cells, the hormones, the glucose levels and more.
- Dropping The Cholesterol – Yoga helps lower the cholesterol levels in the blood owing to the increased circulation and burning of fat.
- Enhances The Lymphatic System – The lymphatic system boosts immunity and also helps to flush out toxins from your body. Yoga includes movements that strengthen the lymphatic system.
- Regulated Levels Of Glucose – Yoga also helps to keep the glucose levels in check, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes.
- Keeping The Sodium In Check – Yoga, just as any other effective workout program, helps lessen the level of sodium in the body. Fast foods and processed foods are full of sodium, and therefore, yoga is essential to cut the salt down and keep you healthy.
- Improved Endocrine Functions – When you practice yoga, your endocrine system is enhanced. The hormones are controlled and regulated, and this helps promote better emotional and physical health.
- Cutting Down The Triglycerides – Triglycerides are a type of fat present in the blood. High levels of triglycerides put you at the risk of heart diseases and high blood pressure. Practicing yoga helps you reduce the levels of triglycerides.
- Boosted Red Blood Cells – Yoga helps increase the number of red blood cells in the body. These red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. A low count of these cells results in low levels of energy and anemia.
- Better Absorption Of Vitamins – Enhanced blood circulation simply means better absorption of nutrients. Vitamins are a major part of these nutrients. They contain antioxidants and many other essential components for the working of your body.
G. The Benefits Of Yoga As An Exercise
When considered as a workout, yoga has benefits that no other form of exercise can offer. These reasons will compel you to take up yoga.
- Lowers The Risk Of Injury – Yoga comprises of low impact and controlled motions. Hence, there is a lower risk of injury during the practice when compared to other exercises.
- Activates The Parasympathetic Nervous System – When you practice yoga, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This helps to slow the pace of breathing and lower blood pressure. It also imparts healing and relaxation throughout the body. Other forms of exercise only stimulate the sympathetic nervous system.
- Toning Of The Muscles – With regular practice of yoga, you can build lean muscle. The muscles are flexed and toned with the practice.
- Dominating The Subcortex – The subcortical regions of the brain determine your well-being. While other forms of exercise dominate the cortex, yoga has more to do with the subcortex.
- Reduces The Consumption Of Oxygen – When you practice yoga, you consume lesser oxygen as compared to other workouts. Therefore, your body works more efficiently.
- Oxygen-Rich Breathing – Yoga imparts a natural and controlled breathing. This provides for oxygen-rich air and also gives your body a boost of energy after the workout. The best part is, you let go of fatigue through the workout.
- Balances Opposing Muscle Groups – Balance is the key when it comes to yoga, and yoga believes in counteractions for every muscle in order to maintain the balance. This ensures a better workout for the body. For example, you need to follow up an Upward Dog with a Downward Dog.
- Makes For A Non-Competitive Workout – Yoga believes in introspection and self-building. This eliminates the need for competition. When competition is out of the picture, you tend to workout slowly and concentrate on each movement, thereby avoiding injury and stress. Your workout will seem complete and wholesome.
- Increases Rage Of Motion – When you practice yoga, your body opens up, and the muscles become more flexible. This improves and increases your range of motion.
- Improves Eye-To-Hand Coordination – Yoga incorporates a whole lot of poses that involve the coordination of movement of the eyes and the hands.
- Enhanced Dexterity – The strong mind-body connection that yoga builds makes you quick-witted. The practice also improves your skill and grace.
- Quicker Reaction Time – Research shows that with regular practice of breathing and asanas, your reaction time is increased. This improvement is because you can process and concentrate better.
- Improves Endurance – When you work on the entire body, the endurance is built. This helps athletes significantly. Many sportspeople use yoga as a supplement to build endurance as they train in their own field.
- Increases The Depth Perception – When you become more aware of your body and its movements, you automatically work on an improved depth perception.
H. Yoga Working Towards Prevention Of Disease
Yes! Even doctors love yoga because they have experienced and learned first hand that yoga can help prevent the following diseases.
- Reduces The Risk Of Heart Diseases – With lowered weight, stress, and blood pressure, the cardiovascular health is improved. This greatly reduces the risk of heart diseases.
- Lowers The Chances Of Contracting Osteoporosis – It is proven that strength training makes the bones strong, which reduces the chances of osteoporosis. Yoga also lowers the levels of cortisol in the body, which helps to retain calcium in the bones.
- Keeps Alzheimer’s Away – Yoga is said to elevate the gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain. Studies say that low levels of GABA are responsible for the onset of Alzheimer’s. Meditation also works on the brain health, thus reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Type II Diabetes Is At Bay – Apart from the fact that yoga reduces the levels of glucose in the blood, it encourages stress reduction and physical exercise. This builds potential for insulin production in the pancreas.
I. Yoga For Reducing Or Alleviating Symptoms Of Problems
Research shows and medical professionals believe that a whole lot of diseases and disorders can be helped with the practice of yoga. Mentioned below are a few.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Yoga increases grip strength and helps in reducing the pain for those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Patients have seen significant improvement in just a few sessions.
- Asthma – The coordinated breathing, along with the asanas, helps alleviate asthma.
- Arthritis – Yoga combines slow movements with gentle pressure on the joints. This works wonders for those suffering from arthritis. Also, yoga relieves the trapped stress in the muscles that increases pressure on the joints.
- Multiple Sclerosis – Studies prove that yoga helps relieve the dreaded Multiple Sclerosis. Yoga works on the nervous system and improves nerve health, which helps treat the condition.
- Cancer – Yoga raises the count of the red blood cells and helps you gain strength. Those fighting cancers can benefit greatly when they combine the practice of yoga with their treatment. Yoga helps tackle stress. It also reduces nausea during chemo and helps deal with the ordeal better. The effects of cancer are significantly reduced with the practice.
- Muscular Dystrophy – If you practice yoga in the early stages of this disorder, it will help you gain some physical functions. Pranayama also helps to a great extent with this disorder.
- Migraines – Yoga improves blood circulation. Your head receives a fresh supply of oxygen and nutrients, thereby reducing migraines.
- Scoliosis – The different poses work on your core and help you straighten your posture. The curvature of the back gradually straightens out and the pain is relieved.
- Chronic Bronchitis – Yoga works on the respiratory system. The increased levels of oxygen help to treat chronic bronchitis. Yoga also aerates the lungs, giving them renewed energy.
- Epilepsy – Yoga improves breathing, reduces stress, and restores balance. All of this helps reduce and prevent epileptic seizures.
- Sciatica – Yoga improves the circulation of blood in the hips, which reduces the pain and cures sciatica.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Yoga reduces the symptoms of OCD, resulting in the lessening of medication.
- Constipation – Yoga stimulates the digestive system and improves its working. Thus, constipation will be eliminated.
- Sinusitis And Other Allergies – Yoga and breathing help clear the nasal passage. This helps reduce sinusitis and eliminate other allergies.
- Infertility And Menopause – Specific yoga poses work on increasing fertility. They help open up blocks in the fallopian tubes, reduce the symptoms of PCOD, and also enhance the health of the reproductive system. The side effects of menopause are also eliminated.
- Back Pain – Yoga reduces the spinal compression and works on the alignment of the body to reduce back pain.