Yoga offers a wealth of physical, mental, and emotional benefits for the dedicated practitioner. This ancient practice hailing from India incorporates controlled breathing, meditation, and poses held throughout the session to induce relaxation and a balanced mind.
While there might not be enough in-depth conclusive studies that discuss the many benefits of yoga, those who engage in the practice often share how it has added value to their physical and mental well-being. Several testimonies from yoga practitioners reveal its healing powers and how it reduces stress in varying aspects and degrees.
What are some of the benefits of yoga for your physical, as well as for your mental health? Read on to find out.
The origins of yoga
The word “yoga” was derived from the Sanskrit word “yuji,” which translates to yoke, union, or “to join.” Rightly so, because the word perfectly encapsulates what yoga does for an individual: it brings together one’s mind and body to help a person move through life in a calmer, more grounded way.
Yoga’s history may be somewhat shrouded in obscurity because of the way it was passed through oral tradition from sacred texts and teachings. Many researchers believe that yoga dates back to 10,000 years, with significant periods of innovation that allowed it to flourish into what it is now.
What are the kinds of yoga you can practice?
Some yoga styles will allow you to develop better strength, flexibility, and balance, as well as relieves tension in the body. To get the most out of your yoga practice, you must choose a type tailored to your fitness level and personal goals. Some notable types of yoga that you may explore include:
Hatha Yoga: It is a gentle kind of practice that focuses on physical poses that are relatively simple and can be offered to most beginners.
Iyengar Yoga: Known for its slower pace, Iyengar yoga is another beginner-friendly practice that may involve props such as blocks or straps. Iyengar yoga is a lot like Viniyoga and Anusara yoga.
Viniyoga: Viniyoga focuses on how the breath moves through one’s body and how it can affect every pose sustained. It involves deep stretches that are gentle enough for those who want to build flexibility, recover from certain types of injury, or gain more physical awareness and relaxation.
Anusara Yoga: This is a modern incarnation of Hatha yoga, with more than 200 poses derived from the said practice. Teachers start the class with a chant, and the session ends with a silent meditation.
Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga is a more intense kind that employs a unique breathing technique to help focus the mind. A continuous series of challenging yoga poses must be performed to complete an Ashtanga yoga routine.
Vinyasa Yoga or Power Yoga: Vinyasa is a practice that requires physical stamina. A typical Vinyasa or Power yoga session flows from one pose to another in a progressive sequence and builds up to strong poses that challenge the body’s strength, flexibility, and balance.
Bikram Yoga: A challenging form of the practice, Bikram involves doing a series of 26 yoga poses in a room with a temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prenatal Yoga: Gentle stretches, breath work, and achievable poses are offered in prenatal yoga, which is excellent for pregnant women who want to maintain their physical and mental health at an optimal level.
The Main Benefits of Yoga
Some kinds of yoga, like Kundalini and Jivamukti, involve deep dives into the spiritual and philosophical concepts behind yoga.
Yoga offers stiff muscles a chance to get into deep stretches to relieve muscle tension. Researchers discovered that people who practiced yoga upped their flexibility by 35% after two months of practice.
The more physical kinds of yoga, like Vinyasa and Ashtanga, helps build muscles. These styles incorporate poses like downward dog and a variety of plank poses that boost upper-body strength when practiced consistently. Standing poses held for specified times challenge the legs to strengthen the hamstrings, core muscles, and quadriceps.
Encourages better posture
Poor posture can cause one or a combination of physical pains in one’s back, neck, muscles, and joints. Being able to sustain intense poses and improved flexibility also automatically improves one’s posture.
Foils cartilage and joint damage
Exploring your body’s full range of motion through yoga will help prevent degenerative diseases like arthritis. This is because joint cartilage receives fresh nutrients when old fluids are squeezed out from them through movement, generating a fresh supply.
Improves overall breathing
Different types of yoga always involve an amount of breath work that helps the body relax.
Better blood circulation
Practicing yoga increases blood flow, which means that more oxygen gets into your cells to improve your bodily functions. Oxygenated blood flowing through internal organs encourages better overall health.
Promotes deep sleep
Restorative forms of yoga provide some downtime for the body’s nervous system because of its meditative aspect, promoting better sleep.
Yoga is known to help alleviate stress. Some studies indicate that yoga lowers the release of cortisol, which is the body’s stress hormone. Many people who suffer from anxiety use yoga as a tool to help cope with their condition.
Practicing yoga regularly helps improve overall focus because it persistently shows practitioners the importance of staying in the present moment. This meditative aspect of yoga betters a person’s memory, coordination, and problem-solving skills.
Inspires an overall healthy lifestyle
When one has a calmer mind, persistent negative thoughts like anger, desire, or sadness that can wreak havoc on one’s mental health are kept at bay. Staying calm usually leads to higher levels of happiness and increased self-esteem, making one more inclined to prioritize self-care in all aspects of life.
How often should you do yoga?
Practicing yoga even once a week provides the benefit of you being fully present in your body. According to a yoga instructor Heidi, being present in the moment gives one a “total time-out from the rest of the world.”
Before jumping onto the mat, assess your personal goals and physical limitations. Be honest with yourself and start with gentler kinds of yoga if you are not yet ready for more vigorous forms. At the same time, ensure that you are still able to challenge your body in ways that will boost your overall health.
Take what you need from the kind of yoga you have chosen and go deeper into the discipline by exploring its more spiritual or philosophical aspects if it suits your needs.
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