Yoga For the Body and Mind: Benefits of the Practice
Yoga lovers roll out their mats and rave about the benefits that the over 5,000 year-old practice can have. So what’s all the hype about? Is yoga really as beneficial as some say? You might be doubtful of the practice, even intimidated. But yoga isn’t just for people that are naturally as flexible as rubber bands. Its benefits for the body and mind are far and wide, and accessible to everyone. Today, we’ll explore what yoga is and how it can help you both physically and mentally.
What exactly is yoga?
Yoga can be traced back to sacred texts from Northern India that are more than 5,000 years old. Over thousands of years, yoga has been refined, interpreted, and changed in different ways, especially as it moved towards and became popularized in the West in the 20th century.
The word yoga has its origins in words from the Sanskrit language; yuj, meaning “to yoke” and samadhi, meaning “concentration.” Together, these words symbolize the idea of a union– joining the mind, body, and spirit.
Many types and styles of yoga exist, but in the West the practice is more focused on physical exercises that relax the body and improve flexibility by combining poses (called asanas) with facets of meditation. Yoga also has a heavy focus on breathing techniques.
Yoga poses are designed to stretch muscles. More vigorous styles of the practice can increase your body’s strength, balance and endurance. Besides improving flexibility and strength in the body, yoga has some unexpected benefits like reducing stress and heart disease factors, losing weight, and improving sleep.
The calming techniques of yoga such as deep breathing and mental focus help lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and glucose levels, and slow the heart rate. This not only benefits people with high blood pressure and heart disease, but helps lower the risk of heart disease and improves overall heart health. Studies have even shown that patients with heart failure increased their exercise capacity and quality of life after an eight-week yoga program.
There’s no need for fad diets if you incorporate exercise like yoga into your routine. Yoga may not be as cardio-heavy as other exercises, but you still lose calories during the practice, making it a fun and easier weight-loss tool.
Since yoga helps calm the mind and relax the body, practicing it before bed can be beneficial to those with insomnia or other sleep problems. Yoga slows the heart rate and relaxes your muscles, making it easier for your body to slip into sleep. This natural sleeping aid might be able to replace your sleeping pills if you build it into your pre-bedtime routine.
Yoga’s physical benefits have been shown to reduce pain in conditions like multiple sclerosis and arthritis. Controlled breathing which is incorporated in yoga may even help ease asthma symptoms.
Because of the relaxation and mindful techniques incorporated in yoga, the mind can’t help becoming more calm and focused. Each year, one in five adults in the United States suffer from a mental illness. Yoga is popularly used as one coping method for mental health, aiding in healing and recovery. Yoga’s stress-relieving techniques can help reduce anxiety by calming the nervous system, and has shown to reduce symptoms of depression and schizophrenia. Some types of yoga are even trauma-focused, which calm the body’ distress and is beneficial for people who suffer from PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The practice of yoga is clearly something that is more than just a mind, body, and spirit connection. It improves overall wellbeing and quality of life, making it a helpful tool to use to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
You don’t need to have the ability to touch your toes or do a perfect downward dog to start your yoga routine. You don’t even need a yoga mat to reap the benefits of this calming practice.
Ready to get started? Find a yoga instructor near me.