Most people know yoga is good for you. But many people don’t know is just how good it is for you; the health benefits are immense.
Yoga as an exercise class is an amazing way to get your body toned and fit but it is yoga’s ability to connect our body to our mind that sets it apart from other forms of exercise.
Regular yoga practice provides tons of physical health benefits and also a heap of benefits to our mental health and connection to our spiritual self. Yoga really does connect the mind, body and the soul. Most people know yoga is great for strengthening and stretching the physical body, but it really steps out on its own as it strengthens and stretches the mind as well.
It may not be apparent at the beginning of your yoga journey, it took me about four years of regular yoga practice before I started to recognise the connection between my body and my mind on the mat (and off the mat), but once we start recognising this, we begin to evolve in ways we may have never thought possible.
As we begin to connect to our breath during our yoga practice, we begin to connect our mind to our body. This is the key feature of all yogic practices….connection to the breath. Practising asanas (the physical yoga postures) without breath awareness only exercises the body. To reap ALL the rewards of yoga, we have to connect to the breath.
Becoming aware of our breathing brings us into the present moment; it removes all that mind chatter….we can’t think about the ‘to-do’ lists, our worries or concerns when we’re focusing on our breathing. Simply focusing on the breath allows us to take a mental break. When we do this in unison with our yoga poses, it becomes a moving meditation. And we reap the rewards.
Here is a quick list of some of these rewards…
Physical benefits of yoga:
- Increased muscle strength
- Increased flexibility
- Increased energy
- Increased lung capacity
- Improved blood flow
- Improved digestion
- Stronger bones
- Better posture
- Improved athletic ability
- Better cardio/circulatory health
- More energy
- Better balance and co-ordination
- Boosted metabolism – weight reduction
- Protection from injury
- Increased libido
- Improved sleep
- Detoxifies the liver
- Aids fertility
- Can reduce chronic pain
- Boosts the immune system
- Can reduce blood pressure
- Regulates the adrenal glands
- Increases breath awareness
Mental health benefits of yoga:
- Helps you focus
- Increases mind/body connection
- Improves your mood, can even help with depression
- Takes us to a state of calmness, so can reduce anxiety
- Increases breath awareness
- Reduces stress related illnesses
- Boosts memory and concentration
- Helps improve our relationship…with ourselves and with others
- Encourages us to let go of emotional baggage
- We become more self-disciplined
- Connects us to our spiritual selves
People often ask…if yoga is not a religion, then how can it connect us to our spirituality? Well although yoga descended from India, where the majority of the population practised Hinduism, yoga actually transcends religion…any faith can practice yoga but it can be used to connect you to your God (if that is what you believe in). I personally don’t follow any organised religion; but I do believe there is a higher power.
What makes it spiritual, is connecting to our breath, therefore joining our mind, body and spirit. When we do that, we can connect to that Higher Power (whatever that may be).
Likewise, if you don’t have a belief system, it doesn’t have to be spiritual.
As we develop our yoga practice, we become more aware of our bodies; we notice how we feel. Some days we may be in top form and feel ready to bust out some strong postures we never thought our body capable of, other days we may prefer a slow, gentle practice where we don’t push ourselves and just enjoy a stretch and some quiet alone time. Both are important and equally beneficial….but it is learning to recognise what your body needs that is the key. And that is exactly what yoga can help us to do.
Practicing yoga brings so many benefits. And you don’t have to fit/flexible/young (or whatever else you may have been told)….ANYONE can do yoga. A teacher once told me, ‘if you can breath, you can do yoga’. So there you have it, no excuses 😉
Disclaimer: None of the information shared should be used as a replacement for seeking medical attention. Always seek advice from an expert.
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