Yoga has been practiced in India for 6000 years. And, while it has its origins in Eastern culture, it has hit the Western world by storm.
Today, more than 19 million Americans practice yoga, and millions more do across the world. It is also a multi-billion dollar per industry.
Those who do yoga report various reason for engaging in this unique fitness routine, some of which include:
- Build strength
- General fitness
- Peace and contentment
- Reduction of stress
- and much more
If you see yogis (persons who practice and teach yoga), you can see how well-developed their bodies are. They don’t necessarily bulk up, but you can tell that they have strength and endurance.
Main Benefits Of Yoga
Since the movements and poses in yoga are deliberate and yet slow, they do not strain muscles. Instead, the movements allow for better blood circulation, better stretching of muscles and it helps strengthen the joints.
Endurance, or the ability to bear pain for prolonged periods of time is also increased with consistent practice of yoga.
As the body gains strength, so it also gains endurance. As the mind is able to control its reactions to stresses, so it learns to modify its perception of pain.
What most people do not realize is that yoga is not just an exercise regimen or a workout but the slow and deep breathing is meditative. It allows the person to quiet their mind as they quiet their body by concentrating on breathing slowly and deeply. The first thing you’ll notice is that the slow and deep breaths cleanse and remove the clutter from your mind. You’ll also notice that if you feel agitated, the slow deep breathing of yoga calms you down.
The effect of yoga is cumulative. This means that if you consistently practice yoga even outside of your scheduled yoga classes, the good effects on your mind and your body increase the longer you practice yoga. For instance, when slow and deep breathing becomes a habit, you can see how it helps you relax even in the most tense and intense moments of your work day.
The cumulative effect is that your body learns to avoid stress reactions. Stress reactions are the body’s way of preparing us to fight or to flee situations which are perceived to be dangerous and threatening.
This helps you when a barking dog chases you while you are jogging. However, when the stress reaction is prolonged or recurrent as when your body prepares to rush to meet deadlines all day, every day or prepares to “fight” with people who make life difficult for you, you are living with stress. Stress becomes a way of life and it overworks the heart and causes a lot of wear and tear in our organs.
Stress which is chronic or prolonged alters the chemistry in the brain, too. It makes you irritable and it affects your concentration and focus. It increases your vulnerability to diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease. Yoga, because it helps you relax and neutralize stress, also helps you avoid these lifestyle diseases, as well.
Yoga’s meditative component increases your self-awareness. This means that you become more aware of how you feel and what you are thinking. This makes it easier for you to self-evaluate, reflect and modify your emotional responses to everyday stresses and adversities.
When you learn to modify your emotional responses, you also learn to put things in perspective. You’ll find yourself resisting anxious and depressing thoughts. The slow deep breathing which increases blood flow to the brain also helps to lift mood. You become more positive in your outlook.
Since yoga keeps the mind clear, it becomes possible to process information faster and to absorb them more readily. It does not make you smarter by increasing your IQ, but you learn to focus and make decisions more readily. You learn to use your faculties more purposively.