What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that has been used for thousands of years for mental and physical health.
It combines physical postures with breath work to help improve flexibility, posture, strength and to help calm the mind.
In short, yoga is a science, a moving meditation that is practiced world wide to help live a more peaceful, happier life.
Benefits of yoga
– Increased flexibility
One of the most obvious benefits.
Regular practice releases facia. (A thick sheet or band of connective tissue surrounding the muscles; which over time, hardens and causes stiffening of the body if not released)
So as you practice yoga, you’ll notice how the body feels lighter and more able to move with ease.
You’ll also notice that you have less aches and pains.
For example, tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain.
– Builds muscle strength
Yoga is more than just stretching. Challenging poses such as balances, body weight exercises and inversions improve over all over bodily strength. These postures force the body to engage and flex the muscles. Regular practice will improve strength of the arms, legs, back and core.
– Improves posture
Poor posture can cause pain all over the body. Yoga re-trains the body how to sit and stand correctly.
Most poses require the core to be engaged and the shoulders pulled back. So over time, the posture is improved naturally without having to think about it too much.
You’ll keep the spine healthy and the discs supple with all the forward bends, back bends and twists you’ll be doing.
– Relaxes the system and calms the mind
In general, yoga helps us to let go of negative emotions that cause suffering, such as stress, anger, anxiety, fear and sadness and encourages us to live more in the present moment.
You are encouraged to relax and slow your breath, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system.
You’ll find that your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure is decreased, bringing on the relaxation response.
– Improves focus and concentration
Practicing yoga and meditation naturally improves focus and concentration by ridding the mind of distracting thoughts and encouraging you to focus on a single point of focus (dristi gaze).
Speed and accuracy of mental processing and memory are also improved.
Yoga can help with many things, including all the points listed above.
From personal experience, I would say that yoga is truly a healer. There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get after practicing. You may go into the class feeling a certain way, but the chances are you will leave feeling lighter and more energised.