So, you’ve heard that YOGA is really good for you and so many swear by its benefits. Moreover, something must have truly resonated with you as you chose to dig deeper with a sense of curiosity and landed on this page. Congrats! This is a great step in the right direction. If you practice yoga, then you may already recognise some of these benefits.
As a passionate yoga instructor who has been practising for over 10 years, I could sit here and write a book on all the reasons why integrating yoga into your lifestyle has been proven to provide unparalleled results. But I admit it might get boring, and I am probably biased. Before we get started, I do want to mention that like many, my journey began with the easy step of just giving a new ‘activity’ a chance. In no time I was hooked! Therefore, I cannot stress enough that the true power of this incredible practice transpires the moment you get on a mat and allow your body and mind to take the journey. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on key points which have impacted many, such as myself and my students.
Let’s start with the basics. What is yoga? Many have heard of this practice, and yet it is common that the true understanding of this beautiful experience is not fully clear. So let me begin here. Yoga itself has an incredible history, where its roots and various forms can be traced back to over 5,000 years. Yoga instructors dedicate lifelong studies to learn more about this practice. There is so much more than the western perception of yoga as a purely physical activity. Actually, the physical activity is just one of the 8 limbs of yoga which themselves branch out into other more detailed and specific limbs.
To sum it up for those who do not intend to devote a life to studying yogic texts and philosophy - but in no way trying to diminish the importance of its cultural roots and history - the yoga that most of us practice and are familiar with is the physical aspect. These yoga postures, known as Asanas, are an ancient form of movement that focus on strength, flexibility, and breathing to improve physical and mental wellbeing. What differentiates yoga from other physical activities is the focus on the breath and using it as a path to meditation. Devoted Yogis through their practice seek to reach ‘Samadhi’, the ultimate state of intense concentration achievable through meditation. This is regarded as the final achievement when union with the divine is reached. A good reason why we do so many poses to open the hips is so that we can comfortably sit crossed legs for hours and meditate!
Yoga creates balance and harmony in the body, mind, and soul. The 3 main reasons you practice yoga, which you might not be aware of just yet, are to improve your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.
The benefits of yoga I have shared with you below were initially passed on by ancient yoga teachers to their students through word of mouth. Today, with the boom of yoga enthusiasts in the western world, there has been science-based research that confirms many of these benefits. Here are a few for you to reflect on:
* Increased co-ordination, flexibility and muscle strength
* Improved respiration: with the coordination of breath with movement, and intensity of breath, lung capacity is strengthened
* Increased energy and vitality
* Maintenance of a balanced metabolism
* Cardio and circulatory health
* Protection from injury by strengthening the muscles that surround the joints most prone to injuries
* Sleep improvement
* Reduces muscle tension
* Supports mental health by bringing awareness to one’s actions
* Connection with yourself and your thoughts which help create connection with others
* Relieves stress as the nervous system is calmed
* Heightened concentration due to the elevated focus required in more challenging postures
* Being a meditation in movement allows the mind to relax and calm down
* Helps alleviate anxiety and depression
* Yoga teaches to be comfortable with stillness and surrender to the present
* The practice helps process emotions through its’ inner aspects
* Encourages more self-love, self-care, and self-confidence
* Prepares the body and mind for meditation, a practice that helps us get in touch with our greater self. The divine that lives within all of us.
* Awareness of your breath and movement through yoga leads to a greater awareness of situations/events we deal with
These benefits will vary in degree and form for each person as we are all different individuals and they resonate at different times of our life in different areas. We are all unique intricate energetic bodies, and therefore everyone's experience during their practice and consequently the benefits will vary.
The best we can do is allow ourselves the space to dive deep into this practice and notice how we feel. You might notice immediate benefits like when you maintain a positive attitude as you have learned to cultivate calmness and awareness when your peers are constantly in a state of anxiety or stress. Or the benefits may only be visible in hindsight.
If one yoga class doesn’t inspire you or you think you are too stiff not to practice yoga, don’t be disheartened! Be persistent. There are multiple types of yoga classes and teachers (And most of these offer a free trial before you have to commit!). Keep trying different places until you find one you resonate with. Then all you have to do is allow yourself the time to experience all the joys and benefits yoga has to bring into your life. You can thank me later!