THE BENEFITS OF YOGA
Yoga provides a firm foundation for us to strengthen our muscles, improve our flexibility and find our balance. Infact, the list of physical benefits actually seems endless and includes but is certainly not limited to; stronger toned muscles, increased stamina, losing weight, improved circulation, better posture, increased self-confidence.
Yoga is also becoming more and more renowned for assisting with many medical conditions such as blood pressure and heart disease, asthma, IBS and joint pain to name but a few. As a practitioner with rheumatoid arthritis, I can personally endorse the benefits since my diagnosis.
So how does yoga help? I think of it like the domino effect; slower, deeper breathing is encouraged during practice which acts as a direct aid to reduce stress and anxiety. Deeper breathing maximises the functioning of the lungs therefore increasing the amount of oxygen taken into the body. A deeper exhalation in turn reduces the body's heart rate, so if practiced regularly, over time can lower the blood's pressure.
Yoga poses, work both the sympathetic and parasympathetic senses in the brain. Mindfully stretching and holding poses (asana in sanskrit) work with the sympathetic nervous system and releasing them to triggers a relaxation response with the parasympathetic nervous system.
So are these the only reasons we practice? They may be the reasons that initially attract us to trying out classes but many practitioners find that what really motivates them to be loyal and dedicated to their practice, is the connection they find to themselves. This is something that develops over time, that cannot be measured and is experienced differently by each of us. It's not something that's ever been taught in the western world so we continue our lives unaware that it is even accessible. For me, it felt like a complete revelation when I started to make this realisation. Such internal and external awareness promotes an overall feeling of well-being which with practice, can be applied to any (let's be bold, every!!) action we take in our daily lives.
If you include meditation in your yoga practice, you're set to reap further rewards. Continual practice of mediation subtly teaches the mind to redirect any negative thought patterns so over time, the subconscious can be re-channelled. This can be of value to so many of us; to find inner peace and control the limitations we've become accustomed to we can access what is innately within us. It's not easy, it's not a quick fix but the things in life worth doing, never are........