Yoga works on many levels; physical, emotional and spiritual, bringing all the bodily systems into perfect balance.
Practising yoga encourages your body to gently open up. Your teaching can be tailored to target any particular problem areas and over time you will notice a gradual loosening of those stubborn hamstrings or perhaps be able to arch beautifully into a slightly deeper backbend. You’ll notice aches and pains begin to disappear and realise the interconnectedness of everything! In physiological terms this means tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can flatten the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. Muscle and connective tissue inflexibility can cause bad posture exacerbating the problem. Your practice has the potential to help with all these types of problems.
Strong muscles do more than simply make you look good! They protect us from conditions such as arthritis and back pain and can help prevent falls in elderly people. Building strength through yoga postures is balanced by improved flexibility, gaining the best of both worlds as opposed to just bulking up in the gym where the focus is often only on a small number of “visible” muscle groups. Ask a guy with pumped up shoulders to hold the yoga pose Ardha Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog) for ten breath counts – it can be incredibly hard work because muscle density has compromised joint movement. Yoga addresses this imbalance by taking your joints through their full range of motion meaning you can build strength whilst maintaining joint and muscular flexibility. Certain yoga postures gently squeeze areas of cartilage that aren’t normally used providing much needed fresh nutrients that the cartilage soaks up like a sponge giving better, more comfortable movement.
Your head is like a bowling ball – big, round and heavy. When it’s balanced directly over your spine it takes much less work for your neck and shoulder muscles. Move it even slightly forward (staring at a computer screen anyone?) and you really start to strain those muscles. Hold your head like that for 8 or 12 hours a day and it’s no wonder you’re tired! Yoga gives you greater awareness of your body and improves proprioception, your ability to judge where your body is in space. This awareness helps you to stand tall and proud.
Incredible anti-aging benefits!
Yoga improves bone density warding off osteoporosis. Yoga is a great stress-buster, reducing the amount of cortisol in the body thereby retaining calcium in the bones. A well balanced yoga practice that includes plenty of twists, forward and backbends increases nutrient supply to spinal disks giving greater flexibility and range of movement well into old age.
Twisting poses gently massage your internal organs, wringing out venous blood and allowing more oxygenated blood to flow once the twist is released. Inverted poses reverse all the bodily systems, recharging and renewing your entire body. The lymphatic system is stimulated enabling your body to fight disease and infection more effectively.
The average person breathes using a mere 25% of lung capcity. Consider that most of our energy comes from the air we breathe into our lungs and 70% of detoxification is via the respiratory system. Yoga improves lung capacity increasing toxin release and oxygen intake with each breath. Simply breathing more effectively can help rid your body of toxins and leads to an improvement in cell quality, boosting levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells that carry oxygen to the tissues. All this makes you feel fitter, healthier and more energised. Improved, thinner blood reduces the level of clot-promoting proteins in the blood which can lead to a decrease in heart attacks and strokes.
Yoga can make you happy!
Yoga gently raises your heart rate releasing feel-good endorphins and raising seratonin levels in the brain that relieve depression. Studies have found that gentler forms of yoga practice can lower the resting heart rate consequently calming the central nervous system. Yoga gives you space in your both your body and your mind. Over time, you will notice that your yoga practice extends beyond the mat, many students becoming more patient, understanding and compassionate.
Yoga can help with weight loss
To lose weight you simply have to use up more calories than you eat. Regular practice gets you moving, burns calories and may inspire you to become a more conscious eater. If you embrace your practice you should find that your body begins to crave freshly prepared foods and healthy juices as your yoga journey evolves.
Yoga for relaxation
Yoga encourages you to focus on the present, slow your breath and relax. This shifts the balance from flight-or-fight response to the relaxation response, calming the body, lowering the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure yet increasing quality blood flow to the vital organs of the body. This has a wide range of potential benefits. For example, increasing quality blood flow to the pelvis is a useful tool if you’re trying to get pregnant, regularly practicing can make you relax more easily helping address sleeping problems or insomnia.