The term meditation encompasses a wide variety of practices that promote wellbeing and peace. Yoga is a form of mediation that involves more movement based exercises, rather than your classic stoic, seated based mediation that we’re so used to seeing.
The benefits of yoga are numerous. Some techniques can even increase mental output of the brain.
Improved flexibility is one of the most commonly known benefits of yoga. A beginner might not even be able to touch their toes, much less do advanced yoga poses. The prolonged practice of yoga will gradually loosen muscle insertions and improve joint mobility. With practice, seemingly impossible poses become possible. The most apparent thing that beginners notice is the reduction of pains and aches, because tight muscles have become more loose and pliable.
Building Muscle Strength
Conditioning our muscles to a variety of stresses will cause muscle hypertrophy. Increased tone in muscles keeps chronic conditions like arthritis and back pain at bay. You will obviously build more muscle with weight training, rather than yoga. However, yoga does have the edge on weight training, because it allows you to gain more muscle size, while also improving flexibility. Weight training allows you to build muscle at the cost of flexibility.
Corrects And Strengthens Spine Alignment
Our heads average weight is around 11 pounds (5 kgs). When the head is perfectly balanced with our spine, it requires the muscles around the spine to work less harder to keep the head in a stable position. The strain from fatigue and overall bad posture can lead to back, neck, muscle and joint problems. Doing yoga daily can reduce fatigue from head movements and reduce other complications.
The intervertebral disk within the spine acts as the spines natural shock absorbers. The movement of the spine during yoga allows natural flexion and extension of the spine, allowing the disc to remain supple and strong.
Prevents Deterioration Of Cartilage And Joints
Its been well known now that weight-bearing exercises strengthen bones and prevent diseases like osteoporosis. Many of the positions in yoga requires the student to lift their own body weight. Studies regularly show that regular practitioners of yoga have increased bone density in the spine and joints.
Increases Vascularity And Blood Flow
The dynamic aspect of yoga ensures that the practitioners are moving, hence increasing blood flow within the body. Increased circulation within the hands and feet become apparent with modest amount of practice. The increased circulation of blood in the body makes us function at more optimal levels. Twisting poses will wring out deoxygenated blood from internal organs and allow fresh blood to inwards. Inverted poses, such as headstands, facilitates deoxygenated blood from the lower extremity back towards the heart, where it will be rejuvenated and re-pumped. This can help with conditions that cause feet to swell.
Students increase their heart rate as they are doing yoga, which will ultimately lower the potential for heart attacks. Yoga is can come in many forms, some requiring you to increase your heart rate vigorously, while others are more focused and relaxed. Regardless of the method that one does yoga, it has been shown to improve cardiovascular conditioning. Furthermore, studies have shown that yoga lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance and can improve the maximum uptake of oxygen during an exercise.
Drains Lymph Fluids And Aids Immune System
The flexion and extension of the various muscles within the body move the organs around the body. The pressure from the movements causes increased drainage of lymph fluids within the various nodes in the body. This drainage causes the immune system to function better when fighting against infections, cancer cells, pathogens and toxic waste.
Decreases Blood Pressure
Yoga has been shown to decrease blood pressure, even simple poses, such as savasana(corpse pose), has benefits. One study had a patient practice savasana for 3 months, he was rewarded with a 26-point drop in systolic pressure and 15-point drop in diastolic pressure.
Lowers Cortisol Levels And Insulin Resistance
Yoga has been shown to lower cortisol levels within the body. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal gland, during a crisis, to boost the immune functions of the body. If the cortisol levels persistently stay high negative outcomes can occur. High levels of cortisol in the body, for prolonged periods of time, leads to immune deficiencies and memory loss. High levels of cortisol has also been linked to depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. Subjects with high levels of cortisol have been shown to eat excessively, leading to a wide range of diseases including: diabetes, heart attacks and weight gain.
Makes You More Happy
Studies have shown that yoga can eliminate conditions like depression. Doing yoga regularly has been shown to increase serotonin levels and decrease levels of monoamine oxidase (enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters). Conclusively, the study found increased activity within the left frontal cortex of the brain, associated with happiness and immune system functionality.
Promotes A Healthy And Active Lifestyle
Yoga encourages the student to move, thus burning calories, leading to weight loss. The spiritual and emotional aspects of yoga will help address any eating and weight problems that remain dormant in unhealthy individuals. Yoga will also teach you to be more conscious in everyday tasks, including eating. This will lead to a transformation in eating habits.
Lowers Blood Sugar And Reduces Bad Cholesterol
Yoga has been shown to decrease blood sugar within the body, in addition it lowers LDL (unhealthy cholesterol) and increase HDL (healthy cholesterol). Yoga simulates changes in the blood sugar by affecting the cortisol and adrenaline levels within the body, leading to: weight loss and improved sensitivity to insulin. This is especially useful for individuals with diabetes.
Help You Focus
Focusing is very important for everyday tasks. Studies have found that yoga leads to improvements in focused attention, co-ordination, reaction time, memory and even IQ results. Focusing allows the person to solve problems and access memory within the brain in more efficient ways. Yoga teaches you to clear your mind of thoughts, allowing for more clarity and focus.
Improves Balance And Coordination
Practicing yoga can lead to increased balance and coordination of the body. Individuals with bad posture and dysfunctional movement often lack balance and coordination. Poor proprioception can lead to a slew of negative outcomes like knee issues and back pain. Yoga can help you fall less, which is one of the main injuries suffered by seniors.
Communicate More Effectively Between Mind And Body
Expert level yogis can perform a variety of extraordinary feats, most of which is done through the nervous system. Expert yogis can induce irregular hearts beats, generate specific brain waves and even raise the temperature of the body. A beginner can induce more modest feats such as relaxing the body and simulating blood flow in certain parts of the body.
Releases Built Up Tension
The unconscious and unhealthy habit of holding tension within the body can lead to migraines, fatigue, negative moods and soreness. As you practice yoga, you become more conscious of where you hold tension in your body, it maybe in your tongue, eyes, muscles in the face and jaw, wrist, shoulders, neck and back. Tuning in on the muscle will allow you to ease tension in that particular spot.
Sleep More Quickly And Deeply
Stimulations and pleasures are rewarding for the body, but too much of anything can be bad. Yoga allows the student to wind down and relax, thus putting you in a deeper state of relaxation. The relaxation of the nervous system has been shown to induce better sleep.
Prevents Digestive Complications
Irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and ulcers are all a byproduct of elevated levels of stress in the body. In general stressing less means that you will suffer less. Yoga can ease constipation and lower risk of colon cancer, because moving the body allows for optimal transport of food and removal of waste product in the colon.
Many people on this planet suffer from low self-esteem, which results in the individual taking drugs, overeating, working too hard and being lethargic in order to cope. Practicing yoga initially gives glimpses, later more sustained views, of the reality of life, that we are all part of the divine. You will experience feelings of gratitude, empathy and forgiveness, which will transform you and relieve feelings of low self-esteem.
Reduces Pain Response
Yoga can ease the pain that you feel. Studies show that yoga can reduce pain in people with arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome and other chronic conditions. The relief of pain improves mood and reduces the amount of medication that the individual needs to use.
Allows You To Dig Deep And Find Strength
The act of digging in deep within yourself to overcome a challenge can have profound benefits to the psyche and the body, this is perhaps the most important reason to do yoga. Tapas, meaning “heat” in sanskrit, is the discipline that fuels yoga practice, tapas will build strength the more you challenge your willpower. Tapas can be refined to overcome trauma, inertia and change dysfunctional habits. The outcome of this change often results in eating better, exercising more and avoiding the use of drugs.
Helps Keep You Drug-Free
Yoga is an all natural remedy to a variety of illnesses. Individuals that suffer from asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, OCD have shown improvements in their conditions due to yoga. This translates into the student taking less prescription drugs. You will spend less money and suffer less from the toxic side-effects of chemical drugs.
Allows For Spiritual Growth and Attainment of Peace
Yoga and meditation builds awareness through practice. The more aware and conscious you are, the more you can escape destructive emotions and tendencies of anger. Yoga allows the user to connect to the true self and find the divine, this leads to eradication of negative thoughts and emotions. Yoga also helps the user show more compassion and interconnectivity to all living things. Yoga practitioners can avoid drama and deal with unpleasant news in a calm and cerebral manner.
Yoga tramples all over the fluctuations of the minds thoughts. The stopping of mental thoughts lead to the reduction of frustration, regret, anger, fear and desire. This will ultimately lead towards spiritual growth and peace.
More Intimate Connection With Your Partner
Generating the emotional support of family, friends and the community can lead to improvements in overall health. A regular practicer of yoga will develop friendliness, compassion and greater equanimity. The philosophy of yoga entails that the user not harm another, tell the truth and take only what is needed, which will help in every aspect of a relationship.
Heals The Minds Eye
Visualization during yoga can have immense effects on the body. Studies have shown that guided imagery leads to a reduction of pain and headaches, which will improve the quality of life of an individual.
Helps You Become A Better Person
Karma is a integral part of the yogic philosophy. Health has been shown to improve when an individual seeks to serve another person in a kind manner. Older people who volunteered less than an hour per week have been shown to live longer. Additionally, helping other can give meaning to your life and help you become a better human.