Are the Health Benefits of Yoga?
You've probably heard that yoga is good for you. Maybe you have
even tried yoga and discovered that it makes you feel better. But
what are the specific health benefits can you expect to enjoy from
doing yoga regularly?
Flexibility: Stretching your tight body
in new ways will help it to become more flexible, bringing greater
range of motion to muscles and joints. Over time, you can expect
to gain flexibility in your hamstrings, back, shoulders, and hips.
Strength: Many yoga poses require you
to support the weight of your own body in new ways, including balancing
on one leg (such as in Tree Pose) or supporting yourself with your
arms (such as in Downward Facing Dog).
Some exercises require you to move slowly in and out of poses, which
also increases strength.
Muscle tone: As a by-product of getting
stronger, you can expect to see increased muscle tone. Yoga helps
shape long, lean muscles.
Pain Prevention: Increased flexibility
and strength can help prevent the causes of some types of back pain.
Many people who suffer from back pain spend a lot of time sitting
at a computer or driving a car. That can cause tightness and spinal
compression, which you can begin to address with yoga. Yoga also
improves your alignment, both in and out of class, which helps prevent
many other types of pain.
Better Breathing: Most of us breathe very
shallowly into the lungs and don't give much thought to how we breathe.
Yoga breathing exercises, called Pranayama, focus the attention
on the breath and teach us how to better use our lungs, which benefits
the entire body. Certain types of breath can also help clear the
nasal passages and even calm the central nervous system, which has
both physical and mental benefits.
Mental Calmness: Yoga asana practice is
intensely physical. Concentrating so intently on what your body
is doing has the effect of bringing a calmness to the mind. Yoga
also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as watching how
you breathe and disengagement from your thoughts, which help calm
Stress Reduction: Physical activity is
good for relieving stress, and this is particularly true of yoga.
Because of the concentration required, your daily troubles, both
large and small, seem to melt away during the time you are doing
yoga. This provides a much-needed break from your stressors, as
well as helping put things into perspective. The emphasis yoga places
on being in the moment can also help relieve stress, as you learn
not to dwell on past events or anticipate the future. You will leave
a yoga class feeling less stressed than when you started.
Body Awareness: Doing yoga will give you
an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon
to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over
time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body.
This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.