Yoga is a practice that includes slow moving and static postures along with deep breathing techniques and meditation to attain a peaceful body and a healthy mind. It is an ancient practice, and it originated in India in relationship with the Hindu religion. The practice has now been used for thousands of years, both in conjunction with religion and as a secular discipline. But are there health benefits of Yoga that you should be tapping into as well?
Health Benefits of Yoga
Yoga benefits are multi-layered. The primary benefit is a more peaceful connection from the mind to the body and the body to the mind. This reduces stress and anxiety during the yoga session as well as after, during your day to day life. Deep breathing during yoga and concentration on breath as opposed to focus on the many thoughts and stressors that can cloud the mind is a large part of this. One who practices yoga must hone the skill of mindfulness as well. To be mindful means to focus and concentrate on what one is doing in the present moment, instead of letting the mind wander to other matters such as regrets of the past or worries about the future.
Another possible yoga benefit is weight loss. If you have been carrying around excess weight and are seeking a physical activity that does not cause too much exertion, yoga may be just what you’re looking for. It is key to remember, though, that because yoga is typically a slow moving activity, you will probably not be burning hundreds and hundred of calories in one yoga session (though Power Yoga is an exception and so is Bikram Yoga, which incorporates the 26 postures of traditional yoga with an extremely hot room, making you sweat excessively and amplify calorie burning).
Generally, yoga is used best in weight loss as a strength trainer and muscle toner. Because most of the poses, such as Plank or Warrior, can be quite difficult to attain and hold (especially at first), yoga can be challenging for muscles and therefore, can sculpt them and tone them very well. The fact that yoga uses your own body weight is a plus. This stretches the muscles (another yoga benefit is more flexibility) in a gentler way, so that the muscles that you’ll attain will tend to be leaner and generally more attractive (for females especially), than the muscles you might attain from lifting heavy weights, which tend to be bigger and bulkier.
Another benefit of yoga is better overall posture. Not only will you improve your posture in the poses that you do during your yoga classes and sessions, but your posture will improve at home, school and work as well. You will find that you hold your back a little straighter and you may even feel and look taller. People who practice yoga regularly normally find they experience a significant boost in confidence and sense of calm. Additionally, another health benefit of yoga is stronger bones. The stretching and strength training that you do in the yoga practice has positive effects on your bones. Combined with your improved posture, yoga can help to prevent osteoporosis and other bone-related diseases.
Overall, yoga is a wonderful practice that can benefit you greatly in mind, body and spirit. If you are interested in the practice, keep a lookout for classes at your local gym or fitness center, or, if you prefer to practice at home, there are many books and DVDs on the market today for anyone from beginner or advanced practitioner.