So unless you’ve been living under a large rock for the last few years, you will have noticed that yoga has become quite the “trendy” way to keep fit. But what is the big allure of practicing yoga I hear you ask? The benefits undoubtedly and more profoundly spread far deeper than a trendy way to keep fit. There are SO many benefits of the practice but here’s just a few that I’ve found….
1) Breathe and Destress
The focus on Ujjayi breathing throughout the practice allows for prana (breath) to flow more freely throughout the body. This encourages better circulation of the blood around the body. A strong focus on breath in yoga allows for a transference of better breathing in our day to day lives. By being able to control the breath in challenging situations on our yoga mat we can transfer that into stressful situations outside of yoga and in our lives. By breathing we can remain calm and focused and are in a better position to react to challenges when facing them outside of class.
2) It leaves your body lean and toned
The practice of physical yoga, or asana, works every muscle in your body. It doesn’t just lengthen and strengthen muscles, because of it’s mindful attention to the breath amongst other things it works every single system in your body. So you’re working your body from the inside out. Allowing the body to be in a more relaxed state allows your digestive, immune and recovery systems to work more efficiently. So your body will look and feel better overall.
3) Decreased Risk of Injury
Yoga allows the body to be more supple, decreasing the risk of injury. I can honestly say the less yoga I do, the more injured I get! No coincidence if you ask me. It makes you slow down. By listening to our body we can ascertain what areas feel stiff and tight and in need of some TLC. This can inform our yoga practice and the asanas we use to help relieve this stiffness. We can also choose to back off or go further into our practice by listening to our bodies needs.
The focus on Ujjayi breathing throughout the practice allows for prana (breath) to flow more freely throughout the body. This encourages better circulation of the blood around the body. In our day to day lives the circulation can become restricted in certain areas. The lubrication in our joints also drys up as a result of the ageing process. By breathing and taking the body through its full range of motions it can allow better blood flow throughout the body. With regular practice this will help with the range of motion too. The breath is inherent in the practice to allow us to deepen into our asana (postures), extended into our full range of motion and flexibility. During an exhalation the diaphragm pushes up against the heart, slowing down the heart rate. Blood pressure decreases, as does stress on the rib cage, abdominal walls, and intercostal muscles. Relaxation is present and thereafter your tolerance to stretching is enhanced.
Dynamic range of motion allows enhanced mobility. These are both effected by healthy stimulation of fascia. Yoga allows for this stimulation. Stretching stimulates the production of tissue lubricants, allowing for full range of motion across all of the functional planes. Generally we describe the body as moving in three planes of motion – the Frontal, Saggital and Transverse planes. A lot of modern day workouts have a heavy focus on one or two of these planes of motion (usually the frontal or saggital plane). Yoga focuses on all three (especially Mandala based flows). Succinctly speaking, our bodies need to move through all three planes of motion in training to simulate what we do in our day to day lives. By training the planes of motion we can allow our body to move functionally.
4) Healing the Body
By accessing your Parasympathetic Nervous System, you reap benefits like a reduction in stress levels and tension in the body which will allow it to function in a more efficient way. Yoga allows your body to move through its full ranges of motion. By stimulating blood flow around the body it can help to promote healing in the body as a result of increase blood supply to injured areas. Check out my excerpt for Womens Health about how the practice of Yin yoga can help to heal and relax your body.
5) Focus & Time Dedicated to You
Yoga allows us to listen and gaze inwardly towards our mind and body. It allows you to switch off from the distractions, off from the endless to do lists. From the moment you step on your mat you can think of it as a safe space to switch off from lifes distractions and switch on to some self love and attention. You can’t pour from an empty cup – in our society nowadays it can be very likely you’re cup is running low on energy. By factoring yoga into your schedule you know that no matter what you have dedicated time to listening to your body and stilling my mind.
Where to Start?
You don’t have to even go to classes – although this can really help when you start up. There’s a whole host of yoga videos available on the internet. Even if you start with just a 10 minute one a couple of times a week it’s something. I always say to newbie’s in class it takes quite a few classes to really start to understand the yoga practice. At first you’ll probably end up copying others in class and that’s absolutely fine. After continued practice you start to link the mind, breath and postures to with the flow. Find out more of what to expect from your first yoga class here. You can also find out more about the ins and outs of the yoga practice in my blog post here: “What is Yoga: In a Cheeky Nutshell”.
Please do let me know if you have any questions about getting started with your yoga practice or more about the benefits. The benefits of yoga are vast and profound and spread far beyond this blog, but hopefully this is a nice starting point for you!
Till next time…
Sending health & happiness,