Here’s 10 powerful benefits of yoga…
Yoga is all around us these days, with millions of people worldwide turning up for a weekly or twice-weekly class. Yet there remains this misconception that yoga is for the skinny, fit, bendy and uber-strong body. Not so! Yoga can be accessible to every-body – regardless of age, gender, weight, health or strength/flexibility. Choosing the right class and teacher is important – and sadly I have met too many people who joined a beginners class to find it too strong/fast/complicated for them.
There are multiple benefits of practising yoga; it is common for people to join for the physical benefits, but quickly realise how much calmer they feel, less emotional (i.e. stressed, anxious or irritated) and experience a better sense of overall wellbeing and self-esteem. Yoga can have an amazing impact on your health and life – it has mine. Here’s some top benefits…although there are far more!
1. Yoga reduces stress, anxiety and low mood/depression.
The number one cause of ill health in our world are the above three common difficulties. Gentle yoga – The Power of Slow – soothes your mind and body by calming the nervous system, which in turn reduces/stops the production of adrenaline and cortisol (two major stress hormones). Stress can manifest itself as anxiety, irritation, anger, a sense of always rushing, digestive issues, neck/back pain, poor sleep or insomnia, unhealthy lifestyle choices (food, alcohol, smoking, drugs), energy issues/fatigue, high blood pressure, breathing problems, inflammation, skin irritation, headaches…this list could go on (and on!)
Synchronising movement and breath, learning pranayama (breathing techniques) and developing a meditation practice (which can easily be incorporated into your daily life), all retrain the mind and the body to be more calm, resilient and create equilibrium.
2. Yoga increases your flexibility.
By increasing our body’s range of movement through yoga postures and sequences we use stretching practises that open up the body, lengthen the spine, improve breathing capacity and our overall balance and stability. Working mindfully ensures that the nervous system feels safe (more aggressive practices can lead to the nervous system resisting) and so releases tension in an easeful way.
3. Yoga safely builds your strength.
From building muscular strength that supports and improves our posture to developing healthy core strength, we use our own body weight, balances and focus to improve the overall healthy functioning of our multiple systems. Improved strength, flexibility and balance also protects us from injury. Yoga is also a safe way to build bone density protecting us from osteoporosis.
4. Yoga breathing (pranayama) can be life changing…
Yogic breathing techniques range from learning how to breathe properly (shifting from shallow breathing when we’re stressed to slower, deeper breathing that induces calm), to controlled breathing methods that can increase energy, create clarity of mind ( including better memory and learning), and removing low mood/depression or managing cravings. Here’s a practice to try…
5. Yoga improves your posture (grow an inch – or two!).
Poor posture – rounded shoulders, lordosis in the back (over or under arching for example), weak core/lower back muscles – can lead to pain, reduced lung function, inhibited digestion and elimination and a real lack of energy. Through yoga we improve muscular imbalances; when we release and lengthen tight muscles, plus strengthen weak areas, we create a stronger, better aligned physicality that supports us through daily life. An improvement in posture, how we hold ourselves and move through our daily activities, has a direct impact on our mood, how we see ourselves (better self-esteem for example), boosts our mood naturally and ensures we breathe, digest and function well too.
6. Yoga supports healthy joints.
Strengthening the muscles around the joints stabilises them. Plus when joints have a full range of motion, we move more efficiently. Synovial joints, (eg, knees, hips, ankles, wrists, shoulders) work more smoothly when the synovial fluid, which lubricates them, changes from a jelly-like substance to free flowing. This fluid also delivers fresh oxygen and nutrients to the joint cartilage, helping to restore it and keep it healthy. Yoga can even help those with more serious joint problems such as arthritis, improving physical function and reducing pain.
7. Gentle, slow yoga is a mindfulness practice.
By synchronising movement and breath yoga brings us into the present moment. Mindfulness has multiple published research papers that prove the benefits of many health conditions. It is particularly beneficial in improving positive mental health, resilience and reducing pain. Additionally, mindfulness meditation boosts the immune system, improves social interactions/relationships and reduces depression and anxiety. Mindfulness can be practised ‘on the mat’ through asana (postures) and breath work, plus ‘off the mat’ by being in the present moment; yoga teaches you how to Be. If you’d like to begin or restart a meditation practice, The Path to Calm Mp3 recording is really popular.
8. Yoga lowers blood pressure.
High blood pressure, that can lead to an increased risk of both heart attacks and strokes, is quite common, particularly as people age. Stress can be a contributing factor, so once again yoga helps by calming the mind and balancing out emotions. The relaxation techniques and pranayama can reduce high blood pressure even after the practice is finished. A yogic diet can help too; preferably vegetarian (but limiting red meat is encouraged) and include plenty of fresh vegetables, grains, some complex carbohydrates and reduce/eliminate processed foods. Common sense – but make small changes and gradually shift to healthier choices.
9. A Calmer mind = Better Lifestyle choices.
A lovely short yoga story…
“Teacher, will my smoking interfere with me learning yoga?”
The teacher smiled and replied, “No, but your yoga will interfere with your smoking.”
When we start to feel the benefits of yoga, when we begin to feel calmer, stronger and in-tune with our body, we can find that there is a natural turning away from unhelpful habits, food, stimulants, and alcohol that have been undermining our mental, physical and emotional health. Being more active – in a way that supports our body rather than stresses it – improves our mood, and when we feel better – our lifestyle choices are easier and more intuitive.
10. Yoga creates a “healing state”
On a daily basis our body is ensuring that we thrive in the state of “homeostasis” – inner balance of all the systems that keep us alive. Our body has an amazing ability to heal itself, given the right, supportive conditions. A broken arm or leg needs no help from us – our bodies do the healing. Same with colds, flu or even (at this current time for the majority) Covid-19. Yoga creates the right environment for the body’s innate healing power to be activated; the immune system is supported and boosted by good breathing which oxygenates the blood and in turn all cells; by the free movement of lymph (which removes bacteria from the tissues); and by practising meditation (mindfulness is just one way) that shifts us from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, safety). With the additional benefits of improved sleep and enhanced sense of wellbeing, gentle, holistic yoga can most definitely improve the quality of our life.
10+1 = Would you like to be Happier?
So many people feel happier when they practice yoga regularly. Greater resilience, a more positive outlook on life and an ability to face the challenges that come their way with confidence. Life is never perfect, always we have happy times, sad experiences, and then the ‘mundane’ (bless those mundane times, for they can create contentment!)
In our classes, (in person and online), we make new friends, feel part of a kind and supportive community, learn and grow. Our door is always open to welcome you.
For all these benefits, and so much more, JOIN HERE – Birch Moon Community Yoga Pass