Practiced today in western society often mainly as a form of physical activity, yoga is an ancient practice to balance body and mind. It comes with many health benefits and in the following I will introduce you to the top 10 of these:
1. Yoga is lowering your blood pressure
Due to nowadays hectic lifestyle and modern eating habits, many people suffer from metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure. This may sound not too scary at first, but high blood pressure is linked to cardiovascular disease and promotes build up of plaque in your arteries, which eventually can lead to heart attacks and kidney failure (amongst others). Yoga can be helpful here to overall lower your stress response and help you relax by toning the vagus nerve and therefore aid in lowering blood pressure.
2. Yoga increases blood flow to vital organs
If you are not only doing super relaxed postures, chances are good that some of the asanas will get your heart rate up and make you sweat. By increasing your heart rate, your body pumps more blood through your arteries and brings more oxygen to your vital organs.
3. Yoga keeps joints flexible
Do you sit all day at your desk and feel really stiff in the evening? Back pain, joints cracking and aching? Doing yoga regularly will help keep your joints flexible by increasing the blood flow to these areas. If you are already dealing with chronic joint pain, light postures can even help to ease the pain.
4. Yoga improves muscle strength
Doing yoga regularly will help you build lean muscle from working with your own body weight. Strength training can be really hard on some people´s joints, but working with your own weight will help you slowly build muscles. Many asanas will give you a good stretch which will help you reduce tension. Especially women oftentimes have to deal with weakened pelvic floor muscles postpartum. Here are several asanas available for getting the strength back on.
5. Yoca can fix bad posture
Some types of yoga focus a lot on alignment, for example Hatha yoga. Here the teacher pays great emphasis on the students holding the postures for a long time and having all the limbs in perfect position. Paying attention to alignment and also strengthening the muscles, especially in the shoulders and back will help you to gain a good, erect posture and not slouching away on your desk again.
6. Yoga aids digestion
When we are stressed and find ourselves in a constant fight-or-flight mode, our body draws blood from the outlying areas to the vital organs brain, heart and kidneys. Proper digestion, is just not so important at that moment, which can lead to your food being kind of stuck in your digestive system and moving really slowly. This can lead to indigestion, bloating and putrefaction in the colon. Due to increased blood flow in your organs and overall relaxation your whole digestive tract will also benefit from doing yoga regularly. Just remember to leave a few hours between meals and doing your asanas.
7. Yoga enhances lung capacity
Would you believe me if I told you that most adults are not breathing properly? Sounds weird, right? I mean it is actually not something that we need to pay attention to, it just happens. Well, sorry but you are wrong here. Belly breathing is the natural state of breathing and if you look at (little) children, you can see that they are doing it. The older we get, the more we forget our natural state of breathing. Most adults do chest breathing, which is often due to chronic stress and a sedentary lifestyle. In yoga and especially pranayama you learn how to focus on your breath again and enhance your lung capacity. This is important for oxygenating your blood, which will be transported you your cells.
8. Yoga let´s your energy flow
In yoga we do not only know a physical body, but also an energetical body. By breathing in, we draw prana, the universal energy, into our bodies. With every breath we direct this vital force into every organ and cell in our body. Through different pranayama techniques you can reach different effects on the body: cooling, heating, relaxing and enhancing your digestive fire to name a few.
9. Yoga helps to focus your mind
As mentioned in the beginning, yoga is an ancient technique to balance the body and the mind. This can be achieved in several ways and with different yoga styles. Yin yoga, for example, strives to achieve focus by surrendering completely to the postures. You may be tricked by the „simple“ asanas but let me tell you, it can be very challenging. On the other hand, there is ashtanga yoga, which has a set series of postures and keeps your mind focused by sticking to the sequence in alignment with your breath.
10. Yoga brings you in alignment with yourself
I dare say that people who practice yoga on a regular basis and live a yogic lifestyle are more in alignment with themselves. By reading the points 1 to 9 I guess you can do the math: people who are less stressed, have a balanced mind and feel comfortable in their body thrive on a different energy level. A healthy, nourished body will most likely also make you feel good about yourself on the inside. And we were mostly talking postures here. The asanas are but a little part of the yogic philosophy, which offers so much more of a well balanced lifestyle.
This is a post I originally wrote for the House of Om website: https://www.houseofom.com
I offer one-on-one private yoga lessons so if you´re interested, get in touch here.