People are continuing to flock to local yoga studios to reap the benefits of practicing yoga. But what truly is the allure? What brings people to this ancient practice and why has it gained in popularity over the years?
When students approach yoga for the first time, their intentions are typically related to something physical.
They would like to gain flexibility in their hamstrings, for example, or reduce the tightness they experience in their hips. They have heard that yoga is a great way to stretch the body and increase their overall mobility.
Although relatively simple, this reasoning for starting to practice yoga is the perfect first step into this ancient practice. In addition to physical advantages, there are also many other benefits of practicing yoga that we will review in this article. They include:
- increasing your flexibility
- increasing your strength
- a philosophical way of life
- the ability to control your breathing
- helping to reduce your stress
- improving your meditation
- physical and emotional healing
Keep reading to learn more about each of these seven benefits of practicing yoga.
1. Increasing Your Flexibility
One of the physical benefits of practicing yoga is experiencing more flexibility in otherwise tight, stiff muscles, and joints.
There are many yoga postures like Seated Forward Fold and Bound Angle Pose that can release and open tight hamstrings and hips.
2. Increasing Your Strength
Strength is another physical benefit of practicing yoga. If you are looking for upper body strength, for example, holding certain postures like Downward Facing Dog or Plank Pose, strengthen your arms, chest, shoulders, and back.
When your body is holding these positions, the small muscle fibers in your body are activated in order for you to maintain the posture. As a result, you build endurance strength.
There are plenty of yoga practices in gyms and studios that offer classes that will guide you in this direction. Hot Yoga, Power Vinyasa Yoga, Anusara Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and many other styles are physically focused.
All these practices of yoga will help lead you to the bodily changes you would like to achieve.
3. A Philosophical Way Of Life
As students continue with any of these yoga practices, they will certainly see that there is more than just physical benefits to gain.
There is so much to learn from this ancient philosophy. Starting with the physical practice is ideal, but you will soon find there are many more benefits to practicing yoga than just physical.
Yoga began as a spoken and written philosophy over 5,000 years ago in India. The intention of these early teachings was to provide a landscape for living a healthy and meaningful life.
Through scripture, song, prayer, and meditation, yoga was designed to help people achieve an enlightened life. As yoga evolved over the centuries, it later introduced more structure and guidelines.
4. The Ability To Control Your Breathing
Attention to the physical being was also rationalized into the philosophy as another source for achieving a healthy mind, body, and spirit. One of those resources being breath.
However, breath is now considered the foundation of yoga practice. It is the one physical aspect of yoga that connects you to your physical being and the Divine.
Breath is key to bringing your full attention to the present moment. Focusing on your breath allows you to create a deeper connection to yourself.
Furthermore, it helps you to clear your mind and all the obstacles that plague your mind and body.
When these channels are open, you have a much clearer path to enlightenment. But of course, breath plays a more practical part in your yoga practice, too.
Deep breathing while moving through your yoga practice generates better blood and oxygen flow through your entire body. When your breath nourishes you, your body is more capable of non-restricted movement, agility, alignment, and grace.
Good breath flow is also contributed to an increase in energy.
Through deep breathing during your yoga practice, you can begin to condition your heart and lungs. As a result, you will have much more energy and endurance to move through your sequences.
Practicing on the yoga mat in a studio will prove beneficial to you when you step off the mat into your everyday life. You will experience more energy throughout the day in addition to feeling rejuvenated and alive.
5. Helping To Reduce Your Stress
Yoga has also been a resource for reducing stress.
Beyond the physical benefits, this is another reason why you should turn to the practice.
Stress is something that you might feel as you are inundated with so many things around you. You may feel overwhelmed, out of control, and prone to anxiety.
However, you can turn things around with a consistent yoga practice.
You can find relief not only in a moving practice that involves yoga sequences and holding postures but also in mindfulness meditation.
This is a practice that allows you to completely slow down your body and your mind, discussed more in the section below.
6. Improving Your Meditation
Another one of the many benefits of practicing yoga is the advantages experienced by meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of focusing on one object. Examples could include a candle flame, a mantra, or even just your breath.
When you are able to channel your energy in one direction, it moves those invading thoughts out of your mind so you can experience a sense of clarity and ease.
Studies have shown that meditation is associated with reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Your mood is regulated by the cerebral cortex. This is the area of the brain that controls memory, decision making, attention, language, and other higher brain functions.
When you meditate, studies suggest, this area of the brain increases in size thereby positively influencing these higher functions. Furthermore, there is an improvement in your mood, enabling you to feel happier.
Incorporating meditative practice into your daily routine can reduce your stress, ease your mind, and help you to feel better.
A simple and practical way to practice mindfulness meditation is to find a quiet space in your home. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair.
Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing. Because breathing is a normal bodily process, you may want to take slow, deep breaths so that you can keep your attention on each inhale and each exhale.
This will help to relieve your mind of other distractions. If you’d like, you could also play soft music in the background, light a scented candle, or dim the lights.
These are additional ways to bring more calm energy into your mind and body and only require a few minutes to complete.
If you do this daily, you will begin to experience the benefits of this simple but powerful practice.
7. Physical And Emotional Healing
Practicing yoga can also provide you with physical and emotional healing.
In asana-style classes, ones in which you are moving your body, you experience better connection and awareness of your physical being.
Furthermore, it releases tension in muscles, limbs, and joints that create a greater sense of freedom in your body. There are also yoga classes in which you hold yoga postures that are healing to your system.
Yin Yoga is a style of practice that is growing in popularity. Rather than moving from pose to pose with guided sequences, an instructor leads you into non-moving postures that disengage your muscular system.
The intention is to release the fascial and connective tissue in your body for further release and healing.
For example, if you experience a sprained ankle, it will take some time before you can walk normally. As a result, however, you are also left with scar tissue and bound up fascia (the webbing in your body that holds you together) that might limit the full functionality of that ankle.
In Yin Yoga, you hold postures for long periods so that the muscles, ligaments, joints, and these connective tissues can slowly release and open. Over time, you will regain greater mobility in those previously injured areas.
Yin Yoga can also affect the emotional body as well as the physical body. Just as you experience the binding of tight muscles and joints, you can feel emotionally bound, too.
Yin Yoga energetically can release these strains just as the physical body is ridding itself of physiological constraints. Similar to practices like mindfulness meditation, you ultimately feel emotionally better with an improved positive mood.
When you start to learn more about the many aspects of yoga, the various styles of practice and incorporate them into your daily schedule, you will reap the many benefits the practice has to offer.
Some are quite noticeable and obvious. These include increased flexibility in your muscles and limbs, improved agility and mobility, a release of tight joints, and more.
Other results are subtle and happen over a period of time. For example, a better mood, as well as feeling more calm and centered.
However, one of the greatest achievements of practicing yoga, and this derives directly from the ancient intentions of practicing yoga, is to feel more connected to yourself. In addition to feeling more connected to all things and people around you, and to the Divine.
You will have found a holistic practice that opens your mind and body. It leads you to a greater awareness of yourself and how you fit in the world.
You will experience clarity and a better understanding of yourself that will allow for inner growth, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Yoga will guide you on a path toward enlightenment that is void of obstacles and distractions so you can live fully in this free state of mind and body.
The realization that there are 86,400 seconds each day. What are you doing today, so that tomorrow you are a step closer to where you want to be? If not now, then when?
eightysixfourhundred, make them count
Facts for this article were referenced from credible sources including:
- Yoga Basics – History Of Yoga
- Social Benefits Of Exercise (6 Ways Exercise Makes You Social)
- 20 Benefits Of Walking Every Day (Some Might Surprise You)
- Mental Benefits Of Exercise (6 Ways Exercise Helps Mental Health)
- Motivation To Eat Healthy (6 Fact-Based Reasons To Eat Healthy)
- Running Before Breakfast (Benefits Of Early Morning Exercise)