A relatively little known fact is that Yoga and Ayurveda have a symbiotic relationship. They are called ‘sister sciences,’ whose origins go back hundreds if not thousands of years. Used together, these complementary practices can have a profound impact on our overall health and well-being.
Derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuji,” Yoga is an ancient practice that promotes the union of mind and body. Millions of people worldwide benefit from the advantages of Yoga – both physically and mentally. Here are ten reasons why this is so!
One of the most obvious benefits of Yoga regularly – and one of the first things you will notice for yourself – is improved flexibility. Stretching and moving in unusual ways brings improved flexibility to tighter areas of the body, such as your hips, hamstrings, back, sides, and shoulders.
This applies to all skill levels, from beginners to advanced. Initially, you will probably not be able to touch your toes, let alone perform advanced poses like Tittibhasana or Chakrasana. But with regular practice, you will feel the muscles loosening. But by practicing asanas like Virabhadrasana and Svanasana regularly, even beginners will feel much more flexible than before.
Stiffness can cause several problems for the body. For example, tight hips can strain the knee joints, and too tight hamstrings can lead to flattening of the lumbar spine. Generally, flexibility decreases with age, so Yoga is ideal for counteracting and delaying this process.
IMPROVES YOUR POSTURE
Yoga is perfect for counteracting the adverse effects of sitting at your desk for long periods. A series of asanas (commonly known as “heart openers”) is ideal for correcting a hunched back and shoulders. This category of asanas includes Dhanurasana, Bhujangasana, Go-mukhasana, and Ustrasana.
Regular Yoga improves posture and alleviates problems resulting from weak postures, such as back and neck pain, poor circulation, constricted nerves, digestive issues, and curvature of the spine.
IMPROVES MUSCLE STRENGTH
An increase in strength is noticeable in more physically demanding yoga forms such as Ashtanga and Power Yoga. But also the less physical conditions like Hatha and Iyengar improve muscle strength. Many asanas – such as Vrikshasana (balancing on one leg), Kumbhakasana (arms, legs, shoulders, and abdominal muscles simultaneously), and Svanasana (supporting oneself with the arms) – require you to balance your body weight in a way that is new to the body. These muscles must inevitably adapt by becoming more assertive.
Stronger muscles help prevent several conditions, such as arthritis and back pain. Another benefit is that the increase in strength is not at the expense of a decrease in mobility. This is the case with many other forms of exercise, such as weight lifting.
IMPROVES JOINT HEALTH
Unlike many more strenuous forms of exercise, the movements associated with Yoga are less stressful. Yoga is, therefore, excellent for improving the mobility of your joints without hurting them. Whenever you practice Yoga, guide your joints through the full range of motion. As mentioned above, strengthening the joints around the joints also reduces the stress on the joints.
Yoga is, therefore, ideal for people who have arthritis. They often see an improvement in mobility and their pain through gentle Yoga with little stress.
IMPROVES HEART HEALTH
From pumping the blood through the body to supplying the organs and muscles with the nutrients they need to function, the heart plays a crucial role in our body. Without the heart, we cannot survive, in the most real sense of the word! Therefore, a healthy heart is of utmost importance. Yoga has been found to reduce the number of risk factors associated with heart disease.
Relaxation exercises help to improve blood circulation, especially in the hands and feet. They help supply your cells with more oxygen – with increased oxygen levels; the cells function better. Relaxation exercises also help reduce the level of coagulation-promoting proteins in the blood, thus reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
A study published by the National Library of Medicine (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15255625/) concluded that Yoga’s practice helps lower blood pressure and improves cardiovascular performance. Since high blood pressure is a significant cause of heart attacks and strokes, Yoga is particularly well suited for people who are more susceptible to these conditions.
Yoga is also helpful for people who suffer from high blood sugar. Yoga lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL, usually called “bad” cholesterol) and increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL, often called “good” cholesterol). Together with reducing cortisol and adrenaline levels, this is of great benefit to people with diabetes.
HELPS THEM BREATHE BETTER
Pranayama (breathing techniques of Yoga) is an elementary component of every Yoga practice. It stimulates you to slow down your breath and breathe deeply and fully, from the stomach to the lungs.
This breathing technique improves your lung function, including lung capacity and tidal volume, which can significantly benefit people suffering from lung disease, asthma, and heart problems; as soon as you can take fewer breaths with greater volume, your exercise capacity increases well as oxygen saturation. People who engage in other forms of physical activity, such as athletes, also benefit.
These studies have shown that regular Yoga has a positive effect on stress reduction and promotes relaxation. This is mainly because Yoga reduces the secretion of cortisol – the hormone often associated with stress.
Physical activity, in general, can reduce stress; this is commonly known. However, this is especially true of Yoga, as it focuses on concentration and breathing techniques. It encourages you to relax, slow down your breathing, and focus on the here and now, which helps you learn not to dwell on past events. The same applies to meditative yoga exercises, which are very helpful in calming the mind.
IMPROVES THE QUALITY OF SLEEP
The practice of Yoga offers a safe retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern life, where people tend to put too much strain on their inner being. Restorative asanas, pranayama, savasana, and meditation promote Pratayahara (The “conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses”). It is a form of relaxation for the nervous system.
Studies have also shown that Yoga positively affects the release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. As mentioned above, Yoga relieves stress, anxiety, and pain. These are all factors that are often associated with insomnia.
IMPROVES CONCENTRATION AND FOCUS
As mentioned above, an essential part of Yoga is to focus on the present and to detach from thoughts. The resulting mental stability improves your ability to concentrate, and you can also retain and absorb information better.
ENCOURAGES THEM TO BE MINDFUL
Yoga and mindfulness are closely connected. It reduces the mind’s fluctuations and slows down the mental cycle of negative feelings and thoughts such as anger, fear, regret, vindictiveness, and frustration. Yoga encourages you to bring your mind into the present by focusing intensely on each asana and the accompanying perceptions, thoughts, and emotions.
Mindfulness allows you to be calm, relaxed, less stressed, and less anxious, which are the common causes of symptoms such as migraines, insomnia, eczema, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. Yogis believe that calming the mind allows you to live a happier and longer life.