In the past decade or so, the number of people who practice Yoga has increased dramatically. With the serene vibe of the studio, the sounds of the calming music and voice of your instructor, and satisfying stretches that you didn’t know your body even needed, it’s no wonder practicing Yoga is such a popular activity.
But what makes Yoga so special and enjoyable isn’t just the fact that it’s a great way to exercise. Being healthy is trendy these days, and if you can find an activity that can combine physical and mental health practices, then that’s even better. Luckily, Yoga is a practice that’s full of benefits for both your mind and your body.
The Transformation of Modern-Day Yoga
Child’s pose, downward-facing-dog, cat-cow pose—we’re sure you’ve heard these terms before. The buzz about yoga has been around for a while, but it’s so much more than just a healthy workout.
The Yoga Sutras (or yoking) were formed thousands of years ago in India. The ancient practice of Yoga is a discipline that was created to help refocus your mind and reach a level of pure consciousness. There are different types and versions of yoga that have been created over the years and while it was a more mental and spiritual-focused practice back in the day, over time, the practice started to develop further, and incorporate physical elements inspired by wrestling and gymnastics.
Modern-day Yoga practices typically include three core concepts:
- Breathing exercises
- Physical posture
- Spiritual contemplation
Each practice and individual pose have its own unique purpose, as well as physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits. But you don’t need to be a spiritual person to reap the benefits of yoga. In fact, the two most popular reasons why people get into yoga is to enhance their flexibility or as an outlet to destress.
What Yoga Does to Your Body
Stretching is one of the most important parts of any type of sport or exercise. And that’s pretty much what the physical part of yoga is—back-to-back stretches and poses that work all parts of your body. Yoga poses utilize and stretch multiple muscle groups which have proven to be incredibly beneficial when it comes to strength and flexibility.
According to healthcare professional and educator Krishna Sudhir, stretching “can change the water content of muscles, ligaments, and tendons to make them more elastic.” That means that even if you’re not flexible and are hesitant to start, that doesn’t matter! Yoga helps improve your balance, flexibility, coordination, and mobility. In fact, many people who participate in other sports and athletic activities like surfing, running, or dancing, use yoga to enhance their skills, etc.).
Yoga also tones your muscles, adjusts and improves your posture, and can reduce or ease chronic pain.
Have you ever noticed that your stomach hurts if you’re stressed? Or maybe you have this crave to eat your feelings when you’re feeling down, or just have lost your appetite altogether due to feeling anxious? Yoga can help balance your metabolism—which overlaps with the psychological benefits—and can aid with weight management since it’s an active form of exercise that works all parts of your body.
Circulatory and Cardiovascular System
It’s important to exercise frequently to keep up your health, but yoga can really benefit your lungs and heart health. Not only can yoga improve your blood flow and circulation (especially the downward dog pose), the special breathing techniques deepens your breathing, too. And as an added bonus, yoga also helps release toxins that have built up over time.
What Yoga Does to Your Brain
The fact that we can practice something so spiritually-oriented and beneficial in a physical manner is what caught the attention of millions of Americans. The main goal of Yoga is to connect your mind, body, and soul together, allowing you to live a balanced life.
Whether you’re following a guided online class or if you’re at a yoga studio, one of the first things your instructor will remind you of is the importance of being present, accepting what has happened to you outside of class, and trying and let go of it so that you can focus on what your mind, body, and soul need during the session.
Learn & Practice Self-Care
As soon as you enter the studio and start your Yoga session, it’s all about you and the mat. Yoga has been known to help reduce stress and anxiety even after the very first lesson. But more importantly, Yoga helps practice self-care since a big part of it is being in the moment and learning how to listen to your body.
The beauty of the practice is that if it’s too physically challenging for you, then you don’t need to push yourself or feel pressure since you can’t do it. It’s even encouraged to go into a resting pose—like child’s pose or downward dog—if you feel that you need a break.
Improves Focus, Patience, and Awareness
Yoga has been known to help improve your awareness (physically and mentally). It can also increase your ability to focus, and, of course, your patience, since you’re using all of these skills when you’re doing yoga—especially when you’re doing those balancing poses that require focus to stay steady.
Develops Confidence & Challenges You
There are hundreds of poses, over 10 different types of versions, and multiple levels of yoga, making it a great activity to continuously challenge yourself. And with anything challenging comes the need to be patient with yourself and appreciation for your effort and hard work.
This can eventually help you build confidence and can influence other aspects of your life. Plus, being present, listening to, and connecting with your body will help you build confidence and a healthy bond between you and your body.