Yoga has a whole wealth of health benefits.
It is a system of achieving optimum physical health, mental clarity and peace of mind, and insight. Its benefits include increased suppleness and strength. Increased flexibility can give rise to better posture. Poor posture can cause neck and back pain and other joint and muscle issues.
The asanas (postures) keep the spine and the rest of the body supple and healthy. The asanas release mental and physical tension in the mind and body, whilst strengthening and toning the body. As you build strength, it is balanced with flexibility. Yoga improves bone health, through weight-bearing postures. It increases blood flow, which allows more oxygen to enter your cells and helps circulation.
Yoga is also about being in the present moment. Most people are caught up in their fast-paced lives. Yoga is a time to remember who you are and take some time just for you.
By giving you tools to transform stress and negative thought patterns into positive energy, yoga lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
A healthy nervous system helps to keep all the muscles, organs and tissues of the body working at their full efficiency. It also creates a sense of vitality. When we relax the body, the nervous system that controls the internal organs and the functioning of the body’s systems can also have an opportunity to recuperate. A regular yoga practice will stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, in order to help reduce the stress of our hectic lives, and allow us to approach difficult situations in a calmer manner. The parasympathetic nervous system can be stimulated via calming breathing practices, asanas and meditation. This will reduce sympathetic tone, which will slow heart rate and lower blood pressure, allowing the body to focus on functions such as digestion.
The way that our muscles are used during the different asanas gives stimulation to the lymphatic system, which helps the release of toxins that can build up in our bodies. By clearing toxins from the tissues, you are benefitting neurotransmitters at the fine nerve endings. Our nerves run through and alongside our bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and fascia. These nerves need to be able to slide, glide and twist through these spaces within our bodies. Any tethering due to narrowing within these spaces from muscular tension or reduced joint space can restrict/compress and reduce circulation/conductivity of the nerve and affect its function.
Yoga practice will lower cortisol levels (cortisol is a hormone which helps the body respond to stress). When cortisol levels are high, they can impact the immune system. This can undermine memory function, make you crave more food, and, studies have shown, even lead to depression and osteoporosis (the cortisol extracts calcium and other minerals from bones).
Yoga classes will also have some element of meditation, even if it is just the focus on the breath as you move. The body and the mind are intimately connected and the relaxed state of meditation has corresponding effects on the body. As the mind quietens and stills, so too does the body. Meditation means ‘to become familiar with’ and can be seen as becoming familiar with our inner self. Most people have busy lives spent in an environment with much noise and with the senses drawn outwards. Meditation is a way of turning your attention inwards.
Meditation is resting your mind. It is a variety of techniques in which we engage our minds and on which we concentrate our attention, hoping to still the thought waves. Through meditation, you can learn to live more fully in the present moment.
Yoga can increase levels of serotonin (a chemical which contributes to wellbeing) and make you feel happier!