Although considered by many simply as an exercise fad, yoga practice has in fact helped thousands of people in improving their physical and mental fitness. Remember the golden rule of never judging a book by its cover; if you think that yoga’s all about bending and breathing and nothing else, think again. The practice of Yoga brings with it many physical and emotional benefits that the majority of people are unaware of. This article is quite long, so we have broken it up into two parts. The first part is an introduction to Yoga and a overview of the major physical and psychological benefits of Yoga, while the second part shows how practicing yoga daily can have a profound effect on your ability to create a healthy lifestyle for yourself.
Yoga is a science; and indeed, in many places in the world (such as India), it is referred to as a science. This is not merely playing with words; it truly is approached as a science, which means that it is understood in terms of scientific methods.
Yogic science seeks to verify cause and effect, and build principles based upon objective observations. Indeed, in many places in the world, to be a yogic master of any credibility, one must be highly educated in the sciences, including physics and the biological sciences.
This discussion on yoga as science is important for us to include because it allows us to sensibly ask the question: what are the benefits of yoga? After all, if yoga is a faith or a belief, then asking this question isn’t fair; because it’s one that yoga cannot answer in terms that we can objectively understand.
Yoga is a science; as empirical and pragmatic as kinesiology, or exercise science, which seeks to understand how the body acts and reacts to changes in the internal physical environment.
The History of Yoga
The practice of yoga has been around for more than four thousand years already. Its origins can be traced back to India where even today, it is considered as a highly valued practice to reach a state of enlightenment. Yoga as a means to receive enlightenment is a central point in several religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
In other parts of the world, the popularity of yoga is caused by its many health benefits and its associated use with asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga as fitness exercises.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is centered on the mind-body connection. This mind-body harmony is achieved through three things:
- postures (asanas)
- proper breathing (pranayama)
Besides reaching a spiritual state of enlightenment, yoga can also help individuals reach a better understanding of not only their bodies but their inner selves as well.
Mind and body draw inspiration and guidance from the combined practices of asanas, breathing, and meditation. As people age (to yogis, ageing is an artificial condition), our bodies become susceptible to toxins and poisons (caused by environmental and poor dietary factors).
Yoga helps us through a cleaning process, turning our bodies into a well synchronized and well-oiled piece of machinery.
Each of us has a right to ask the basic question, “why should I bother practicing yoga and what experience or benefits can I expect?”
Indeed, while the experience of yoga cannot be reduced to words – just as reading a book on preparing for a marathon isn’t going to actually physically prepare you to run a marathon – the goals and principles of yoga can easily be discussed.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
By harmonizing these three principles, the benefits of yoga are attained. And just what are these benefits?
- Equilibrium in the body’s central nervous system
- Decrease in pulse
- Respiratory and blood pressure rates
- Cardiovascular efficiency
- Gastrointestinal system stabilization
- Increased breath-holding time
- Improved dexterity skills
- Improved balance
- Improved depth perception
- Improved memory
Psychological Benefits of Yoga
As noted above, Yoga also delivers an array of psychological benefits; and in fact, this is a very common reason why people begin practicing it in the first place. Perhaps the most frequently mentioned psychological benefit of yoga is an improved ability to manage stress. Yoga diminishes an individual’s levels of anxiety, depression, and lethargy; thus enabling him/her to focus on what’s spiritual and important: achieving balance and happiness.
Other Benefits of Yoga
Treating Back Injuries – yoga can heal back injuries that you may have by increasing the blood circulation for your injured tissues to heal faster and strengthening your lower back muscles; yoga may also in several cases heal other types of injuries as well
Prevention – Yoga also has the power to reduce chances of re-injuring yourself, shorten the time needed to recover from injuries and serve as a regular exercise technique to prevent disabilities
Mental Clarity and Improved Stress Control – The quiet and deeply relaxing techniques used in yoga would help you have a better state of mind every day at work and better control of your stress levels
Greater Self-Understanding and General Well-Being – Find yourself amazed with how much at peace you feel with yourself when you start practicing yoga regularly
Generally Better Physical Health – Besides getting that ideal toned figure you’ve been aiming for, yoga will also help in refreshing your kidneys and maintain a better posture
Better Sleep – Rediscover the simple pleasures of sleeping with the help of yoga.
Beginner’s Tips for Yoga Practice
Consult Your Doctor – Before launching on to the first yoga step you encounter, make sure that your doctor gives you the go-ahead to do so. Yes, it’s true that anyone can technically do yoga but there are certain difficult poses that would be impossible or dangerous to attempt if you are troubled with past injuries or disabilities.
Just to be on the safe side, talk to your doctor and ask him if you can yoga your way to having a sexy figure or not.
Classes or Private Lessons – When you’re determined to join a yoga class, make sure that you’re joining a class whose level fits yours. Make sure that you join the class on the first day as well to avoid feelings of insecurity when you see others being able to tackle new yoga poses that boggle the mind. Secondly, choose a class schedule that you can regularly adhere to. If you only attend a class or two every two months, that’s sort of defeating the point of joining a class in the first place. Lastly, choose the type of yoga class that fits your taste and abilities.
On the other hand, if you’re not the social type, you can always attempt yoga practice at home and with the comforts of privacy. The only disadvantage to this however is the chance that you’re not doing something right and the possibility of causing harm to yourself. The best compromise, in this case, would be to hire a private teacher for a lesson or two or until you know enough to practice on your own.
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