15 Aug Healing Benefits of Yoga
1. Improves your flexibility
Improved flexibility is one of the first things people think about when they think of yoga, but don’t let the idea of not being flexible stop you. During your first class, you might not be able to touch your toes, but stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, seemingly impossible poses will become possible.
2. Builds muscle strength
Strong muscles do more than look good, they protect us from different chronic conditions such as back pain. When you build muscular strength through yoga, it’s not only the outer muscles, you’re strengthening, it goes deep, and your internal organs are strengthened too.
3. Improves your posture
Poor posture adds to many chronic pains. As you slump, your body goes into imbalance, affecting not only how you psychologically feel, but affecting your spine. This in turn mis-sets every system of your body. Yoga improves posture by improving the health of the spine, which strengthens the back, helping to irradiate old patterns of slumping.
4. Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
Yoga gets into the joints naturally, taking your joints through their full range of movement. This process clears lactic acid and brings fresh nutrients into the joints, helping to constantly feed the joints and cartilage preventing the joints and cartilage from wearing out.
5. Protects your spine
The spinal discs are the shock absorbers between the vertebrae, and the only way they get their nutrients is through full range of movement – opening, compressing binding and twisting. Through a balanced yoga practice you are keeping your discs supple.
6. Improves bone health
Weight bearing exercises strengthen bones and helps ward off osteoporosis, and within a balanced yoga practice you will have strengthening postures to do exactly that. Some you maybe familiar with are downward and upward dog, dolphin pose, plank and headstand.
7. Increases your blood flow
Yoga gets your blood flowing, through a full range of movement partnered with complimentary resting poses and fed by the yogic breath. Yoga gets more oxygen deep into your cells than any other exercise, and you function better as a result.
8. Drains your lymphs and boosts immunity
When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph. This helps the lymphatic system fight infection and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.
9. Improves heart rate and blood pressure
Studies have found that yoga practice lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance, and improve your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise.
10. Regulates your adrenal glands
Yoga lowers cortisol levels. Normally, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to an acute crisis, which temporarily boosts immune function. If your cortisol levels stay high even after the crisis, they can compromise the immune system. Temporary boosts of cortisol help with long-term memory, but chronically high levels undermine memory and may lead to permanent changes in the brain. Additionally, excessive cortisol has been linked with major depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, weight gain and insulin resistance.
11. Makes you happier
Scientific studies have shown a yoga practice improves depression and leads to a significant increase in serotonin levels in the body and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol. At the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson, Ph.D., found that the left prefrontal cortex showed heightened activity in meditators, a finding that has been correlated with greater levels of happiness and better immune function. More dramatic left-sided activation was found in dedicated, long-term practitioners.
12. Promotes a healthy lifestyle
A regular yoga practice gets you moving and burns calories, and the deeper dimensions of the practice change eating on a subconscious level. Yoga has been shown time and time again to inspire a more conscious eater, by feeling through your yoga practice what foods fuel you and what foods deplete you.
13. Lowers blood sugar
Yoga lowers blood sugar and bad cholesterol and boosts good cholesterol. In people with diabetes, yoga has been found to lower blood sugar by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss, and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin.
14. Relaxes your system
Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs.
15. Helps you focus
An important component of yoga is focusing on the present. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and IQ scores. People who practice meditation regularly demonstrate the ability to solve problems and acquire and recall information better.
16. Restores connection to and the space around you
Regularly practicing yoga increases proprioception (the ability to feel what your body is doing and where it is in the space around you)
17. Improves your balance
Yoga improves balance by harmonising the right and left hemisphere of the brain, improving focus and a muscular skeletal balance between strength to flexibility.
18. Maintains your nervous system
Yoga equally purifies and strengthens your nervous system which is turn allows it to return to a more soothed state after stressful situations. Regular practice finds a new nervous system status quo with more balance and less chance of nervous fatigue.
19. Releases tension in your body
Unconscious habits can lead to chronic tension, muscle fatigue, and soreness in different parts of your body, these can increase stress and worsen your mood. As you practice yoga, you begin to notice where you hold tension and find ways to release these unconscious habits.
20. Helps you sleep deeper
Yoga provides relief from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Restorative asana, yoga nidra (a form of guided relaxation), Savasana, pranayama, and meditation encourage pratyahara, a turning inward of the senses, which provides downtime for the nervous system. We hear time and time again from our students “had such a deep sleep after my last class”
21. Boosts your immune system functionality
Scientific support has proven asana, pranayama and meditation improve immune function. Be it boosting it when needed (for example, raising antibody levels in response to a vaccine) and lowering it when needed (for instance, mitigating an inappropriately aggressive immune function in an autoimmune disease).
22. Gives your lungs room to breathe
Yoga improve various measures of lung function, including the maximum volume of the breath and the efficiency of the exhalation.
23. Prevents IBS and other digestive problems
Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation—all of these can be exacerbated by stress. By having less stress you can potentially suffer less.
24. Gives you peace of mind
Yoga slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire, giving you more peace, richness of life and inner harmony. We see daily that passing on yoga is positively contagious.
25. Increases your self-esteem
If you practice regularly with an intention of self-examination you can access a different side of yourself, and feel part of something much bigger than yourself. As you practice experiences of gratitude, empathy, and forgiveness grow and not only for yourself but for others too.
26. Eases your pain
Yoga can ease your pain through yoga breathing, meditation and prescribed postures. If you relieve your pain, your mood improves, and you’re more inclined to be active, and not need as much pain killers.
27. Gives you inner strength
Yoga can help you make changes in your life. In fact, that might be its greatest strength. You may find that without making a particular effort to change things, you start to eat better, exercise more, or finally quit smoking after years of failed attempts.
28. Connects you with guidance
Good yoga teachers not only get you to move your body, they allow you peace to move into your inner awareness. They don’t only adjust you in a posture, but shift your belief in yourself and what you are capable of doing, not just on the mat, but off the mat.
29. Helps keep you drug free
Many students come in with a sore head or achy back from a stressful day. On closing their practice they no longer have a sore head and it’s another night without the need of pain killers for them.
30. Builds awareness for transformation
Yoga and meditation builds awareness, making it easier to break free from knee-jerk reactions to situations. It increases your ability to step back and enact on something more from a place of awareness as opposed to a place of conditioning and old methods of managing.
31. Benefits your relationships
Love is healing, and yoga supports love, by lifting armour and ego that can numb us to connection. Yoga expands our hearts and awareness to see things in a broader perspective. It helps us to value emotional connections without the same barriers, and brings a sense of safety in that place of openness. The practice of yoga manifests a slowing down within ourselves and in being more present, we are less caught up on what we can get and more in the moment itself.
By Anthea Simpson