Even before it grew popular in the West and then the rest of the world, Yoga has been around in our country since early times. This ancient system is both an art and a science, based on the principle of keeping the body and the mind in harmony. Depending on which form of it you are considering, Yoga involves a combination of Pranayama (regulated breathing), Asanas (various postures and exercises) and Samyana (meditation). Some other forms of Yoga will add other elements like music, chanting etc. Bikram Yoga, for instance, will make you perform your asanas in a heated room to make you sweat (it’s called hot Yoga for a reason!). While the forms of it are many, the benefits of Yoga are common to all forms.
Here are just ten of the most common benefits of Yoga:
- Stress relief: As any practitioner will tell you, regularly practising Yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation will bring down your stress levels considerably. Yoga releases tensions accumulated in the body and calms the mind. Daily pranayama is wonderful for anxiety-relief.
- Improved flexibility and posture: A regular practice of Yoga will stretch and tone your muscles, making you stronger and more flexible and supple. It also improves your overall posture while standing, sitting etc., thus reducing chances of pain due to incorrect posture.
- Weight loss: While Yoga may not always be comparable to more vigorous cardio workouts as far as losing weight is concerned, certain Yoga asanas like Surya Namaskar (Sun salutation) do help with weight loss. Forms of Yoga that are more vigorous and athletic (e.g. Ashtanga) can lead to substantial weight loss. We’ve all read about the famous Bollywood actress who used Power yoga to lose weight.
- Increased energy levels: Yoga improves the flow of energy through the body by removing blockages and smoothening the energy pathways. Postures like Setubandhasana (Bridge pose), Veerbhadrasana (Warrior pose) and Pranayama breathing destress the body and leave you feeling energised.
- Improved immunity: Yoga strengthens immunity all the way down to the cellular level. Someone who practises Yoga regularly will, therefore, have a lesser chance of falling sick with things like seasonal cases of flu, colds and other similar irritants.
- Better focus: Yoga will train you to be more aware and to stay in the present. This mindfulness training will benefit you in every other aspect of life – career, home, hobbies, relationships etc.
- Improved relationships: When you are more relaxed and peaceful, which is what Yoga will help you with, the effect will eventually start to rub off on all your relationships – spouse, family, friends, colleagues, pretty much everyone.
- Self-awareness: Yoga encourages you to listen to your body and “feel” your way forward. One of the benefits of Yoga will be that you will become more aware of your own body. You will learn to recognise signs of what is happening inside you, and what your body needs.
- Improved metabolism: The benefits of practising Yoga in the morning include a boost to the metabolism due to improved blood circulation, better breathing and stretching. This allows nutrients from food to be absorbed better, and also keeps your metabolism ticking well during the day.
- Reduced inflammation: Inflammation in the body is a marker of stress. Yoga reduces inflammation by boosting the circulation of blood and oxygen, and by stimulating the release of “happy hormone” neurotransmitters.
I started learning Yoga a few months ago, after unsuccessfully battling chronic lower back pain for years. A migraine disorder that suddenly developed last year, and resisted all medication for many months, was the last straw. I turned to Yoga almost in desperation. After months of thrice-a-week practice, my back pain is nowhere close to the levels it used to be. I still suffer from migraines, but the frequency and intensity of the pain are both gradually reducing. My overall flexibility is improving, and I feel mentally stronger. I wouldn’t give up Yoga now for anything and would recommend it wholeheartedly to anybody. Of course, I have only just scratched the surface for now, and have a long way to go.
Have you ever tried Yoga? How was your experience and have you noticed any additional benefits of Yoga? Do share!
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