What is Yoga?
What is yoga, exactly? Is it just an exercise form? Is it a religion, a philosophy, an ideology? Or is it something else entirely? The word “yoga” literally means “union”. In this article, Sadhguru offers the following yoga definition; essentially, “that which brings you to reality.”
If you’re a passionate yoga practitioner, you’ve probably noticed some yoga benefits—maybe you’re sleeping better or getting fewer colds or just feeling more relaxed and at ease. But if you’ve ever tried telling a newbie about the benefits of yoga, you might find that explanations like “It increases the flow of prana” or “It brings energy up your spine” fall on deaf or skeptical ears.
Health Benefits of Yoga in Daily Life
1.Improves your flexibility
Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. During your first class, you probably won’t be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. But if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, seemingly impossible poses will become possible. You’ll also probably notice that aches and pains start to disappear. That’s no coincidence. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture.
2.Perfects your posture
Your head is like a bowling ball—big, round, and heavy. When it’s balanced directly over an erect spine, it takes much less work for your neck and back muscles to support it. Move it several inches forward, however, and you start to strain those muscles. Hold up that forward-leaning bowling ball for eight or 12 hours a day and it’s no wonder you’re tired. And fatigue might not be your only problem. Poor posture can cause back, neck, and other muscle and joint problems. As you slump, your body may compensate by flattening the normal inward curves in your neck and lower back. This can cause pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine.
3.Yoga improves your strength
Yoga isn’t just about stretching and bending, it also requires a surprising amount of strength. Physical strength is important in order to prevent injury, boost the immune system and metabolism and help make everyday tasks easier.
4.Boosts your immune system
Any form of movement is great for keeping the immune system healthy. With yoga’s twisting, inverting, back bending, and calming, the body is able to spend more time within the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and less with the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight system, which causes stress and inflammation and dramatically lowers the immune system).
5.Changes your energy
If your morning routine starts with dragging yourself out of bed and gulping down a coffee, try ten rounds of Surya Namaskar or some Kapalabhati pranayama, and notice the energising effects it has on the nervous system. Conversely, if you need a change later on in the day, just a few minutes of asana practice can re-balance the nervous system, calm the mind and give you a different perspective.
6.Boosts brain power
Moving in a way that is different to our daily patterns helps the brain work harder and can help keep the brain healthy. Twisting asanas, and anything which involves crossing limbs over the body (a little like the cross-crawl practice where you alternatively extend opposite arm and leg from a table top position) are fantastic for balancing the brain hemispheres. To bring things into balance daily, practice Nadi Shodhana, the ‘channel cleansing’ breath, which helps to balance the brain and calm the mind.
7.Betters your bone health
It’s well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And some, like Downward- and Upward-Facing Dog, help strengthen the arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. In an unpublished study conducted at California State University, Los Angeles, yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga’s ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol may help keep calcium in the bones.
8.Teaches you to know yourself
Unlike group sports activities, yoga is a very internal and personal practice. Even though you might have practiced in a class with lots of other people, the focus is still on what is happening inside you. ‘Pratyahara’ is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, and it refers to turning one’s senses and awareness inward in order to discover more about the person’s own body and mind. We have to live with this body and this mind for a whole lifetime, so it’s worth taking time to get to know it, and even make friends with it.
The Metta Bhavana (Loving Kindness) meditation is intended to increase compassion and kindness towards others and ourselves. Humans are born to be compassionate and to feel emotions, yet the modern world often leaves us feeling more disconnected than ever. All our actions and even thoughts have impact on the world around us, and if the saying Love Makes The World Go Round is true, then practicing feeling love and kindness for others will make more difference than you might expect.
10.Lowers blood sugar
Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and boosts HDL (“good”) cholesterol. In people with diabetes, yoga has been found to lower blood sugar in several ways: by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss, and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin. Get your blood sugar levels down, and you decrease your risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness.
11.Helps keep you drug free
If your medicine cabinet looks like a pharmacy, maybe it’s time to try yoga. Studies of people with asthma, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes (formerly called adult-onset diabetes), and obsessive-compulsive disorder have shown that yoga helped them lower their dosage of medications and sometimes get off them entirely. The benefits of taking fewer drugs? You’ll spend less money, and you’re less likely to suffer side effects and risk dangerous drug interactions.
12.Supports your connective tissue
As you read all the ways yoga improves your health, you probably noticed a lot of overlap. That’s because they’re intensely interwoven. Change your posture and you change the way you breathe. Change your breathing and you change your nervous system. This is one of the great lessons of yoga: Everything is connected—your hipbone to your anklebone, you to your community, your community to the world. This interconnection is vital to understanding yoga. This holistic system simultaneously taps into many mechanisms that have additive and even multiplicative effects. This synergy may be the most important way of all that yoga heals.
want to read List of yoga asanas and benefits.