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“The beauty is that people often come here for the stretch, and leave with a lot more.” -Liza Ciano
Yoga continues to grow in popularity as more and more studies reveal a long list of health benefits. And while some may refrain from giving it a try for a variety of reasons, whether you choose to attend classes regularly at your local yoga studio or wake up each morning and treat your body and mind to a short routine of poses, the benefits cannot be ignored.
Let me begin by sharing my experience with yoga. I can remember the first class I attempted to take a yoga class, and while I was quite intimidated (mainly due to the fact that I was in my early twenties and insecure about a variety of things), when the instructor came around and told me to straighten my arms (I was doing my best and they were as straight as my body would allow) an then proceeded to shove my arms into a straighter line, I had a difficult time feeling the “zen” that I thought I was supposed to feel. So I quickly chickened out and didn’t attend classes again until my early thirties . . . and then I fell in love with yoga.
I have no doubt that my skittishness during my first initiation of yoga was greatly due to many other factors beyond that particular yoga experience, so whether it was because I was at a more confident place with myself ten years later or that I no longer held a certain ideal of what someone who attended yoga classes had to look like as they went through the poses, I grew to quickly love my hour and fifteen minute weekly class.
Since then my schedule has grown busier, and I am no longer able to attend a weekly class, but instead incorporate short sessions at home. However, I continually try to rearrange my schedule so that I can attend classes with my preferred instructor. After all, there has not been a time when I haven’t walked out the doors after class and felt refreshed, exhausted and more tranquil. A lovely combination indeed.
Today, I’d like to share with you 11 benefits of yoga whether you choose to become a devoted yogi who lives and breathes the practice or someone who appreciates the benefits of yoga and incorporates it regularly, but as a supplement to an overall health and fitness routine. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, yoga incorporates the powerful practice of readying the mind for meditation, and benefits of mastering your mind is limitless.
1. Increase Happiness
As shared in the Yoga Journal, research has revealed that yoga increases serotonin which tells our minds whether we are happy or sad, hungry or satiated, hot or cold, etc. And with increased serotonin, the feeling of happiness increases, thereby decreases depressing thoughts.
2. Lower Cortisol Levels
While temporary bursts of cortisol within our body (adrenaline) protect us from pain and help us survive in moments of peril, chronically high levels of cortisol due to stressful lives can actually erode our body’s good health: weakening our immune system, contributing to depression and osteoporosis and may permanently damage the brain. Yoga has been proven to effectively keep cortisol levels low as we begin to create mindful behaviors, mastering our thoughts and deepen our breathing which effectively calms us down.
3. Fewer Colds
Since the immune system is strengthened, our bodies are better able to ward off common colds that would normally pounce on a weakened immune system.
4. Improve Strength
Using our own bodies as resistance, yoga gradually, yet steadily improves our strength which helps protect the body from arthritis and back pain.
5. Increase Flexibility
One of the primary reasons people incorporate yoga into their fitness routine is to blend the opportunity for improved flexibility. With consistent practice, tight hamstrings which can increase back pain and tight hips which can lead to knee pain begin to loosen thereby decreasing body pain.
6. Decrease Joint Pain
Since yoga runs joints through their full range of motion, joint cartilage (which is built like a sponge) is able to be wrung out and readily able to absorb fresh nutrients which allow the body to become less prone to degenerative arthritis.
7. Improve Circulation
With the regular movement of the entire body, holding poses and strengthening our attention on better breathing, our circulation improves which can reduce swelling as well as clot-promoting proteins in our blood which can decrease the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.
8. Improve Health & Prolong Life
Our bodies were made to rid themselves of toxins, but often we get in the way of the process by not tending to what our bodies require. By incorporating regular yoga (holding poses, and moving from one pose to the next), we increase the drainage of the lymph which helps combat infection, rid our bodies of cancerous cells and dispose of toxins. And by giving this gift to our bodies, we improve the quality and duration of our lives.
9. Muscle Tone
Strengthening our muscles protects our bones which helps prevent osteoporosis. Muscle tone also increases caloric burn and improves our metabolism, helping to keep our weight in check. So while our muscles become long and lean, our overall health is improved as well.
10. Improve Balance
Balancing poses are one of my favorite aspects of yoga. Why? Well, in time, we come to be much more aware of our bodies and how each limb and slouch effects whether we will remain standing or topple – what a powerful lesson for living well. So as I hold each pose and focus on my breathing, I also can’t help but be reminded to be present, let go of the day and just be still otherwise I may just land on my nose.
11. Improve Breathing
As we position our bodies into a variety of different poses and are asking our bodies to hold these challenging postures, it is our breathing, that if we focus on, helps us remain stoic. It is our breathing that can help us step away from the struggle and endure. And so if we can carry this practice into our daily routine, we can be reminded that controlling our minds begins with paying attention to our breathing.
Isn’t it amazing how many benefits yoga provides? Granted, many other fitness options offer a plethora of health gifts as well, but simply because yoga doesn’t leave us pouring with sweat at the end of each session, doesn’t mean it isn’t rich with gifts for our mind and body. Whether you are able to include a full hour or more a week to a class or can only do a handful of sun salutations each morning, each time you do, just know you are helping both your mind and your body out immensely. Namaste.
~A Sample Morning Yoga Routine (5-10 minutes)
- 3-5 Sun Salutations
- Warrior II
- Seated (traditional cross-legged pose) or Corpse
Sun Salutation Visual Aid
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY: