it’s a combination of breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation, practiced for over 5,000 years and is considered a mind-body intervention that is used to reduce the health effects of generalized stress. It can be used to calm the nervous system and balance the body, mind, and spirit. It is thought by its practitioners to prevent specific diseases and maladies by keeping the energy meridians open and life energy flowing.
Practicing yoga can result in significant improvement to your physical health. As part of your daily routine, yoga will likely transform your body into one that is firmer, leaner and stronger. However, some of the most impressive benefits happen beneath the surface.
When you practice regularly, you increase your chances for lower blood pressure, improved cardiovascular health, better flexibility, greater muscle strength, perfected posture, better pulmonary function, lower blood sugar, boosted immunity and improved bone health (critical to warding off osteoporosis).
When people think “health,” they tend to think only about the body. But we need to remember power our minds hold. Think of yoga as a workout for your soul. You need to condition it, like a muscle, in order to develop and grow stronger. Because yoga clears your mind of distracting “noise,” it creates space in which new things can develop.
We know that stress is a silent killer, but did you know that yoga is the ultimate stress reducer? When you begin to breathe deeply and focus on your poses, you reduce anxiety. You enter a more relaxed state and calm your nervous system, diminishing the fight-or-flight response.
Yoga is believed to combat depression. In fact, a study published March 2017 concludes that eight weeks of twice-weekly, 90-minute hatha yoga sessions can significantly reduce the severity of depressive symptoms. Yoga has been used to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve coordination, flexibility, concentration, sleep, digestion and is a healthy outlet for coping with daily stresses. There are also studies being conducted exploring the therapeutic benefits of yoga for varied conditions including heart failure, depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia and inflammatory arthritis.
Make the commitment to move with purpose every day. Even a few minutes of yoga will do the trick. If you’re stuck at work or have limited time to yourself, opt for an easy yet effective yoga pose that can quickly be done at home or in the office (try cat pose, forward fold and seated twist, as shown in the accompanying illustrations). A chair or a place to stand is all you need. Practice yoga every day, and the repetition will intensify the physical and mental health benefits while creating an ever-deepening spiritual connection.
The best advice I could give anyone new to yoga is just show up. Don't over-think it, just do it. As yoga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois once said "Yoga is “99% practice and 1% theory.”
Your first few classes might be a bit confusing until you become familiar with the movements. That can seem daunting, but the whole point of yoga is to not have judgment toward yourself or the people around you.
Yoga studios are not spaces for competition; they're a starting point for an inward journey.
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