Amazing Health Benefits of Yoga
Here we will see as to, What is Yoga, what are the benefits of Yoga, and how to go about starting a yoga practice?
Fun Fact: The United Nations proclaimed 21 June as International Yoga Day by resolution 69/131
“This year’s observance of the International Day of Yoga highlights the important role healthy living plays in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted last year by all 193 United Nations Member States.”
– BAN KI-MOON United Nations Secretary-General (1)
Read more about this at http://idayofyoga.org/
So, What is Yoga?
There are many misconceptions of this great discipline. Some think of Yoga being only a physical set of exercises, others think of it being a spiritual thing concerned with the Hindu or Buddhist religion.
Still others recon that Yoga is girly, or for women. Some of these misconceptions have been talked about in various articles, as highlighted below. It is better to dispel your doubts before proceeding further:
So, Yoga basically unites Physical exercises with meditation. It is the union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit.
Many practice Yoga for the exercise benefits, but that is very superficial and there are a load of benefits to be active from getting in deeper. (4)
About 2000 years ago an Indian Sage Patanjali, outlined eight Limbs of Yoga as follows:
1) the yamas (restraints),
2) niyamas (observances),
3) asana (postures),
4) pranayama (breathing),
5) pratyahara (withdrawal of senses),
6) dharana (concentration),
7) dhyani (meditation), and
8) Samadhi (absorption).
Most start-up practices will concentrate on asana’s and pranayama, and will go further with time and experience.
Yoga in itself can be done by everyone in any state of health. However, if you have a health condition you might have to refrain from doing certain postures. Thus, to start up guidance from an experienced yogi (someone who practices yoga) is recommended.
The asana’s or exercises themselves consist of various poses, which may be:
Standing, Seated, Supine (on your back), prone (on your chest)
A good warm-up is a must however, as in necessary before doing any strenuous physical activity.
So, why should we be doing yoga? Let’s look at the Benefits of Yoga?
1) Increased Flexibility
Yoga poses introduce a lot of “stretching similar” exercises. Once you have started yoga you will notice your flexibility improve. Things which you might not be able to do initially, become easier. For example, you might not be able initially to touch your toes, but after practicing yoga for a while you should be comfortable with doing the same.
2) Helps in cardiovascular health.
Studies have shown that yoga can improve your cardiovascular health. In one of the studies, it was found that yoga leads to favorable metabolic effects in a period as short as 9 days. How is that for a great benefit of Yoga. (5)
3) Improves lung function
Pranayama consists of breathing exercises. We usually do not breath right, in the sense that our breath is usually short and does not fill our lungs to capacity. Also sitting for extended periods causes our lungs to be compressed and not to function to its full capacity.
With pranayama we learn to breathe better and initially you might feel intoxicating with the excess oxygen getting into your system. But this will start improving your overall health.
In a study conducted on adult asthmatics, it was found that participants that practiced yoga showed a tendency for decreased use of inhalers. (6)
4) Stress Management
Yoga helps to stabilize the autonomic nervous system, thus helping you to become resilient to stressful situations. This further helps in reduction of diseases as well. (7)
5) Increase in Muscle Strength
Many studies have proven that that yoga exercises produce a significant increase in muscle endurance time and delay in the onset of fatigue. (8)
In a study carried out on girls aged between 12 and 16, it was found that yoga had a beneficial effect on dexterity scores and grip strength. (9)
In yet another study of ten healthy, untrained individuals aged 18 to 27 years, yoga trained for 8 weeks. It was found that muscular strength for elbow extension, elbow flexion, and knee extension increased by 31%, 19%, and 28% respectively. (10)
6) Weight Loss
Looking to lose weight, then yoga might be a good option. In a review of 32 articles published between 1980 and April 2007, it was found that yoga was generally effective in helping people lose weight. (11)
In a community based sample study of women between the ages of 25 and 63 years, over a 12 week yoga training program, it was found that the program was successful in reducing binge eating. How is that to help you in your weight loss goals? (12)
7) Treatment of Depression
In a study of 27 women and 10 men, of which 17 completed the study. It was found that by doing yoga they all displayed a significant reduction in depression, anger, anxiety, neurotic symptoms and low frequency heart rate. (13)
8) Improving Health
In yet another study conducted by Alyson Ross and Sue Thomas, at the School of Nursing, University of Maryland, Baltimore, it was found that Yoga is as beneficial or even better at improving health related outcome measures. However, further studies are required to examine the various types of yoga on health. (14)
9) Improving mental Health
Many users have indicated that their mental health has improved on starting up a yoga practice. As deep breathing, along with physical exercises are involved in yoga, thus one of the benefits must include mental health. (15)
The good part about Yoga is that you can carry it out in any condition of health. You can tailor your practice to suit your own needs and help with your own health issues.
Types of yoga?
Like all other Fitness routines, Yoga too has different styles,
Some are as follows:
1) Hatha yoga:
Beginners will find this Yoga great, as it is slow paced. Here you will have to hold each pose for a few counts or breaths.
2) Bikram yoga
This type of Yoga consists of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises. It is carried out at a specific temperature and in a sequence. Thus, when you get used to the poses you will know what has to be done next, till the end.
3) Hot yoga
This too is done in a heated room. But the sequence is not as restrictive as the 26 pose Bikram Yoga.
4) Vinyasa yoga
Usually movement and breath is linked. It is a more dynamic style usually running to music. You will not stay in a pose for too long here.
5) Iyengar Yoga
This type of yoga is more about doing the poses precisely, with stress on proper body alignment. Here you will be using a lot of props like yoga blocks, ropes, straps, etc.
6) Ashtanga Yoga
Here, the emphasis is on perfectionism and the poses are performed in the same order in every class.
7) Kundalini Yoga
Here the stress is on spirituality, with a lot of chanting and singing around.
This is the yoga for people who need to lessen the pace in life. It is all about slow movement and relaxation.
9) Yin Yoga
This yoga stresses on unwinding, and interconnection of body and mind. It is more about stretching and elasticity.
10) Mantra Yoga
This again is all about chanting (Versus in the Vedas are called Mantra)
There are other forms of yoga and there may be mixture of various types. The main idea is to find a style of Yoga which you are comfortable with and then stick to it.
Still a Bit confused about which Yoga practice to choose?
I have made up a Flow Chart that might help.
Just Click on the Image.
(I will also send you the latest blog posts right to your inbox)
Now that you are interested, How do you get started?
There are various books and DVD’s in the market which can help you get started. Quite a few are available online as well.
1) Yoga Books:
Depending on your personality, you might just want something you can take along with you on the go, then I would suggest something like:
The Yoga Bible: The Definitive Guide to Yoga Postures – Christina Brown, which is very handy and can be carried around.
Light on Yoga: The Classic Guide to Yoga by the World’s Foremost Authority Paperback
by B.K.S. Iyengar
Which not only guides beginners and advance users, but also outlines Asanas to counteract health problems like migraines, heart disease, Blood pressure issues, backaches etc.
2) Yoga DVD’s
If you would like to do Yoga in front of a screen, then there are a lot of available DVD’s.
One of the prominent product around which people seem to like, is Jillian Michaels: Yoga Meltdown. This is more of an Aerobic workout that what you would consider traditional Yoga. So, it might not be a good fit if you are looking for Yoga in its pure form.
3) Learning and practicing Online:
The Internet is one resource you should not be overlooking. However, that being said it is very easy to get lost with all the information around, especially if you are a beginner. So, I would go for someone teaching you the process in a structured manner.
4) Learning with a seasoned Teacher:
By far the best option. Learning with a Seasoned Yogi (Practitioner of Yoga) beats all other methods, for the following reasons:
a) The instructor can gauge your health condition, before commencing any training routine.
b) The instructor can sort out any doubts that you might have.
c) You will have some human interaction,
d) The instructor will tell you where you are going wrong, if you are.
e) You will be around like minded people, (that is if you are not taking private classes)
f) The instructor can keep a check on how you are progressing.
Thus, if you can, I would suggest this option.
So, to recap Yoga is a traditional practice that can do a lot of good.
The Benefits of Yoga range from Increased flexibility, to heart health to curing depression.
It is a practice which aims to unite body and mind.
If you liked this article, Kindly share by the buttons below. Also, feel free to tell me about any Yoga Practice you have going on, by commenting below.