The benefits of yoga are many and impact on a number of body systems
Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy that dates back thousands of years. Over time the physical aspects of Hatha yoga have been recognised as beneficial form of exercise. There are many different varieties of yoga, but each one essentially relies on structured poses (asanas) practiced with breath awareness.
Research shows that regular practice of yoga may produce health benefits such as increased fitness, reduction in pain and management of chronic illness. Yoga is also well know to reduce stress. In terms of sleep, studies, such as this one published in 2014, have shown improvements in sleep quality as well as general well being.
How does it work?
Yoga brings your body and mind together, and is built on three main elements – exercise, breathing and meditation.
When we focus on the exercise (pose) and breathing, it brings the mind into a state of meditation. As we have learnt mediation quietens the mind and has many health benefits (link to meditation). Like most things yoga needs to be practiced regularly to gain the health benefits.
There are many different varieties of yoga, each with a slightly different slant. The most popular are Hatha, Bikram, Iyengar and Vinyasa yoga. Try out different types to find the one that suits you the most.
Each yoga pose is held for a period of time and is linked with the breath. During a yoga session you will exercise every part of your body. Breathing control, relaxation and meditation will also be part of your practice.
Health benefits of yoga
Yoga can develop strength and flexibility. It can calm your mind and improve your overall wellbeing.
Some more specific health benefits are:
- Cardiovascular system – yoga can improve cardiovascular fitness and circulation. There are some studies that show regular yoga can reduce blood pressure.
- Digestive system – improved blood circulation and the massaging effect of surrounding muscles during practice can speed up a sluggish digestion.
- Musculoskeletal – yoga movements encourages movement through all joints with can improve mobility and range of motion. The stretching involved int he poses can release muscles and joint tension. Improvement in flexibility can also be seen. The gentle stretching releases muscle and joint tension, and also increases flexibility.
- Nervous system – yoga movements can improve circulation, which eases muscle tension and soothes the nerves. Over time benefits of reduced stress, anxiety and fatigue are seen. People often find they have better concentration, more energy and a general sense of greater wellbeing
Who is yoga for?
Yoga is taught in classes, catering for beginners through to advanced practitioners. Everyone focusses on their own practice and development. It is for all fitness levels but you should not start a yoga program without input of a trained yoga instructor. Modifications are often required and your teacher will observe and make changes as necessary. Check out your local area for classes or one on one sessions.
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