Yoga – comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which translates into “union”; that is the union of mind, body and soul bringing them in harmony. It originated in India nearly 26,000 years ago – and it is considered one of the longest surviving practices. Today it has become increasingly popular; some seek it for the physical benefits and some have gone deep into the practice to experience the spiritual advantages.
Within the physical practice, yoga is different because of how we connect the rhythm of our breath to the movement of the body and the turbulence of the mind. Uniting the mind, body and breath helps us to tune inward. Through this process, we turn our awareness inward and we become more mindful of our patterns, thoughts, behaviour and experiences.
The benefits of yoga provide both instant fulfilment and long-lasting transformation. In the fitness world, both are extremely important. It can change your physical and mental capacity quickly while preparing the mind and body for long-term health. Let’s look at some of the various benefits of yoga:
- Improves your flexibility: this means you do not have to be flexible to join a class which is a misconception believed by many. On the contrary, you develop it during your practice. When defining “flexibility” in yoga, it is an attitude that transforms the mind as well as the body. From the physical aspect, flexibility stretches both your muscles and joints and makes your body less prone to injuries because it can withstand physical stress. Muscular fatigue is due to lactic acid building up, which yoga helps release from the muscle cells into the bloodstream so that it does not hinder muscular contraction. On a mental level, a flexible mind allows you to be more accepting and leads to a strengthened ability to approach problems and situations in a more positive and innovative manner.
- Builds your strength: if you’ve heard the statements “yoga is just stretching” or “you don’t get stronger in yoga” or “it’s a gentle woman-exercise” – think again. During a yoga class, yogis are constantly lifting their own bodies, balancing and engaging their core which with practice, is even more effective than hitting the gym. In addition, it works on many different levels giving you a more balanced approach, because a steady practice will strengthen, lengthen, and tone every muscle of your body.
- Protects your spine and improves your posture: probably more than half of the people in your community suffer from back pain or disk problems. Simply put, your spinal disks are shock absorbers between your vertebrae that can compress nerves – you know what they crave? Movement. This is their supply of nutrients and in yoga we “worship” the spine in the sense that it is the core of your body. When you have a healthy spine, your posture begins to improve eliminating all traces of back, neck and other muscles and joints problems.
- Relaxes your mind and helps you focus: when you bring your attention to your breath, making it slower and deeper, and focus on the present moment, you begin to enter into the “relaxation response”. That is, you shift the balance from the fight-or-flight response to the rest-and-digest response. This causes your blood pressure to decrease, lowers heart rate and breathing, and improves blood circulation.
The benefits are endless, and the only way you will know is when you walk into your next yoga class with no expectations, keep an open mind and an open heart. Yoga does not have a gender. Yoga does not have an age. Yoga is for everyone.
By: Reem Jabak