Today, Yoga is a practise that has gained global recognition and has become a fad. And while it is great that importance of yoga in our life has finally got everyone’s attention, do we really know the true essence and benefits of this ancient Indian science?
What is Yoga?
The word yoga originates from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ which means addition. Addition of energy, strength and beauty to the mind, body and soul. The Sanskrit sutra ‘Yog chitta vritti nirodha’ explains the true meaning of yoga, which is stilling the mind in order to attain tranquillity and move towards self-realization. This might sound a little too intense, but that’s the magic of yoga, it not only helps attain physical wellness but penetrates through the many layers of our being to heal the mind and soul.
A yoga practitioner for the past 9 years and now a yoga coach, I am a staunch proponent of this magical practice only because I have experienced its healing powers. It would be difficult to put down the countless benefits of yoga in a few words, but I’m going to make a rather brave attempt at it, only with the thought that this might encourage people to adopt the yogic way of life.
Benefits Of Yoga
Here is the list of benefits of yoga that will explain the importance of yoga in our life.
- Regular practice of yoga helps to release stiffness from our muscles and makes the body light, supple and flexible.
Yoga combines and increases a range of motion which stretches your muscles and improves flexibility. The more athletic varieties of yoga like power yoga will make you sweat.
- Yoga strengthens the body and also teaches us to lift your own body weight and not rely on external weights.
Use Yoga to sculpt your body. Weightlifters will be familiar with workouts that build muscle mass and increases endurance. Certain yoga postures can achieve these same goals without any equipment while also plus bringing your body into greater balance.
- Yoga can be done anywhere, anytime without any equipment
All one needs is the will and passion for it. This is one of the biggest benefits of yoga and is what makes the sport convenient to practice.
- Yoga asanas help improve blood circulation
Several twisted postures stop the blood flow in a particular part of the body and when one releases the posture a fresh flow of blood reaches that part and the cells.
- Yoga helps with posture
Seldom we pay attention to our posture while working, sitting, standing or just generally going about life and this leads to several issues like backache, neck pain, a hunched back, etc. Regular practise of yoga asanas not only helps strengthen the body but also improves our posture and thus reduces the occurrence of such postural problems.
- Relaxes our mind
Our fast-paced lives, hectic work schedules, and other personal pressures make it rather difficult for us to relax our mind and feel a sense of calmness. This often leads to anxiety. One of the best and most recommended ways of dealing with this problem is yogic breathing, pranayama, and several other breathing exercises.
- Yoga teaches us how to breathe
Breath is our life force but most often we don’t give it the importance it deserves. We never really focus on how we breathe, which leads to shallow breathing, rapid breathing, and short exhalations. Yoga helps us regulate our breath through a series of breathing exercises and pranayama.
- Consistent practice of yoga helps improve pulmonary function
Increases lung capacity and thus helps prevent several pulmonary disorders. Yoga can also heal people suffering from pulmonary disorders through correct and regular practice.
- Fights Depression
Depression is one of the most common issues that scores people suffer from. Yoga is recommended to be one of the best ways to fight depression. Yogic breathing exercises and asanas help to soothe our senses and calm the mind. Regular practice of Nadi Shodhan Kriya, Ujjai Pranayam, Kapalbhatti and Anulom Vilom along with postures like Balasana, Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasa, Paschimottanasana, and several others helps energize us, alleviates our mood and keeps depression at bay.
- Yoga helps in better sleep
Sleep deprivation, disturbed sleep, insomnia are very common problems faced by several people, today. Good, sound sleep is one of the most important requirements of a healthy mind and body. Lack of sleep can lead to increased risk of heart diseases, kidney problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. One of the best way to deal with this problem is yoga. Asanas like Balasana, Uttanasana, Supta Baddha Konasana, Viprit Karni, Savasana and the bee breathing technique called Brahmari helps improve the quality of one’s sleep.
- Improves mood (This is one benefit of yoga that we all need)
It is often said that you are just one yoga class away from good mood. A saying that holds true, as yoga helps get rid of lethargy, dullness, anxiety and drives the blues away. Not only does it heal the soul and calm the mind but also makes the practitioner energetic and positive.
- Prevents aches and pains
Yoga not only helps strengthen the body, improve flexibility and agility but it is also one of the best ways to heal injuries and also prevent several aches and pains. That is the reason, yoga is meant for one and all.
- Helps deal with back problems
Consistent and correct practice of yogic postures helps to deal with back related problems like a slip disc, a weak back, lower backache, etc. Yoga asanas help make the back supple, strong, corrects the posture and improve stability, which in turn leads to a healthy spine.
- Yoga is highly recommended for runners
Running leads to several issues like runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis, muscles stiffness, cramps, hamstring issues, etc. Yoga is the perfect recovery activity for runners. Yogic stretches helps relieve soreness, heal the muscles, strengthens them, prevent stiffness which in turn helps one run better.
- An effective digital detox
The digital era that we live in today leads to the constant use of computers and mobile phones, while sitting in an incorrect posture. This causes excessive strain on the neck and can lead to cervical spondylosis and severe neck pain. Simple yoga asanas and stretches can help treat this problem, heal the neck muscles, make them stronger, improve posture and also prevent neck weakness.
- An intense cardio workout
One of the most common myths about yoga is that it is slow, boring and meant only of senior citizens. This is not true at all. Yoga can be as intense as one wants it to be, it can be a cardio workout, it can be focused on strength building and toning, it can be focused on improving flexibility and agility, it can help with weight loss and all this without the use of any equipment.
- Yoga is for all age groups
Yoga is a practice that is made to order and meant for all age categories, from 8 to infinity. You can alter the routine based on your mood and your goal.
- Sculpts the body
A strong core is extremely important not just for toned abs but for the many health benefits it leads to, like prevention of back ache, protection of internal organs, correct posture, etc. And you need a lot more than just a few crunches to strengthen the core. Yogic kriyas and bandhas like Nauli, Agnisaar, Udyan Bandha are the best ways to detox and make the core stronger. Several asanas like Navasana, Kumbhakasana, Vashishthasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, etc works wonders on the core.
- Yoga promotes holistic living and works on every aspect of our being
It's one of the most powerful paths to overall wellness. Yoga helps with physical, physiological, psychological, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being.
- Yoga provides more than just physical fitness
It’s an effective method of dealing with and preventing a host of health problems. Migraine is one such common condition that many suffer from. Practise of simple yoga postures like Hastapadasana, Setu Bandhasana, Balasana, Marjarasana, etc along with Pranayama helps cure and prevent migraine.
- Eliminates toxins from the body
If you are looking for a way to cleanse your digestive system and eliminate toxins from your body, yoga is the way to go. Yogic kriyas like Vaman, Laghoo Shankprakshalan, Agnisaar, Nauli and asanas like Prasarita Padottanasana, Marichyasana series, Parivratta Utkatsana, etc helps massage the intestines, eliminates carbon dioxide, lactic acid, lymphatic acid from deep within and so is the perfect way to detox.
- Yoga helps to boost immunity
Asanas, kriyas, bandhas and pranayama helps strengthen the immune system.
- Helps the nervous system
Meditation and pranayama along with asanas helps maintain the health of our nervous system, which in turns affects our emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
- Improves lung functioning
Aum chanting and yogic breathing exercises helps increase one’s lung capacity and improves lung function.
- Reduces medicine cost
Regular practice of yoga leads to a drastic reduction in the amount of money you spend on medicines. It makes you stronger, less prone to common ailments and encourages natural ways of healing.
- Cures respiratory problems
Yoga offers one of the most effective ways of curing respiratory problems like asthma, sinusitis, common cold, etc. The nasal cleansing yogic process called Jal Neti helps practitioners stay disease free, removes congestion and blockages of nasal as well as respiratory regions.
- Improves Cognitive functioning
Trataka, the yogic gazing meditation technique is a great way to improve one's cognitive functioning, keeps eye problems at bay by making them stronger, cleaner and brighter, improves focus and memory. Trataka also helps deal with insomnia, mild depression, emotional complexes and takes the practitioner closer to their inner self.
- Helps both high or low blood pressure
Yoga is highly recommended for people who suffer from both high or low blood pressure. Practise of yogic breathing exercises and asanas helps cure hypertension and regulates ones blood pressure.
- Increase Physical Energy
Yogic breathing exercises like Surya Bhedana pranayama helps increase physical energy, boosts the sympathetic nervous system, improves ones metabolic rate, increases the efficiency of the digestive system and can also be done to feel warm in extreme cold conditions.
- Reduce Stress and Tension
While another breathing exercise called Chandra Bhedana pranayama helps reduce body heat, heart burning issues, lowers blood pressure. It also helps reduce stress and tension by calming the mind. Chandra Bhedana pranayama is also an effective technique to help deal with high fever.
- Improves Thyroid Functioning
Several scientific studies have shown the positive effect of yoga on improving thyroid functioning. Ujjai Pranayama along with asanas like Setu Bandhasana, Sarvangasana, Halsana, Matsya Asana, Viprit Karni, and several others helps cure and prevent both Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism.
- Reduces the risk of Diabetes
One of the most rampant health disorders across the globe today is Diabetes. Yogic breathing exercises, pranayama and several twisted postures that massage the pancreas and intestines, improves the functioning of the digestive system and helps reduce blood sugar levels, which in turn reduces the risk of Diabetes and other related complications.
- Dysfunction of the sciatic nerve
Dysfunction of the sciatic nerve causes tremendous pain and leads to Sciatica. Mindful and targeted yoga practise can help one overcome the pain and also cure the problem.
- Helps in emotional and psychological aspects
While yoga works on the external and internal anatomy of the human body it also plays a very important role in dealing with the emotional and psychological aspects of individuals. Yoga takes the practitioner from ‘Bahirang’ i.e external to ‘Antarang’ i.e internal to introspect, become one with ones inner-being and get closer to attaining inner peace.
- A balance of posture and breath
One of the major benefits of Yoga is that it's a combination of postural alignment in asanas and breath. One is incomplete without the other. While focusing on the posture clears the mind of wavering thoughts, focusing on the breath helps the body relax, stabilize and creates balance. So, even though you might be in Sirsasana, (upside-down) the mind is in a state of tranquillity. That is the magic of yoga.
- Benefits of Sirsasana or Headstand
Sirsasana or Headstand is known as the king of asanas and it has a host of benefits. Sirsasana helps calm the brain, increases focus, strengthens the core, arms and shoulders, improves digestion, cures headaches and migraine, treats diabetes, gives a natural facial, treats hair loss, improves blood circulation. (And while it has so many benefits, it must be done only once you have learnt and practised the posture under guidance and have no problems like high blood pressure, cervical spondylosis, cardiac issues or vertigo.)
- Yoga Nidra to reduce Stress
Yoga Nidra is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress, which is often the reason for health disorders. Yoga nidra promotes deep rest and relaxation. The stages of body scan and breath awareness helps release long-held emotions, calms the nervous system leading to less stress and better health.
- Benefits of Suryanamaskar
Suryanamaskar or Sun Salutaion, one of the most popular yogic practises is a form of expressing gratitude to the sun, the source of all life on earth, through 12 different postures. Suryanamaskars has a series of benefits, it promotes balance in the body, improves blood circulation, strengthens the heart, tones the digestive tract, stimulates abdominal muscles, respiratory system, spinal nerves and other internal organs.
- Poses that Heal
Plantar Fasciitis is a disorder that leads to excruciating pain in the arch and heels of the feet and yoga is a great way to treat it. Postures like Tadasana, Bhaddha Konasana, Supta Padangusthasana, helps heal and also prevent the problem. These postures are also great for people who have flat feet.
- Yoga a way of life
Just to wrap up the multiple benefits of yoga, I'd like to say that Yoga is not just a form of exercise, it’s a way of life, that if adopted leads to holistic wellness. Yoga is a form of therapy that heals us and teaches us the importance of discipline, routine, practise, patience and self-belief.
Yoga is not just a form of workout, it’s a practise that works on the inner well-being. Yoga is an ancient philosophy that creates strength, harmony and awareness within our body.