Yoga is rich in benefits for the mind, body, and spirit
Yoga studios have been popping up everywhere in the last few years. It’s like Starbucks, seems like there’s one on every corner, right?! It’s more popular than ever, with over 20 million Americans practicing. I have been an avid yogini on and off for more than 20 years. Unfortunately, I’ve been more ‘off’ for too long. I do plenty of cardio and strength training and I’m usually good about doing some yogic stretches afterward but haven’t had the steady yoga practice that I used to. I miss it!
In fact, I was just telling a friend at lunch the other day that I want to commit to a regular practice again. Honestly, I see and feel a clear difference in both the way I look and feel when yoga is a regular part of my fitness routine. Writing this has inspired me and now I’ve put it out there, you can hold me accountable! Check back in a few weeks to see where I’m at 😉
A good yoga session leaves you with an inner peace that stays with you throughout the day. The mind body experience of yoga has benefits that go beyond leaner muscles and a more zen state of being. No chanting necessary, so roll out your yoga mat and strike a pose.
The Mind Body Connection
In yoga, you focus on your breathing, as well as what your body is doing and how it is feeling and reacting to each pose. That focus carries through to other aspects of your life. “I think the most important benefit of a yoga practice is learning how to replace habits with mindfulness,” says Leeann Carey, founder, Yāpana by Leeann Carey Yoga. “Mindfulness is a strategy for turning knowing into doing and being. It is more than striking a yoga pose. It is about noticing what you are doing and how you are doing it. A yoga practice is a method for implementing this.”
Increased Strength and Stamina Yoga doesn’t just make you more flexible, it really makes your muscles strong. You work all of your body parts and many of the poses take a tremendous amount of strength, particularly when you challenge your body to hold them for at least five breaths. I notice a lot more definition when I practice yoga on a regular basis. A good yoga class really works me and I love it.
Yoga has a calming effect on the nervous system. Stress causes a PLETHORA of health problems, seriously, it’s a killer. Anything you can do to manage stress will be unbelievably beneficial. Mindful breathing is one of the best things you can do to bring your stress levels down. In yoga, you focus on your breath as you move from pose to pose. Yoga has been shown to increase levels of a chemical in your brain that helps decrease anxiety known as GABA (gamma-amniobutyric). That wonderful afterglow of yoga known as the “yoga buzz” keeps you energized and calm.
The Group Health Research Institute in Seattle recently conducted a study where they found that 60 percent of their subjects suffering from chronic back pain reported significant relief after just 12 yoga classes.
There isn’t a huge amount of research regarding yoga and weight loss but studies have shown a correlation. Carey says she has seen countless students lose weight through yoga, “There are plenty of styles of yoga that promote weight loss — some that are more aerobic than others. But the most important and enduring effect is a mindful lifestyle which supports overall healthy choices in food, activity, thought, and action in all things,” says Carey.
It Just Might Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is the primary cause of disease and aging. Reducing toxic load and maintaining a healthy weight are huge factors in keeping inflammation in check. The Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research reported a study that found individuals who practiced yoga had lower inflammatory markers levels than those who didn’t.
Yoga Is for Everyone
It doesn’t matter what your fitness level is or how old you are, there are modifications for each pose that allow everyone to practice and reap the benefits. Yoga is now mainstream; it’s easy to find a good class. There are several different types of yoga, so do a little research and find the best fit for you. Be sure to choose a reputable yoga studio with skilled instructors. It is crucial that they know how to teach proper alignment and make necessary adjustments in the poses to avoid injuries. Namaste
This post was originally published in 2016, it has been updated and revised for your enjoyment.