I started doing Qigong a month ago and thankfully, my teacher incorporates a fair amount of yoga into the weekly sessions. This inspired me to write about the health benefits of Yoga.
Yoga Improves Your Flexibility
In your first few yoga classes, you might find it impossible to touch your toes or complete most of the extended poses. Don't worry this is completely normal and I went through the same process. As you progress you'll notice a loosening in your joints, connective tissue and muscles. This allows for greater flexibility, less fatigue the day after class and overall awesomeness when you strike a pose. Tight muscles/joints makes it more likely that you will have poor posture. Poor posture is the primary cause of knee joint and back pain complaints.
Yoga Improves Your Strength
The various poses in yoga increase blood flow to muscles by gradually stretching them into a full movement. This stretching improves the muscles endurance and strength that our modern lives don't normally allow. Stronger, more durable muscles improve your natural movement and gives you greater control over your body. Not to mention the extra strength boost comes in handy when you have to help your mother do the weekly shopping!
Yoga Improves Posture
If like me you spent most of your working life sat on a desk behind a computer screen - posture may have become an issue. The flexibility and strength conditioning that Yoga gives you will improve your posture greatly. Improved posture means you are less likely to develop strains and aches. Stronger muscles and flexible joints mean you are able to support your body’s skeletal structure with greater ease - this in turn decreases discomfort, while maximising performance when sitting or doing the tango.
Yoga Protects Your Spine, Cartilage And Joints
Your spine is made of several disks, the vertebrae between each disk act as shock absorbers. These natural shock absorbers require frequent movement in order to replenish their reserve of nutrients. Yoga incorporates forward bends, back bends and many stretching twists that give your spine the movement it so desperately craves. The cartilage and joints in your body behave in a similar manner; Yoga gives them a full range of movement allowing them to squeeze out any used up nutrients and be fully replenished. This replenishing movement can stave off arthritis which degenerates the cartilage/joints due to insufficient nutrients being delivered to key areas. Without enough nutrients cartilage can wear out, exposing bone and nerves to a bumpy ride!
Yoga Lowers Blood Pressure And Regulates Adrenal Glands
It's all in the way you strike a pose. The poses in yoga move organs around, stretch muscles and joints in perfect harmony; these movements decrease Cortisol levels within the body. Cortisol is released during times of stress or crisis; this gives a temporary boost to the immune system and boosts long term memory function (likely so you dont forget the lessons of your hardships). However having hightened doses of Cortisol over an extended period of time prevents the immune system from functioning efficiently, causes depression, undermines overall memory and may lead to osteoporosis (due to the removal of calcium from bones during the release)! Yoga improves blood flow around the body, this in turn lowers blood pressure.
Yoga Lowers Blood Sugar And Cholesterol
Regularly practising Yoga lowers blood sugar and bad cholesterol, while increasing good cholesterol. In addition to this, it also encourages the absorption of insulin! Good news for Diabetes sufferers! Better get posing soonest!
Yoga Improves Balance
People with bad posture and poor spatial awareness of their bodies will benefit from the Tree pose among others - which improve balance. Improved balance means you are less likely to trip over and get injured. Good balance is particularly crucial to the elderly who are tend to have limited mobility and may suffer more serious injuries from a fall.
According to yogajournal.com:
"Some advanced yogis can control their bodies in extraordinary ways, many of which are mediated by the nervous system. Scientists have monitored yogis who could induce unusual heart rhythms, generate specific brain-wave patterns, and, using a meditation technique, raise the temperature of their hands by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. If they can use yoga to do that, perhaps you could learn to improve blood flow to your pelvis if you’re trying to get pregnant or induce relaxation when you’re having trouble falling asleep."
I'm sure the list can and will go on as western science catches up and my own yoga studies deepen. If you know more of the health benefits practicing Yoga instils - please do share by commenting below.
Happiness, Love and blessings to you all,
Your cosmic brother, Eye-Zen