“Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.” –B.K.S. Iyengar
Yoga is more than a simple workout session. It’s a spiritual journey to self-discovery and to the present moment- the only moment that truly exists. There are innumerable benefits of yoga as the mind, body and soul come together to match frequencies. There is full body and breath awareness in that very moment. Even starting with a simple 20 minutes a day will let you reap the many benefits of yoga.
Yoga is a very individual and organic practice. There is no right way to do it, as in cardiovascular and strength training. The whole essence of yoga is to be aware of your body’s strengths and capabilities and slowly accept it while pushing yourself a little further, only as much as comfortable. So no one expects you to twist and turn into a pretzel without breaking a sweat, in the first go. Just do whatever feels good for you. It’s not a team activity.
The physical benefits of the ancient practice are too many to count; each body part gains something from every aasana and every breath. Better posture, strength, balance, endurance, coordination, flexibility, steadiness and increased lung capacity are the basic gems one finds when beginning to engage with yoga. It is also a well-known fact that those who incorporate yoga into their daily lives are more likely to maintain a healthy weight than those who don’t. They are much more aware of their body and this translates into their everyday care for themselves including diet and rest. Even though yoga is more than just a workout, it still serves as a great workout. There are intensive forms of yoga which consist of quick transition between aasanas and mudras to increase the metabolic rate and heart beat; there are also restorative forms of yoga which focus on breathing, stretching and calming the mind. The suryanamaskara, a series of 12 poses is said to be one of the best ways to lose weight. Yoga lowers levels of adrenalin, cortisol, blood pressure, pulse rate and cholesterol. Additionally, total body awareness attained from yoga is essential to preventing bodily injuries.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
Simply becoming very aware of your breath and body brings an immediate calming to the mind. Stress, anxiety and depression levels decrease as respiration rate decreases and the amino acid, GABA increases which facilitates calmness and relaxation in our bodies. Continuous practice of yoga enables a person to have greater mind control or control over his/her emotions. It increases concentration and focus and fosters a healthier body-image. Research shows that yoga helps in reducing symptoms of certain neuro-psychiatric disorders including ADHD and schizophrenia; also but not limited to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Regular practitioners of yoga are happier and more peaceful due to the release of Endorphin or the happiness hormone. It helps in getting better sleep and better digestive health and improves intuitive ability.
Yoga leads to an overall sense of fulfillment and a deeper sense of gratitude in general. It inculcates a greater sense of appreciation and fosters the ability to truly live the positive experiences of daily life. Yoga allows spending time with ourselves leading to introspection about our limitations: physically, mentally and emotionally. It can lead to the one thing we’re constantly looking for: discovery of one’s sense of purpose and meaning in life.
The list of benefits from yoga is endless. Start slow, start somewhere. Take your time. The whole process becomes redundant if you set out to prove a point. Stretch till it feels good. Learn to be curious about who you are and know your body. Inhale peace. Exhale chaos. You will see many, if not all these benefits soon. Yoga teaches you to honor your body, let go of things that no longer serve you, be present, achieve more than you think and breathe. Just breathe. As the Bhagvad Gita says, yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.
“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” – Sharon Gannon
By Pallavi Prasad
Image Source: Stickney Brook Yoga