Modern yoga practices based on ancient philosophies have expanded exponentially all over the world in the past 100 years or so. Contemporary research is playing its part in spreading the word of how immensely beneficial a yoga practice can be for our wellbeing – that we might be able to think and feel more clearly, breathe more mindfully, and move more effortlessly.
There are several types of yoga, with the commonality that they are energetic practices that can enable the practitioner to live more harmoniously and potentially create an antidote to living in a busy world, where too much stress may be creating imbalance. Available and adaptable for people of all shapes, ages, sizes and levels of experience, yoga is for everyone and can positively impact our skeletal, immune, endocrine, respiratory, nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, and energetic systems. Here is a list of just some of those benefits
Mental clarity and nervous system rebalance.
With busy lives we can often be stressed for long periods of time, which can lead to illnesses both mental and physical. Yoga can help soothe our nervous system and restore us to balance. When yoga is practised mindfully and with focus on our breath, it can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression amongst many symptoms of long term stress. Yoga can improve our sleep and aids the flow of messaging and nutrients between the brain and spinal cord, keeping both healthier. These are just some of the ways yoga can increase mental ease, function and clarity
Flexibility, Balance and Strength.
Flexibility, balance and strength are functions essential to our daily lives – and developing these skills through yoga will lay the foundation for overall wellness – increasing your range of motion, bone density, and joint and tissue health. The benefits of this increased functionality will assist in all aspects of your daily life.
Yoga is a practice that can shift various energies all around our body. As a breathing and energetic practice this is how yoga is fundamentally different to other forms of physical movement. With many physiological systems being attended to and influencing each other in yoga, by practising over time it can bring higher levels of self awareness, calming balance, and uplifting vitality.
Respiratory System and Core Strength
Almost all yoga poses involve core engagement in some form, particularly when held for the full recommended length. Consequently, continuous practice of yoga has been proven to strengthen the abdominal muscles, which creates a powerful centre for the body. There are many muscles in our core but the strengthening of the diaphragm through yoga and breath work has a large influence on our respiratory system function. With a stronger diaphragm our breathing becomes more efficient – and relaxed breathing with an engaged diaphragm can increase lung capacity.
Inversions in yoga may assist with healthier lung tissue, particularly the upper lobes of the lungs, as blood flow is encouraged when upside down. These are just some of the ways that yoga can help along our respiratory system.
Blood Pressure and Circulation
Several studies have suggested yoga as a source of relief for blood flow related issues, such as high blood pressure. The restorative effects of yoga, the practice of regulated breathing and the compression/release of muscles and blood vessels involved may significantly calm and tone the cardiovascular system to produce these results.
Our gut’s healthy functioning is central to our wellbeing and yoga can play an integral part. The strengthening of respiratory muscles together with side bends, twists and forward bends in yoga practices, all encourage massaging of digestive organs which helps the movement of food through our digestive tract. The calming and balancing effect of yoga also influences our digestion. Our gastro-intestinal tract has more than 100 million nerve cells and produces most of the body’s serotonin, one of our ‘happy’ hormones – if digestion is working well, this in turn may help our mental, emotional and physical health.
Immune response and Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural lymphatic and immune system response that protects the body from potential infection. However, long term inflammation within the body can increase the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Yoga practice may reduce inflammation in several ways including moving our joints through their available range and through nervous system re-balancing. Some studies suggest that as little as a ten minute twice a day of yoga practice incorporating a whole body stretch can have an effect on inflammation levels. Muscular contractions, breathing practices and inversions may also help move lymphatic fluid around our body which in turn activates an immune response, maintains fluid balance and absorbs fat and nutrients in our bodies.
These are just some of the many benefits that many types of yoga can bring at any stage of a practice. There are also many ways to practise yoga – while some practise yoga at home, studio yoga can provide a sense of community, belonging to a practice and the opportunity to share experiences. Exploring your local area or online studio for what might appeal could be the start of a transformational journey!