Health benefits of yoga
Yoga has been practiced as a spiritual, mental and physical discipline by Indians for more than 5000 years. The term yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj”, which means “to join.” The purpose of yoga was to connect the individual with the Ultimate. However, today it is more popular all over the world as a means of improving physical and mental health.
Yoga, as it is taught today, includes asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing techniques) and dhyana (meditation). It is usually a combination of the above three.
There are immense health benefits of yoga. It develops flexibility, increases strength and promotes balance. Here is a brief overview of some of them.
Physical movements in the asanas involve stretching of muscles and other soft tissues in all parts of the body. This results in release of lactic acid that would have built up due to lack of muscular movement.
Lactic acid buildup is one of the main reasons for pain, tension, fatigue and stiffness. Regular practice of yoga increases the range of motion and lubricates the joints. Yoga increases the body’s flexibility.
Some asanas are more vigorous than others. They strengthen the bones and muscles in the body and improve endurance. Postures like Adhomukha Shwanasana (downward dog posture) and Urdhvamukha Shwanasana (upward dog posture) strengthen the upper body. Asanas like Utkatasana strengthen the lower part of the body. Yoga builds increases core strength and relieves symptoms of back pain and arthritis.
Increased strength and flexibility results in improved posture. Right posture prevents many ailments. It also adds to the confidence immensely. Yoga enhances the oxygen-absorption capacity of the lungs. It provides relief form asthma. Regular practice of yoga improves overall fitness and stamina.
Yoga helps you to handle stress. Regular practice of yoga results in decreased production of catecholamines. These hormones are produced by adrenalin glands in response to stress. Yoga provides relief from insomnia.
Yoga is very good for cardiac health. It maintains a healthy blood pressure and heart rate. It boosts the immune system and decreases bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
Yoga lowers levels of neurotransmitters like epinephrine. This promotes calmness of the mind. Regular practice of yoga increases oxytocin levels. This hormone is associated with relaxation. Yoga improves memory and the mind’s ability to learn.
Yoga increases the ability to concentrate and improves skill in action. It promotes a positive attitude towards life in general. It is very effective against depression as it increases blood supply to the brain. Yoga is known to relieve symptoms of many mind related conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Even though yoga is a safe non-aerobic exercise, it should not be practiced without the guidance a capable teacher. It is definitely not a DIY venture. Before joining any school of yoga, it is always advisable to speak to the students of the school.
Yoga, if practiced under a capable guide, will surely enhance your spiritual, mental and physical well-being.