Why do people do yoga? Well, some people do it because they want to get more flexible, some just like the idea of yoga, and some do it because they want to get healthier. However, the real question that everyone asks is, “What is yoga good for?” Whatever the reason may be, the benefits of yoga are undoubtedly numerous and you reap them as your practice advances.
There are visible positive effects, which you realize as time passes by. As you delve into the practice you will fall in love with yoga and will start to feel incomplete whenever you don’t do it.
There are many people who shake their heads to an affirmative ‘No’ when advised to do yoga. They give reasons like, “I am not flexible enough”, “I do not have the time”, “It’s too slow and I do not have the patience”.
If you too are one of them and are reading this, thinking that yoga is not for you, then it’s time that you reconsider your thoughts. Make note, yoga serves a purpose beyond and above all these reasons and the end result is always your greater good.
Yoga is an age-old science; about 5000 years old, which was created to bring about the unison of body, mind and soul. Furthermore, the practice is gentle, unlike other exercises which require rigorousness and speed. Hence, yoga is suitable for everyone from any age, shape, size, or fitness levels.
The discipline encompasses numerous styles, some fast and intense, and some relaxing and slow. Practitioners can choose the style which suit their range of movement and speed. The twists, stretches, and bends all combine and work to benefit you from the inside out.
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To elaborate on the wholesome benefits of daily yoga here is a list which will make you reconsider your thoughts on the subject altogether.
What Are Benefits Of Yoga?
Yoga comes as a package of wholesome goodness to mind, body and soul. The benefits of yoga are immeasurable. For instance, if you have been suffering from insomnia or have appetite issues, just within one week of yoga practice, there will be noticeable changes, which will be to your liking.
The great yoga Guru, Shri B.K.S Iyengar, before he discovered yoga, was a sickly and meek young boy, who continuously suffered from malnutrition and a dearth of illnesses due to lack of immunity in his body caused from the attack of the influenza pandemic at the time of his birth.
It was his brother-in-law, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who introduced him to the yoga practice at the age of 15. To further improvise, Shri B.K.S Iyengar also initiated the use of props, first to help himself overcome his disabilities at that time and further so the art could be accessible to everyone. There was no looking back for him once he set out on this wonderful journey and the results are what you have seen for yourself.
So, “what are benefits of yoga?” The benefits come in different forms and in different ways especially when we speak of genders separately. After all, the human body is designed differently for men and women. So, let’s see how it works that way first, before moving on and citing the wholesome advantages to all.
Benefits of Yoga For Women
Women are known to endure a lot more bodily changes, internally and externally, than men. Their hormones fluctuate almost regularly, which cause them to have mood swings, weight problems, and food cravings. Furthermore, they also have to go through various phases in their life like their monthly menstrual cycles, pregnancies, menopause, and menopause.
This constant fluctuation in hormones can sometimes be smooth sailing for some but overwhelming for many, which makes their life move in different directions altogether.
Hence, women need a lot of support, especially with matters of the mind and heart. This is where yoga can help them; to heal and revive for another strenuous day in their life. If women choose the right type of yoga poses to practice daily, they can embrace mental, spiritual, emotional, as well as physical benefits of yoga, which will remain with them for life.
- Yoga poses like the Headstand (Shirshasana) increases blood flow to the brain, which in turn improves memory and functions of the pituitary and pineal glands.
- Benefits of yoga and meditation bring a positive effect on the endocrine system, which is responsible for releasing the hormones and maintaining balance within the body mechanism.
- Pranayama, helps in calming the mind and releasing unhealthy toxins from the body by the power of breath.
- Women who practice yoga have higher chances of natural childbirth without any complications before, during, or after delivery.
- Performing yoga prior to childbirth helps mother connect with her baby and also aids her in opening her hips and relaxing her muscles prior to childbirth, making the process less painful and easy.
Benefits of Yoga For Men
When we talk about yoga, men are hardly thought or spoken about. But, the truth is, among the growing population of yogis, men make their mark as well. The benefits of yoga for men are massive ranging from dealing with anxiety disorders to alleviating health disorders and increasing their stamina and strength.
When it comes to fitness, men like building their body and growing muscles with the help of weights. However, there are supplements that come into play for achieving this. Yoga discourages the use of supplements and builds body’s muscles without restricting their movement or flexibility.
Ask a bodybuilder to touch his back and you will see a living example for yourself. Leave alone just that, they are even unable to even bend properly due to the tightened muscles. While bodybuilding involves the use of weights, yoga involves the use of one’s own body weight to achieve the same strength in a different way altogether.
Moving forward, men also face huge issues of stress and anxiety due to the changing & fast lifestyle and work pressures of the present day. This, in turn, leads to several health issues like heart diseases, depression, and lack of sexual performance. Doing yoga and combining it with meditation in such cases can alleviate the situation and offer a solution for all the problems altogether.
A certain study in 2010, studied 65 male participants, mostly in the age group of 40 in a yoga camp and found that their sexual performance had improved after 12 weeks of yoga practice. Yoga does this by improving the flow of blood to the pelvic region and increasing the testosterone levels in men.
Yoga For Seniors
Human body becomes more fragile and less flexible as it ages. Hence, the practice of yoga for them differs to protect them from injuries.
The poses are much gentler and more relaxing. Yoga comes as a life saver for the elderlies as it helps them improve their posture, body balance, maintain healthy bones, retain muscle mass, and slows down the aging process. It also helps them retain gray matter, which means better memory and mental health.
However, it is advisable for the elderlies to perform yoga poses under the guidance of an expert yogi or yoga teacher as they would know the right poses for them along with the safe ways to do yoga poses.
Health Benefits of Doing Yoga
As seen above, yoga has numerous health benefits to offer for everyone. However, there are some more yoga health benefits that are common for all and can be attained with regular practice.
Another 2010 study, by the University of Maryland School of Nursing, compared the health benefits of doing yoga versus that of practicing aerobics. The study revealed that yoga surpassed aerobic exercises on many levels and did not just stop at achieving fitness. Yoga also improved the participants’ balance, flexibility, strength, and threshold of pain.
Some of the health benefits that yoga provides its practitioners are as follows:
- Weight loss or gain
- Increases flexibility
- Cures heart problems
- Stabilizes blood pressure
- Improves blood circulation
- Improves digestion
- Boosts metabolism
- Alleviates pain
- Increases Immunity
- Improves respiration process
- Improves gray matter
Spiritual Benefits of Yoga
Spirituality has nothing to do with religion and neither does yoga. Spirituality in yoga means to be able to live life to the fullest without being bound to any materialistic needs. It is the method of attaining hygienic happiness, by being able to connect to one’s self.
You can add to the benefits of yoga in terms of spirituality by adding meditation to the practice. As yoga balances the unbalanced body and grounds it, meditation aids in keeping the mind still and calm, providing a deep sense of relaxation and also alleviating mindfulness of your surroundings and yourself.
To increase this sense of being present in the moment, yogis advise practitioners to choose a quiet place and time to meditate. That is why, morning yoga practice, during the wee hours, are the most desirable being the freshest part of the day offering a time of day when you would not be disturbed at all. Hence, the benefits of yoga in the morning are undoubtedly also the most prominent.
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Mental Benefits of Yoga
Everyone’s mental health is at stake in present time due to unhealthy lifestyles and food choices. Students especially need a stronger memory owing to the growing competition among peers but that does not exclude people coming from other age groups as well.
People are aging faster mentally than they are physically. It’s hard to memorize even a 4 digit number without writing it down somewhere first and that is an alarming behavior.
Yoga is not only a physical exercise. It’s good for your mental health too. Mental health encompasses any type of problems related to the mind functioning abnormally like depression, anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, and dementia to name a few.
Practicing yoga has revealed a boost in GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) levels, which is responsible for regulating nerve activities, especially in people who suffer from anxiety disorders.
A research by the Boston University Medical School found that people who performed yoga had an increased level of GABA by 27% as compared to those who were asked to read a book.
They performed another study in 2010 with people who chose walking as a preferred form of exercise and yoga practitioners. The study excluded people with any psychiatric disorders. The end result highlighted increased levels of GABA in the thalamus for yoga practitioners once again with decreased levels of anxiety and stress.
Yoga today is deemed highly important for mental health especially for students who have to memorize tons and tons of syllabus. Medicines can offer some help with alleviating mental well-being but only to some extent. However, with yoga the effects are long-term and for life.
Emotional Benefits of Yoga
There are good emotions like happiness, bliss, gratefulness, and contentment and there are bad emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and anxiety to name a few. As much as we like the good emotions, owing to all the pressure we are burdened with from all directions of life, whether it’s work, family, or a tiff with a friend, the bad emotions overcome us. This only spoils our future actions, thought of reasoning, and our relationships with people.
In this case, yoga helps us build positive emotions. Positive emotions are important to everything we hold dear to our lives like our health, relationships, happiness and work. The positive effects are long-lasting and for a lifetime.
The human brain has 4 main chemicals that create happiness namely, endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. All these chemicals are produced in the central nervous system and they help us deviate from the feeling of pain.
Here’s what happens, whenever any of these chemical’s levels drop and how yoga can help in improving their functionality.
This chemical works as a defensive mechanism whenever you feel physical or emotional pain. A drop in endorphin levels can cause depression and mental instability. Doing yoga poses, especially the stretches, increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your brain and releasing endorphins to make you happy.
Some useful yoga poses that are helpful for increasing endorphin levels are the Fish Pose (Matsyasana), Child Pose (Balasana), Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), Boat Pose (Naukasana), Headstand (Shirshasana), and Tree Pose (Vrksasana).
This chemical is what makes you trust people and reduces your fear. A lack of this chemical in your central nervous system could lead to trust issues among friends and family, and an anti-social behavior. A simple act of giving or receiving a hug can increase your oxytocin levels.
Oxytocin is also called the “love hormone and can aid in stabilizing blood pressure and cortisol levels. Since yoga is a calming and relaxing practice, it helps you be more aware of your surrounding and yourself.
The practice also teaches you to love and respect yourself. It is these feelings which release oxytocin into your nervous system, making you a more social and friendly person than ever.
Some yoga poses that can help you increase oxytocin levels are Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), Locust Pose (Salabhasana), Tree Pose (Vrksasana) and Plow Pose (Halasana).
This is the happiness chemical in your brain that motivates you to works towards a goal. If the amount of dopamine in your body decreases, it will impact your decision-making and problem-solving abilities.
All yoga poses are not easy and come across as a challenge to yogis; a goal which they must achieve. In the end, when students obtain the goal, it leaves them with a sense of fulfillment and attainment. This increases the levels of dopamine in their brains which automatically makes them happy as they engage their minds in achieving the next level.
Some poses you can try for increasing dopamine levels are Humming Bee Breathing (Bhramari Pranayama), Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana), Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhanasana), Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), and Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana).
This chemical acct as a neurotransmitter in the brain that determines your mood and manners of dealing with people in everyday life. People with low levels of serotonin usually suffer from low energy levels, depression, anger, and unexplained feelings of sadness. Furthermore, decreased levels of this chemical are also the cause of suicidal thoughts that people have.
According to many studies, daily yoga practice, combined with prayer and meditation can increase serotonin levels significantly. Yoga has been believed to improve immunity body functions.
Simple actions like changing the expressions on your face, stretching or relaxing your muscles, or transitioning from one pose to another in itself release more serotonin into the body thus balancing your mood and behavior for a happy social life.
Some yoga poses you can try to increase serotonin levels are – Shoulderstand, headstand, Plow Pose (Halasana), Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), and Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana).
There are many benefits of yoga. To do the practice means to be kind and understanding to your body. It’s not about pushing yourself off-limits and crushing your self-esteem. When you try yoga, remember to never compare yourself to others.
Understand that your body and its metabolism are different from everyone else. It will take its own time to come to the perfect level no matter how much you push it. Pushing things forward will only damage what you are out to achieve. Furthermore, to reap full benefits of yoga, you need to embrace and love yourself to the fullest.
Everyone is different and yoga understands that. As you journey along, you shall understand this. The practice opens your mind to newer horizons, allowing you to embrace yourself for who you really are; letting go of what is toxic for you and holding on to the good.