Benefits of Yoga
The benefits that come into your life through Yoga are so rewarding that once you start it is virtually impossible to stop. You feel better, look better, your skin is different, your diet changes and your outlook changes. Your heart starts to open and your attitude becomes more flexible and tolerant. Yoga is the key to opening up what is truly underneath. Once the body becomes flexible it starts to release pent up emotions and helps to correct defects in the posture. The body very soon becomes agile and lighter and a sense of wellbeing and confidence takes over. This is when the alchemical changes begin. It frees us of disease and brings the body, mind and soul together in harmony.
In recent years Yoga has been increasingly recommended by health professionals as a means of cleansing the body of impurities, reducing weight, toning nerves and muscles, and, generally, improving health and fitness.
Hatha Yoga begins by working with the body on a structural level, helping to align the vertebrae, increase flexibility, and strengthen muscles and connective tissue. At the same time, internal organs are toned and rejuvenated; the epidermal, digestive, lymphatic, cardiovascular, and pulmonary systems are purified of toxins and waste matter; the nervous and endocrine systems are balanced and toned; and brain cells are nourished and stimulated. The end result is increased mental clarity, emotional stability, and a greater sense of overall well-being.
Whether you aim to boost your strength, your flexibility, your mind-body connection, or your overall health, Yoga provides a proven system, developed over thousands of years. It is arguably the most effective method currently available for coping with the ever-increasing stresses of daily life.
Everyone possesses the ability to relax, but most of us have forgotten how to achieve it. The bustle of modern life puts such a burden on the mind that many of us are in a state of physical and mental tension, even when we sleep. This tension leads to stress and imbalance, even in those with a good level of health and fitness. The relaxation and natural focus of Yoga calms the mind and improves concentration.
The greatest benefit from practicing asanas comes when we learn how to relax in a given pose. Contrary to what most of us have been taught, real relaxation results from a state of deep concentration, in which the mind is totally focused on a single object. During the practice of asanas, the object of concentration is the body. The student focuses his mind on the incoming and outgoing breaths, the steady flexion and extension of different muscle groups, or other bodily sensations. Ideally this inward focus should be maintained throughout the entire Yoga class.
Pranayama is the science of proper breathing. Breath is the main source of nourishment for all the cells of the body. We can live without food for weeks, without water for days, but without oxygen for only a few minutes. The average person uses only a fraction of his total lung capacity. By learning how to increase this capacity with deep abdominal breathing, plus specific pranayama practices, we can increase the flow of vital energy to various organs in our bodies, build our immunity to disease, and overcome many physical ailments.
Yoga uncovers places in the body where, despite strength, there is a lack of suppleness. Suppleness is not simply flexibility, but rather a strong, fluid movement of the joint. Most people are not able to bend, stretch and turn through a full range of movement in many of their joints. Over time Yoga will develop suppleness, strength, and alignment throughout the body. If you develop suppleness you are less likely to get injured and you’ll be able to stay active as you get older.
Yoga has postures and breathing techniques for almost all diseases, health disorders, allergies, and pains. Many of the exercises are simple and have a magical effect on most disorders.
Apart from the general strengthening of the body’s resistance to the common cold and flu you can greatly reduce your chances of catching the cold or flu by doing a Yoga nasal wash, called neti, once a day.
Just like the face turns red when one is angry, the stomach lining turns red too. And turns red as it pours out large amounts of acid and enzymes. Stress, anger, fear, jealousy, anxiety, and tension are emotions which influence not only the quality and quantity of secretions in the stomach and intestine, but also alter the blood flow and the mobility of the intestine. Many ailments of the digestive system starting from the mouth to the rectum are traceable to stress and a modern lifestyle. Specific Yoga practices can promote a healthy working of the digestive system.
Yoga exercise focuses first on the health of the spine. The spinal column houses the centre of the nervous system, the telegraphic system of the body. As a direct extension of the brain, the healthy spine aids in the health of the whole body. By maintaining a spines flexibility and strength through proper exercise, circulation is increased, the nerves are ensured their supply of nutrients and oxygen, and the body retains its youthful state. As a Chinese proverb says, “Truly a flexible back makes along life.” Know the difference between pain to work through and pain that says ‘enough’! Generally, muscular problems can be worked through and skeletal problems demand extreme caution. Yoga is an excellent therapy for healing sore and injured back muscles.
Obesity puts a strain on the heart, respiratory and eliminatory system. It also increases the chances of diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases. Generally it is seen that obese people are also lower in vitality. Yoga asanas like Paschimotannasana, Bhujangasana, Sarvangasana, Halasana, Dhanurasana, Veerasana, Trikonasana, and ArdhaMatsyendrasana are recommended for obesity reduction.
Yoga’s regulating and energizing properties can help alleviate many of the symptoms of mild depression. Yoga techniques will activate and move prana, energy, in the body, open the heart centre, stimulate the nervous system and balance the body, mind, and soul.
Anxiety neurosis is a mental condition which arises due to imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain. This results in mental disturbances like worrying, unsteadiness of the mind, repetition of thoughts, all of which disturb biological rhythm, sleeping patterns, cause tiredness, headaches etc. Everyone suffers from mild anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety takes a tremendous toll on the body, draining energy resources and keeping the body in a constant state of stress. The effects of anxiety are magnified when the body is not exercised: tension in the muscles builds, breathing remains constricted most of the time, and the mind has no rest from the whirling thoughts and feelings that feed the anxiety. i.e. Yoga and breathing exercises are a very good way to control anxiety and stress. Yoga’s unique combination of gentle physical movements, breathing practices, relaxation and meditation are designed to harmonise the workings of the nervous system and to relax the physical body.
Human eyes need care and attention. As years go by, the muscles around the eyes lose their tone. Eyesight becomes weak after the muscles around the eyes lose their elasticity and become rigid, thereby reducing the power to focus different distances. In addition, tension around the eyes affects the brain causing stress and anxiety.
Eyesight is dramatically improved when the muscles of the eyes are relaxed. There is a deep correlation between the eyes and the mind. It is said that vision occupies 40 percent of the brain’s capacity. Therefore, when we close our eyes, relaxation is induced in the brain. Eye health corresponds to the level of relaxation it experiences.
Yoga plays a significant role in promoting eye health. A yoga routine complete with asanas, pranayama and meditation helps in achieving peace and tranquility. Yogic eye exercises strengthen the muscles of the eyes and thus help in curing many ailments of the eyes. Certain eye exercises are known to completely rectify eye problems.
Memory is the latent capacity to retain and recall information, Yoga assists in improving memory power through yogic techniques of concentration and meditation. The brain functions of attention, cognition, processing of sensory information and visual perception are honed with yogic practices.
Yogic practices like asanas, pranayama, and meditation increase the circulation of blood to the brain. These help calm the mind and enhances concentration skills. Memory lapses can also be prevented through yogic practices that enhance the power of recall. One can draw upon the immense power of the mind with consistent yogic endeavour.
One of the most important therapies for treating arthritis is exercise, and yoga is one of the best types of exercise for this condition. Arthritic joint pain is a big discouragement to do any exercise or move the body at all, but without exercise the joints become stiffer and lose range of motion that exacerbates the progression of the disease. There is no known cure for arthritis, but several studies have shown yoga effective for reducing and even eliminating the symptoms of this disease.
Many studies have reported the beneficial effect of the practice of yoga on diabetes, confirming that the practice of postures can stimulate the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Yoga has also been proven helpful for weight management, blood sugar control, as well as lowering of the dosage of diabetic medications.
Specific Yoga postures have great effects on the pancreas and other glands, such as adrenal, thyroid and sex glands. The muscles and organs of the abdominal area are fully activated and because of this activation the condition and functioning of the pancreas are energized and strengthen. It increases the blood supply to the body, improving insulin administration in the body; it also cures constipation, and corrects the malfunctioning of the stomach. Pranayama, breathing exercises, have also been found to be useful in diabetes as it has a calming effect on nervous system, which reduces stress levels, helping in diabetes treatment.
The practice of Yoga nidra, concentration and meditation give the best results. Creative visualization of the proper functioning of pancreas and concentration on the pancreas during meditation practice has shown positive effects on sugar levels.
Yoga’s stretching and relaxation techniques can be particularly beneficial for varicose veins. Certain positions, such as the Plough, Corpse, and Half Shoulder Stand, promote circulation and the drainage of blood from the legs. The deep-breathing exercises in Yoga may further alleviate discomfort by getting more oxygen into the bloodstream.
Yoga can be very beneficial for pregnant women as it helps you to breathe and relax, which in turn can help you adjust to the physical demands of pregnancy, labour, birth, and motherhood. It calms both mind and body, providing the physical and emotional stress relief your body needs throughout the experience of pregnancy. If you’re attending a regular yoga class (one not specifically geared to pregnant women), be sure to tell the instructor you’re pregnant, and which trimester you’re in.
There is no consensus on whether to avoid inversions during a woman’s menstrual cycle. The two opinions are basically divided between those who think that no women should practice inversions during menstruation and those who feel the choice varies from woman to woman. The bottom line is that Hatha Yoga is full of contradictions and varied opinions, leaving each of us ultimately responsible for our own choices. Generally inversions are not recommended during the menstrual period for philosophic as well as physiologic reasons. In general, poses requiring the use of exertion and great energy are not recommended during menstruation.
Taking into consideration its gentle poses and stretches and the deep breathing involved in Yoga, certain poses, when used correctly, can be very helpful for smoothening the chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes that cause swelling and narrowing of the airways as is the case in Asthma patients.
In addition to the benefit above, it must be mentioned that when using yoga one need not worry about the common exercise-induced asthma attacks that may come as a result of vigorous activity as these poses are very calm and involve very little motion.
In addition to all of this, one commonly overlooked factor in using Yoga is this; Yoga calls for a specific consumption of food. This diet excludes all processed, packaged or animal foods and is mostly (if not all the way) vegetarian.
For asthma problems, you may want to strongly consider giving up all processed foods and animal products such as meat, milk, eggs and the like from your diet.
Within weeks of adhering to this advice, many a chronic asthmatic has been able to give up the use of ventolin inhalers.
By gently stretching muscles and joints as well as massaging the various organs, yoga ensures the optimum blood supply to various parts of the body. This helps in the flushing out of toxins from every nook and cranny as well as providing nourishment. This leads to benefits such as delayed ageing, increased energy and a remarkable zest for life.
The therapeutic value of Yoga lies in the effect it has on the mind in reducing stress and anxiety levels. Regular practice will result in total relaxation of the mind, which in turn will curb the arousal of anxiety. The absence of anxiety in the mind will automatically stop the excessive secretion of the digestive enzymes. This will facilitate the healing of ulcers and the relaxed mind will help prevent further formation of ulcers.
Yoga practices will reduce the effect of emotional disturbances on the heart. Yoga postures and breathing exercises will bring about a positive change in the electrical activity of the brain and reduce the effect of toxic emotions on the heartbeat. A complete Hatha Yoga program involves postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), relaxation, diet, and meditation. These are the tenets for cardiac health; also probably the reason why cardiologists universally, recommend yoga to their patients. The curative benefits of yoga enhances heart health, lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic stress, boosts the immune system and enhances cognitive ability.
Through Yoga techniques positive vibrations will be created in the lobes of the brain so that healing energy is released and a state of peace is achieved.
While some of the yoga exercises can be taught easily without much complication and have various benefits, others can be very dangerous for people who have a hernia. For example, the yoga exercises like Sun Salutation, Cobra pose, Locust pose, Bow pose, Standing Forward Bend and Kapalabhati to name a few are strictly not recommended if somebody is diagnosed with hernia as these exercises may make the hernia problem worse. Yoga practices are very useful in reducing the symptoms of hernia such as, heaviness, fullness and pain. Yoga can help only in early stage of hernia when it is just a small bulge and reducible.
Most useful practices for treatment of hernia are inverted postures: Viparitakarini; Sarvangasana, Matsyasana, Halasana. Navasana and Ardha Navasana are very useful in strengthening the abdominal muscles.
If the symptoms do not go away and the swelling continues to increase in spite of regular yogic care you may have to decide to undergo surgery.
Inverted yoga postures such as headstands, shoulderstands, and handstands invoke a significant rise in blood pressure. Therefore it is recommended that sufferers avoid such postures. Breathing is another area of concern, especially with novices who may unconsciously hold their breath while concentrating on a new pose. Avoid straining to increase the length of the inhalation or exhalation and not to force the chest to expand. Pranayama should also be approached with caution.
Studies have shown that yoga practices that incorporate Pranyayama, guided relaxation and meditation can reduce stress, which in turn can have a favourable impact on blood pressure. When working with hypertensive participants, yoga instructors should provide ample time for students to make adjustments and to get in and out of poses. Focus on simpler poses and short vinyasas, which are two or more poses linked together in flow. It is most helpful to include short rest periods in between poses, because participants whose blood pressure is above normal at rest are likely to become even more hypertensive during exercise. You should also allow adequate rest after practice, since relaxation techniques increase the parasympathetic response, which slows the body down and lowers blood pressure and respiration. Keep in mind, too, that static exercise tends to raise diastolic blood pressure more than dynamic exercise. Such a rise in diastolic pressure can put a strain on the heart, which must overcome that elevated pressure with every beat. However, you can reduce this adverse effect on blood pressure by consciously designing your yoga classes to avoid the effort of stronger poses or any lengthy holding of static postures.
The only precaution for students with hypotension is to get up slowly from lying down to avoid dizziness. People with hypotension should rise up very slowly after practising inverted asanas or after asanas in lying position to prevent dizziness.
Learning Yoga for a serious condition, such as a neck ailment, should be practiced under maximum supervision of a competent Yoga teacher. Some of the poses not recommend would be: Sirsasana (Headstand); Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand); Halasana (Plough Posture); or any other posture that could cause severe compression on the cervical vertebrae (neck). A student’s doctor should be made aware of any “risky” movements and positions performed in a Yoga class, such as, chin locks, neck rolls, and fingers clasped behind the neck. There are many Yoga postures that can help relieve stiffness and tension, and help strengthen the neck and shoulders against injury.
However, be careful when working with your neck and shoulders. Move slowly and deliberately. Pay attention to which muscles are being used. Never go beyond your edge of comfort. This isn’t a workout, test or competition.