By Aimée Garcia-Marshall – Senior Yoga Teacher and founder of Yoga Collective
Yoga offers many physical and mental health benefits both on and off the mat but why should people be practicing yoga and if this is meant to be a spiritual practice, what is drawing even the non-spiritual to this practice?
Now to some, Yoga is purely just a physical practice that helps bring balance and ease to their body with the added benefit of increasing strength and flexibility in the body. For others Yoga is a combination of body and mind where along with the physical benefits they also acknowledge how it encourages mental and emotional well-being. Then there are a proportion of individuals who will see it in all its glory (for all its bells & whistle) – Yoga being a practice for body, mind, and spirit – Yoga teaches us to find stillness, balance, not just on the mat physically and not just in our minds, but also filtering out in our day-to-day lives spiritually.
One of the most well-known benefits of yoga is increased flexibility and an increased range of motion. Focusing on your breath as you mindfully move your body helps to increase blood flow and warm up your muscles, which in turn loosens the muscles and helps them to become more elastic over time. Increased flexibility also allows the nervous system to release muscle tension that can help ease muscle pain, reduce the likelihood of damaging ligaments or tendons and help you to relax into a deeper state.
Yoga is great for improving all round strength including upper body, core, lower body, ankle and even finger strength. Yoga builds on your functional strength using gravity and your own body weight for resistance. Building muscle strength, especially core strength, can help to prevent injury whilst doing other physical activities and reduce the likelihood of common conditions like back pain. Yoga also builds the strength of your spine and your bones, which again will help to prevent injury and help you to maintain a good posture. .
3. Stress Reduction
In our hectic urban working lives, stress is a big factor and when it comes to living a healthy life, stress is something that can wreak havoc if not kept under control. The practice of yoga involves working on relaxation, breath-work, focusing on the present moment and connecting with your own body and breath. Whilst practicing yoga, you’ll find that tension is released, and you’ll feel a sense of both mental and physical relaxation. The reduction in stress that can be achieved through regular yoga classes will lead to further benefits too, such as better sleep, better focus and an overall improvement in wellbeing.
4. Internal Health
Yoga is associated with encouraging your body’s natural healing process and boosting your natural immunity through a range of channels. Yoga classes, especially hot yoga classes, are well known for increasing your heart rate into the aerobic range, which helps to burn calories, reduce fat and lower your risk of heart complications. As mentioned above, yoga is well known for reducing stress levels and this can have a profound effect on your internal bodily functions. Reduced stress can improve outcomes in a number of areas, including improved blood pressure, improved digestion, reduced fatigue and improved organ functioning..
5. Mental Strength
Yoga improves your physical and mental resilience, which has positive benefits throughout many aspects of your life. During your yoga practice you will find a deeper connection with the ‘self’ with the ‘I’. Learning to trust yourself, listen to your body and go within. Through focusing on your breath and being present in the moment you will develop improved self-discipline and mental resilience. Aligning your breath through movement is known as a moving meditation, which allows you to learn about your body on a deeper level, exploring its capabilities and surprising yourself at your strength of mind.