Yoga for Physical, Mental and Spiritual Health
Yoga Is Practiced By Millions Worldwide
Yoga originated in ancient India more than 5,000 years ago. Today it is practiced by people belonging to all age groups, all over the world.
Millions worldwide are deriving the benefits of practicing yoga regularly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14.3 percent of U.S. adults—or 35.2 million—practiced yoga in 2017, up from 9.5 percent in 2012.
Many take up the practice as a holistic approach to health and wellness, and for its stress-busting effect.
International Day of Yoga, or commonly referred to as Yoga Day, is celebrated every year on 21 June since its inception in 2015.
Here is a brief overview of various benefits of yoga.
Do you practice yoga regularly?
Yoga for physical well-being
Yoga postures, also know as yoga asanas, promote excellent health. Hatha yoga (yoga postures) is a safe non-aerobic form of exercise. If you practice yoga postures regularly, you do not need a gym. Benefits of yoga asanas are immense.
Yoga Stretches Muscles
Yoga is a great way to stretch the muscles. Stretching the muscles releases the lactic acid that builds up with muscle use. Lactic acid build up causes tension, stiffness, fatigue and pain.
Yoga For Strength and Flexibility
It is important to balance strength with stretch. Regular practice of yoga asanas increases flexibility of the body. Anjaneyasana (low lunge), parsvottanasana (single leg forward bend), utthanasana (standing forward bend), adhomukha svanasana (downward facing dog pose), hanumanasana (monkey pose or splits) and upavistha konasana (wide legged forward bend) are great to enhance your body’s flexibility.
Regular practice of yoga stretches body’s soft tissues like tendons, fascia sheath and ligaments. According to a study, people who practiced yoga for eight weeks experienced 35 percent improvement in flexibility. Yoga improves muscle tone.
Yoga increases the range of motion in joints. Regular practice of yoga increases lubrication in the joints. After practicing yoga, you will feel a sense of ease and fluidity throughout the body.
"In older adults specifically, there is promising evidence that yoga can improve physical function and quality of life...." said Garry Tew, Associate Professor, Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Northumbria University.
Yoga strengthens all parts of the body immensely. Forearm plant post, downward dog, upward dog, dolphin pose and plank and side plank post strengthen the body. It is very important to breathe well while practicing any yoga posture. Standing poses strengthen your quadriceps, abdominal muscles and hamstrings. Chair pose and upper dog pose strengthen the lower back.
Yoga not only strengthens the body and improves its flexibility, but also improves balance and body awareness. In fact increased flexibility and strength results in improved balance.
Men and women reach their maximum bone mass around 30 years of age. After there inevitable decline; you have to maintain what you have. Women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass during the period of five to seven years after menopause.
Yoga’s strength building asanas enhances bone health. It improves bone density. Veerabhadrasana is an excellent asana for bones. Thrikonasana (triangle pose), adho mukha shwanasana (downward facing dog pose), urdhva mukah shwanasana (upward facing dog pose) and sethu bandha sarvangasana (bridge pose) promote healthy bones.
Yoga strengthens your core, thereby enabling you to sit and stand tall. Improved balance adds grace to your movements and makes your day-to-day tasks easier. Yoga helps people who are into activities like skiing and surfing. Half moon posture and balancing butterfly posture are excellent for improving balance.
"There were physical changes, too: I became lean and poised, my skin glowed, I had more energy and I slept well. Getting dressed was no longer a process of hiding my body and I had a surging sense of invincibility. I prided myself on being able to bound up escalators without breaking a sweat or pausing for breath. I became the kind of evangelical fool who implores near-strangers to try their favourite form of exercise. I found a physical ease I don’t think I’ve had since I was a child" said yoga practitioner Laura Barton.
It was eight years ago when my personal trainer told me to go for yoga classes at the gym to stretch out my muscles. I used to work out at the gym a lot as I wanted to lose weight.
I couldn't do any of the yoga poses in my first class, but I kept going every day and realised that I was no longer thinking about losing weight. I felt more refreshed and less stretched out. Since then, I have never looked back.— Jasmine Chong, yoga instructor and founder of home-grown yoga studio Yoga Lab
Yoga for mental well-being
Yoga relaxes the mind. Regular practice of yoga promotes mental balance. It also enhances mental abilities immensely. Yoga enables you to make the most of your mental resources.
Yoga Is Excellence At Work
“YogaH karmasu kaushalam” (yoga is excellence at work), says Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter-2, verse-50). People who practice yoga regularly have experienced the truth of this statement.
Yoga Promotes a Healthy Brain
Yoga promotes excellent brain health. According to a study, around 20 minutes of yoga a day helps the brain function better. The 30 study subjects were young, female undergraduate students.
During the study, researchers found that people did better (both accuracy wise and speed wise) on brain functioning tests after just 20 minutes of hatha yoga, compared with aerobics.
Yoga Enables You to Make the Most of Your Mental Resources
Study researcher Neha Gothe says, “It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout.”
Neha is a professor of kinesiology, health and sports studies at the WayneStateUniversity. She led the study while a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Neha says, “Yoga is an ancient Indian science and way of life that includes not only physical movements and postures but also regulated breathing and mediataion”. The study findings are published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
Yoga Empowers You to Deal With Stress
In today’s world, more than 90 percent of the diseases are caused or complicated by stress. Stress is wreaking havoc on people all over the world. Unfortunately in today’s competitive world, stress is unavoidable.
Yoga is a great way to overcome stress. Yoga calms the mind. It keeps distracting and negative thoughts away and helps the person to focus on the task. Once the focus is established there is no place in the mind for stress.
Many people all over the world have experienced peace of mind after practicing yoga. Padmasana (lotus position or cross-legged position), Savasana (corpse position) and Utthanasana (forward bend position) are known to provide peace of mind.
Studies have actually shown that yoga can decrease the production of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Rocsana Enriquez was sexually abused by her step-father. Her mother was tough on her. She was involved with street gangs and was a regular at juvenile detention.
Rocsana began the practice of yoga when she was in a jail in Central California. Yoga became an outlet for her anger. This positive activity was an antidote to her insecurity. Yoga is healing the minds of many people like Rocsana worldwide.
“Yoga makes you feel more calm and relaxed because we use breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing — also called Ujjayi breath — that helps to take us out of the sympathetic nervous system, and moves us into our parasympathetic response (aka, rest and digest),” said Alia Sebben, a certified yoga instructor and the creator of the Yoga for Mental Health series on the Yoga Studio App.
Yoga Helps You Bond With Your Family
Michael Dalton‚ who lives in the United Kingdom, practices yoga with his daughter Beth. He said he grew incredibly close to his little one when she started copying him as he did his daily yoga session.
Michael's Instagram account (@dangermike101) contains cute pictures and videos of Beth copying his moves. “The main benefit with Beth doing yoga is that she actually wants to do it. Sometimes she will ask me instead of the other way around. It’s definitely given us an extra bond‚” Dalton said.
New mom‚ fitness enthusiast and trainer Lisa Raleigh‚ agrees. “Mom and baby yoga lets me bring Bella to my exercise sessions‚ giving me the best of both worlds. This practice modifies traditional yoga moves to accommodate holding and rocking your baby - and the result is plenty of quality time with baby that also earns you a gentle and restorative workout‚” she said.
"Yoga replaced all my negative habits, well most of them. It just completely changed my life and continues to change my life," said Amber Pierce, a woman who practices aerial yoga.
Yoga is thought to bring wide-ranging benefits, such as increases in strength, flexibility, balance and quality of life, and reductions in stress, anxiety and depression.— Garry Tew, Associate Professor, Northumbria University
Yoga helps my body and mind with recovery, allowing me to live healthy and comfortable.— Martino Picariello, Sophomore men’s ice hockey player
More People Are Practicing Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation is on the rise among both adults and children, a new report from the CDC shows.
Yoga for spiritual well-being
Yoga has been associated with enhanced self awareness. Most of today’s miseries plaguing our world are due to incorrect goals. People are running behind fame and money, which do not yield fulfillment. One can find fulfillment when one finds the real goal and the way to reach the real goal. This can be possible through meditation on the goal. What is the real goal of human life?
Yoga literally means “Union with the Ultimate (Divinity)”. The real purpose of yoga is to connect us with our Maker, whom we call God or Creator. Systems based on Raja Yoga (like Sahaj Marg) are dedicated help people achieve God realization, which is the same as Self realization.
Some people say that they have no time to practice yoga. It is like a woodcutter saying that he does not have time to sharpen his tools like axe. Yoga, if practiced regularly, will enhance your efficiency immensely.
At the same time, it is also true that in today’s world one has to work to earn. It is not practical to spend hours performing yoga. The need of the hour is a system that caters to modern man, and yet is efficacious. It is a responsibility of the individual to find such a system.
Any system of yoga should involve joy, bliss and love. If they are absent, it is better to be away from such a system. Even when we seek God, it should be with love. Yogic system of practice which facilitates this will be effective.
Guru (spiritual master) plays a significant role in the lives of people who seek to practice yoga with the goal of God Realization or Self Realization. There are many masters all over the world. Selection of the right master is the key to success in this endeavor.
Sit near the person and feel your heart. If you experience peace and if you do not have troubling thoughts then the person is an elevated soul. But for that you need to be a true seeker and should be sensitive.
The science of yoga thus developed in order to nourish the physical or gross, subtle and causal bodies through five well-defined approaches: Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnaana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga.
In order to forge ahead towards the centre of our existence, rather than stall at a peripheral physical, grosser or sensual level, the yoga aspirant must dive deeper to the very core of existence. Various ways and means are prescribed in order to reach the noble destination.— Daaji
Yoga prevents many harmful medical conditions like diabetes and cancer. It is indeed a blessing to our world; however, it is very important to practice yoga under the guidance of an expert. Otherwise there is the risk of injury.
Anatomical yoga poses
Dhanurasana (bow pose)
Bakasana (crane pose)
Malasana (garland pose)
Sukhasana (easy pose)
Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
Bitilasana (cow pose)
Dandasana (staff pose)
Salabhasana (locust pose)
Ustrasana (camel pose)
Virasana (hero pose)
- Yoga originated in India.
- “YogaH karmasu kaushalam” (yoga is excellence at work), says Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
- Hatha yoga (yoga postures) is a safe non-aerobic form of exercise.
- Veerabhadrasana strengthens the bones.
- Yoga not only strengthens the body and improves its flexibility, but also improves balance and body awareness.
Anybody can benefit from yoga.— Colleen Pelkey, Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program’s mind and body instructor
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© 2013 Srikanth R