Holistic Health- The Benefits of Yoga For Your Body
There’s a reason why yoga is practised and championed by many across the globe, including the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gisele Bundchen and more. It is easily accessible, and the benefits conveyed extend beyond the mat. Be it sleeping better or getting fewer colds or just feeling more relaxed and at ease, yoga is less about doing handstands, and more about building mental and physical strength and building healthy habits, as cemented by various studies. As an homage to World’s Yoga Day, we bring you the top benefits of this ancient form of exercise.
One of the first and most noticeable advantages of yoga is increased flexibility. Now, you might not be able to perform a backbend or handstand during your first session, but if you keep at it, eventually, you’ll notice some flexibility and seemingly impossible poses will suddenly become feasible. Over time, you’ll also realise that all the aches and pains you suffered from will subside. Due to incorrect thigh and shinbone alignment, tight hips can strain the knee joint. Tight hamstrings, on the other hand, can result in the flattening of the lumbar spine, which in turn, causes back pain. Sometimes, bad posture is caused by the muscles and connective tissues, such as the ligaments and fascia.
Builds Strength in Muscles
Beyond looking great aesthetically, having strong muscles shields us from ailments like back pain and arthritis and promotes balance in the elderly. When you practise both strength training and yoga, you exercise flexibility. If all you did was lift weights at the gym, you might lose flexibility while gaining strength.
Creates Good Posture
Our heads are heavy and rounded, like a bowling ball if you will. Your neck and back muscles will have to exert far less effort to maintain it when it is balanced directly over an upright spine. But as soon as you move it a few inches forward, those muscles start to feel strained. So, it’s perfectly understandable why you're exhausted after spending eight or twelve hours a day holding up your head. And fatigue might not be your only problem. Poor posture can lead to a host of problems, affecting the back, neck, and other muscles and joints. When you’re hunched, your body tends to compensate by flattening the natural inward curvature in your neck and lower back. Spinal degenerative arthritis and pain may result from this.
Encourages Joints Mobility
Each time you practise yoga, you’re lubricating your joints and putting them through their complete range of motion. By doing this, you’re preventing degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability of cartilage in lesser used areas. Just like a sponge you use to bathe with or wash dishes, our cartilage only obtains new nutrients when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be absorbed. Neglected cartilage might gradually deteriorate without proper care, revealing the underlying bone like worn-out brake pads.
Spinal discs, which act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae are prone to rupture and entrapment of nerves, need motion to get their set of nutrients. You'll help maintain your discs flexibly if your yoga sessions incorporate a good balance of asanas including plenty of backbends, forward bends, and twists. Long-term flexibility is a well-known advantage of yoga and is one that is crucial for spinal health.
Strengthens Your Bones
It has been touted that weight-bearing exercises like strength training fortify our bones and keep osteoporosis at bay. Asanas that strengthen the arm bones include Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog). The arm bones are particularly prone to osteoporotic fractures. According to an unpublished California State University study, yoga enhances bone density and reduces cortisol levels, a stress hormone that may aid in maintaining calcium in bones.
Encourages Blood Flow
Akin to stretching, practising yoga encourages blood flow and circulation particularly in the hands and feet. Through consistent yoga practice, cells perform better, which increases oxygenation in the body. All the satisfying twisting poses squeeze venous blood out of internal organs and, once relaxed, allows oxygenated blood to flow in. Headstand, Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand), and Shoulderstand are examples of inverted postures that facilitate the flow of venous blood from the legs and pelvis, back to the heart so that it can be pumped to the lungs to receive new oxygen. If you experience swelling in your legs due to heart or renal issues, yoga can be of assistance. Yoga also promotes red blood cells and haemoglobin, which carry oxygen to the tissues. Additionally, it thins the blood by reducing the amount of clot-promoting proteins in the blood and by making platelets less sticky. Since blood clots are frequently the cause of heart attacks and strokes, this may result in a reduction in these deadly conditions.
Increases Lymphatic Drainage
As you tense and stretch your muscles during the transition between yoga poses, increased lymphatic drainage occurs. When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This supports your lymphatic system’s ability to combat infections, eliminate malignant cells, and get rid of harmful byproducts of cellular activity.
Elevates Heart Rate to Aerobic Rate
Taking part in any sort of cardio or aerobic activities that regularly elevate your heart rate, you reduce the risk of heart attack and also lessen depression. Bear in mind that not all types of yoga are aerobic, however, it can raise your heart rate into the aerobic range if you practise it vigorously or participate in the flow or Ashtanga sessions. That said, variations of yoga that don't elevate your heart rate as much can still strengthen your cardiovascular system. Yoga practice has been shown to boost maximum oxygen uptake during exercise, increase endurance, and lower resting heart rate—all indicators of increased aerobic conditioning. According to one study, people who were simply taught pranayama were able to exercise more vigorously while using less oxygen.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Suffering from high blood pressure? Turn to yoga or Savasana (Corpse Pose) in particular. This asana, and merely reclining on a sofa were examined in two trials of persons with hypertension. Savasana was linked to a 26-point decrease in systolic blood pressure (top number) and a 15-point decrease in diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) after three months. The greater the starting blood pressure, the greater the reduction.
Makes You Happy
Feeling the blues? Try sitting in the lotus position. What’s even better is moving into a backbend or ascent gracefully into the King Dancer pose. Of course, it’s not quite straightforward, but a study revealed that regular yoga practise reduced cortisol and monoamine oxidase levels, which are responsible for the breakdown of neurotransmitters, and thus, alleviated depression. It was also through research that showed increased left prefrontal brain activity in meditators was linked to higher feelings of happiness and stronger immune systems. In devoted, long-term practitioners, there was more pronounced left-sided activation.
Reduces blood sugar levels
This ancient form of exercise is believed to increase HDL ("good") cholesterol while lowering blood sugar and LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Besides that, yoga has been shown to lower blood sugar in diabetics through various ways, including lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, promoting weight reduction, and increasing sensitivity to the effects of insulin. You can lessen your risk of developing diabetic complications like heart attack, renal failure, and blindness by lowering your blood sugar levels.
Helps With Mindfulness
A fundamental component of practising yoga is being mindful of the present. Research has exhibited that consistent yoga practice enhances coordination, response time, memory, and even IQ scores. Practitioners have been shown to be better at problem-solving, learning, and remembering information—possibly because they are less preoccupied by their thoughts, which can repeat endlessly like a broken tape record.
Relaxes your system
Yoga is all about taking things slow, focusing and recalibrating your body. When you relax and slow your breath, it helps balance the sympathetic nervous system (also known as the "fight-or-flight reaction") and the parasympathetic nervous system. Being mindful and bringing your focus to the present is relaxing and restorative; it slows down the heart and breathing rates, lowers blood pressure, and boosts blood flow to the reproductive and gastrointestinal systems.
Deeper, Restful Sleep
Stimulation is necessary for the body and even beneficial, but overstimulation stresses the nervous system. Yoga serves as an escape or outlet from all the hustle and bustle we go through daily. Several restorative asanas, under the yoga nidra (a form of guided relaxation) variation such as Savasana, Pranayama, and meditation encourage pratyahara, a turning inward of the senses, which gives the nervous system a break and promotes relaxation. Studies indicate that regular yoga practice improves sleep, which means that you’ll be less stressed and exhausted. One of the key benefits of yoga is sleep, and you’ll be able to experience this benefit no matter what skill level you’re at.
Promotes Lung Health and Breathing
Practitioners of yoga take deeper, but fewer breaths, which can be calming and efficient. People with lung issues caused by congestive heart failure were taught the yoga method known as "complete breathing" in a 1998 study that appeared in The Lancet. The average number of breaths they took per minute dropped from 13.4 to 7.6 after a month. During this time, the participants blood's oxygen saturation and exercise capacity significantly increased. The largest amount of breath one can take and the effectiveness of exhaling have both been demonstrated to be improved by yoga in several lung function tests. The nose filters the air we breathe. Yoga encourages nasal breathing, which purifies the air that we breathe in, warms it (cold, dry air is more likely to cause an asthma attack in people who are susceptible to it), removes pollen and other contaminants you'd rather not breathe into your lungs.
Calms Your Mind
Through all the raging storm of thoughts that go through our mind, yoga slows down the stress-inducing thought cycles of remorse, regret, anger, fear, and desire. Since stress leads to a slippery slope of health conditions like migraines, insomnia, lupus, MS, eczema, high blood pressure, and heart attack. As you learn to calm your mind through yoga, you’ll be likely to live a more meaningful and healthier life.
Suffering from low-esteem is completely normal. But if you go down this negative rabbit hole like taking drugs, overeating, or working too hard, your physical, mental and spiritual health will take a beating. Alternatively, when you take a positive approach and practice yoga, you'll sense that you're valuable or, as yogic philosophy teaches, that you are a manifestation of the Divine, initially in fleeting glimpses and subsequently in more prolonged perspectives. You can access this new aspect of yourself if you practise frequently with the goal of self-reflection and improvement—not merely for an aerobics class.
Rids Viruses and Allergies
A variant of yoga, involving purification practices is regarded as Kriyas. It ranges from simple internal cleansing of the intestines to quick breathing exercises. An example of Kriya is the Jala neti, which involves gently leaving the nasal passages with salt water to rid viruses and pollen from the nose, prevent mucus from accumulating, and aid in sinus drainage.