In this post about yoga I would like to talk about the reasons this discipline is part of my life. I was first motivated by a small back problem I had, but today I practice it for all the multiple benefits it provides.
Practicing yoga can help improve posture. One of the primary things you’ll notice when you start practicing yoga is that you’ll start to pick up more healthy posture habits. You’ll straighten out your spine, you’ll pull your shoulders back and down, you’ll lift your shin, and look forward. Slowly those postural vices with disappear, leading way to a more aligned and balanced body. There are a lot of studies that relate good posture habits to improvements in health and life quality.
Improves your ability to breathe
Simply straightening out your spine already improves breathing. Whenever you hunch your back, your diaphragm can barely expand and contract, which makes breathing more difficult. By improving posture you’re allowing the diaphragm to move freely, and thereby increase the thoracic strength and air that enters the lungs.
Breathing is a key point in yoga. The movements performed are synchronized with the inhalation and the exhalation. This provides several benefits: it connects you with the “here and now”, which creates a more conscious practice in every moment. This will help you go into each posture and it will increase your energy because by improving your ability to breathe will give the body more fuel to function.
Yoga also teaches different breathing techniques that you’ll be able to use from day to day to relax, concentrate, or reduce headaches, but we’ll leave that for another day.
Improves flexibility and strength
Yoga increases muscle and joint flexibility. Flexibility will also help you do body movements that gymnasts or synchronized swimmers do. It is a vitally important quality for movement, because it makes movement possible. That’s one good reason to practice, isn’t it? If you think about the fact that we all lose flexibility over the course of time, that makes two reasons to practice yoga regularly. But don’t expect to be able to fold into pigeon pose on your first day of class (nor within your first week!) Yoga is progressive.
When working on flexibility, you also are working your muscles. In yoga, stretches are done slowly, controlled and they are held. By working flexibility and strength, you’ll protect your joints from possible injuries.
Helps you to recognize your body’s limits
Yoga creates physical and mental self-awareness. Just by learning your abilities and limitations, you will know how far you can go at any moment, to prevent injuring yourself. One of yoga’s primary foundations is that of not forcing, not forcing yourself, nor other people. That’s why yoga is a practice of awareness and consciousness. This is the only way you’ll learn to observe and ‘listen’ to your body and your mind, and to accept your own limitations while trying to be friendly and respectful.
This attentive and conscious practice is possible because of breathing. Each posture performed must be done so with attention to the inhalation and exhalation. This will bring your attention back to your body.
All of the aforementioned reasons help the process of relaxation. Stretching reduces muscular tension that provides physical peace. Breathing will bring you to the present moment, which will help you rest mentally. But perhaps what most facilitates this state of relaxation is the fact that you’re taking a moment away from your agenda, you’re taking a moment just for yourself.
AND SO MUCH MORE…
All of these adaptations that I’ve been talking about have positive effects on:
- The physical body: the circulatory system, the digestive system, your energy, the immune system…
- The mental body: Improves your stress response, helps you sleep better…
And the best part about yoga…everyone can practice it! From children to elderly individuals, women and men, people in better or worse physical shape, even people who are sick in bed can practice yoga (with variations, of course!). Yoga adapts to you, not the other way around. You just need to find the best way for your physical self and your personality. With all the different yoga schools out there, you will find a good fit (and this is talked about in the next post).
Have a great week!