As there are many websites which describe the various yoga postures or asanas, here we consider the main aspects of yoga which describe its inception and the many benefits by regular practice of yoga.
Union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit is Yoga. Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word Yug. Yoga is a more than 5000-year old Indian body of knowledge. Yoga exercises are actually only the most superficial aspect of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind soul, and are not merely as thought by many only as a physical exercise where people twist, turn, stretch, and breathe in the most complex ways. The science of Yoga imbibes the complete essence of the way of life.
As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Yoga is not just exercise and asanas. It is the emotional integration and spiritual elevation with a touch of mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something beyond all imagination”.
As according to Amit Ray, Yoga and Vipassana: An Integrated Life Style, Yoga is not a religion; but is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul. Yoga is not a recent phenomenon but an ancient Indian practice that is associated with not only the physical well-being of the body but also with the overall health of a human being. Unlike other physical activities, yoga can be seen as a holistic package which aims at cleansing and rejuvenating the human body from outside as well as within. If one adopts the practice as a part of everyday routine, one can actually feel the difference – mentally, physically as well spiritually. And as an added bonus, it can bring about weight loss too. There are other more than thirty benefits.
Workout fads come and go, but virtually no other exercise program is as enduring as yoga. It’s been around for more than 5,000 years. Yoga does more than burn calories and tone muscles. It’s a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation.
The increased instances of metabolic disorders like cancer, diabetes, and others –has seen a sudden upsurge in people prioritizing their health and resorting to tailor-made diet plans and fitness regimes, along with the growing trend of people getting more cautious of their expanding waistlines. Yoga consists of postures or asanas. It can improve health in many ways.
The ways Yoga improves health
This section identifies and explains how yoga can both prevent disease and help you recover from it. Here are some of the ways or methods that yoga improves the health:
1. Improves your flexibility
One of the first and the most obvious benefits of yoga is that it improves the flexibility. It slowly and gradually improves the flexibility even though during the starting days of the yoga exercises you are not able to do many of the exercises correctly and perfectly. But your body improves the flexibility and overall the stamina and flexibility both improve.
2. Builds muscle strength
You build strength through yoga which in turn balances with flexibility. This strength helps in developing strong muscles and thereby protecting us from conditions like arthritis and back pain,
3. Perfects your posture
Back, neck, and other muscle and joint problems can be caused due to poor posture. As you slump, your body may compensate by flattening the normal inward curves in your neck and lower back. This can cause pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine. As you do the yoga postures or asanas, the posture of the body also improves.
4. Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
Each time you practice yoga, you take your joints through their full range of motion. This thus helps prevent the degenerative arthritis or mitigates the disability by squeezing and soaking areas of cartilage that normally aren’t used.
5. Protects your spine
It will help you keep your spine supple if you’ve got a well-balanced asana practice with plenty of forward bends, back bends and twists.
6. Betters your bone health
Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And some of them like downward and upward facing dog help strengthen the arm bones which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. Yoga may help keep calcium in the bones by its ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
7. Increases your blood flow
Yoga gets your blood flowing. Since yoga helps in getting more oxygen to your cells, they function better as a result. Twisting poses are thought to wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the twist is released. Inverted poses, such as Headstand, Handstand, and Shoulder-stand, encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart, where it can be pumped to the lungs to be freshly oxygenated.
8. Drains your lymphs and boosts immunity
When you come in and out of yoga postures, you contract and stretch muscles, and move organs around, there is an increase in the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.
9. Drops your blood pressure
Yoga will benefit you immensely if you have got high blood pressure. Two studies of people with hypertension were done by a British medical journal The Lancet and published in it. The studies compared the effects of Savasana (corpse pose) with simply lying on a couch. After three months it was reported that savasana was associated with a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the upper reading), and, a 15-point dropin diastolic blood pressure (the lower number). Higher the initial blood pressure, bigger the drop.
10.Makes you happier
One study found that a consistent yoga practice led to a significant increase in serotonin levels thereby improving depression, and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol.
11.Lowers blood sugar
Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and boosts HDL (“good”) cholesterol. By lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss, and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin, yoga has been found to lower blood sugar in several ways in people with diabetes. Thus reducing the blood sugar levels down, it will decrease the risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness.
12.Helps you focus
Studies have revealed that regular yoga practice improves coordination, concentration, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores. People who practice Transcendental Meditation demonstrate the ability to solve problems and acquire and recall information better—probably because they’re less distracted by their thoughts, which can play over and over like an endless tape loop.
13.Maintains your nervous system
Some advanced yogis can control their bodies in extraordinary ways, many of which are mediated by the nervous system. Scientists have monitored yogis who could induce unusual heart rhythms, generate specific brain-wave patterns, and, using a meditation technique, raise the temperature of their hands by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. If they can use yoga to do that, perhaps you could learn to improve blood flow to your pelvis if you’re trying to get pregnant or induce relaxation when you’re having trouble falling asleep.
14.Releases tension in your limbs
The yoga practice makes you notice the part in the body there is tension: might be in tongue, the eyes, or the muscles of face and neck. It might take lot of time, may be years of practice to relax the bigger muscles like the quadriceps, trapezius, and, buttocks.
15.Helps you sleep deeper and better
Yoga can provide relief from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Restorative asana, yoga-nidra (a form of guided relaxation), Savasana, pranayama, and meditation encourage pratyahara, a turning inward of the senses, which provides downtime for the nervous system. As suggested by various studies it has also been reported people who practice yoga regularly have better sleep, thus meaning that people are less tired and stressed and less likely to have accidents.
16.Gives your lungs room to breathe
Due to yogis tending to taking fewer breaths, thereby resulting in both calming and efficient breathing. Yoga has been shown to improve various measures of lung function, including the maximum volume of the breath and the efficiency of the exhalation.
Yoga also promotes breathing through the nose, which filters the air, warms it (cold, dry air is more likely to trigger an asthma attack in people who are sensitive), and humidifies it, removing pollen and dirt and other things you’d rather not take into your lungs.
17.Prevents IBS and other digestive problems
Stress can exacerbate the problems like ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation. Similar to any other physical exercise yoga can ease constipation; thus theoretically reducing the risk of colon cancer – because moving the body facilitates more rapid transport of food and waste products through the bowels. Although not proved and studied scientifically, the yogis think and suspect that twisting poses may be beneficial in getting waste to move through the system.
18.Gives you peace of mind
According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, yoga suppresses the fluctuations of mind. This means that the regular practice of yoga can slow down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear and desire that can cause stress in the people. And since stress is closely connected to so many health problems—from migraines and insomnia to lupus, MS, eczema, high blood pressure, and heart attacks—if you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll be likely to live longer and healthier.
19.Eases your pain
Yoga can ease your pain. Several studies have displayed that asana, meditation, or a combination of the two, reduced pain in people with arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other chronic conditions. When you relieve your pain, your mood improves, you’re more inclined to be active, and you don’t need as much medication.
20.Builds awareness for transformation
Awareness is built by regular practice of yoga and meditation. It is easier to break free of destructive emotions like anger if you are more aware. Studies suggest that chronic anger and hostility are as strongly linked to heart attacks as are smoking, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol. Anger is reduced by increasing feelings of compassion and interconnection and by calming the nervous system and the mind; all this through regular practice of yoga and meditation. It helps you to remain steady in the face of bad news or unsettling events. There’s evidence that yoga speeds reaction time.
21.Guides your body’s healing in your mind’s eye
As you do in yoga nidra and other practice, you can effect change in your body by contemplating an image in your mind’s eye. Several studies have found that guided imagery reduced postoperative pain, decreased the frequency of headaches, and improved the quality of life for people with cancer and HIV.
22.Keeps allergies and viruses at bay
Another element of yoga practice is a Kriya or cleansing practice. They include everything from rapid breathing exercises to elaborate internal cleansings of the intestines. Jala neti, which entails a gentle lavage of the nasal passages with salt water, removes pollen and viruses from the nose, keeps mucus from building up, and helps drains the sinuses.
In much of conventional medicine, most patients are passive recipients of care. In yoga, it’s what you do for yourself that matters. Yoga gives you the tools to help you change, and you might start to feel better the first time you try practicing. You may also notice that the more you commit to practice, the more you benefit. This results in three things: You get involved in your own care, you discover that your involvement gives you the power to effect change, and seeing that you can effect change gives you hope. And hope itself can be healing.
24.Supports your connective tissue
Yoga improves the health in total sense. Change your posture and you change the way you breathe, change your breathing and you change your nervous system; everything is connected – your hipbone to your anklebone, and so on. This holistic system simultaneously taps into many mechanisms that have additive and even multiplicative effects. This synergy may be the most important way of all that yoga heals.