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The Benefits of Yoga

lady dressed in white doing yoga on a pier surrounded by calm, clean water

Yoga is an Eastern ancient practice of meditation that has been rapidly gaining popularity in western cultures. It can be performed a variety of ways, yet the core principles of yoga have been found to have many benefits. Listed below are only a few of the physical and mental benefits of yoga.

Physical Benefits

Increases Flexibility: As a result of contorting your body into various different positions, your flexibility will increase. This does not happen overnight, however, and it takes time to accomplish an increased level of flexibility. With this increase in flexibility usually comes a decrease in pain, since stretching decreases muscle tension, leaving your muscles feeling relaxed.

Protects Your Body: Specifically, yoga helps to strengthen and protect your joints and spine. Through stretching, your joints move within their full range of motion. This stimulates the cartilage and encourages the production of joint fluid, which means that arthritis, or bone on bone, contact is less of a risk. In addition, it also promotes movement in the spine which is needed to keep the spine supple.

Increases Circulation: The various motions in yoga increases the amount of oxygen that reaches your cells. This increase in oxygen causes your cells to function at an optimal level. It also increases hemoglobin and red blood cell levels.

Decreases Pain: It has been found that people with arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other chronic conditions have experienced pain relief after yoga or meditation. In particular, asana yoga is recommended for pain relief.

Increases Overall Health: Yoga promotes the belief that everything is connected and this is true when referencing the human body. Many of the physical benefits will not just affect one variable, instead it begins a chain of positive benefits that are felt throughout the body. For example, increased circulation can have various benefits depending on the area receiving the increased circulation.

Mental Benefits

Positive Body Image: Since yoga focuses on developing an inner awareness, it promotes appreciating one’s strengths. In addition, it asks individuals to focus on themselves instead of comparing themselves to others around them. This ability to ignore outside influences and instead focus on individual strengths is important to developing positive body-image and self-esteem.

Increase Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the ability to focus attention on the present moment without judgement. Both practicing yoga and mindfulness are centered around how your body feels. Individuals who do yoga have been found to be more mindful as compared to others.

Increases Focus: Yoga’s notion of focusing on the present moment will help individuals develop the ability to focus overall. It has been found that yoga increases coordination, reaction time, memory, and IQ scores. Furthermore, it also helps individuals to problem solve and recall information quicker.

Increases Relaxation: Practicing yoga is composed of slowing your breath and focusing on the present. In doing so, your balance shifts from the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight or flight response, to the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, your breathing and heart rate naturally slow and your blood pressure decreases while the circulation to your intestines and reproductive organs increases.

Encourages Self Care: Yoga is centered around you and your body, therefore it promotes the idea that you need to take care of yourself. It essentially helps you become involved in your own care, discover the power to make changes, and provide you with hope when these changes are made.