There are many benefits to making yoga part of your normal routine. Yoga incorporates physical exercise, breathing techniques and meditation to help unite and balance mind and body. It has been found that yoga provides many medical and health benefits in addition to bringing a sense of calm and mindfulness to your life.
Overall Medical Benefits of Yoga
In general, yoga is best known for improving strength and flexibility and relieving stress. However, yoga offers many additional physical and mental benefits.
In addition to improving strength and flexibility, other physical benefits yoga provides include:
- Tones muscles
- Improves heart function
- Stimulates the circulatory system
- Relieves muscle pain
- Revitalizes the immune system
- Improves respiration
- Acquire mindful eating habits
- Weight loss
- Improves sleep
- Reduces inflammation
Mental Health Benefits
Relieving and managing stress is one of the key mental health benefits that yoga offers. Other mental health benefits include:
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Clears the mind
- Improves concentration and focus
- Improves your body image
Yoga Poses and How They Affect the Body
Specific yoga positions, or Asanas, are believed to have the ability to improve certain physical or mental health conditions. These poses incorporate variations of sitting, standing, balancing, reclining, twisting and inverting. These yoga poses are a series of positions that flow from one into the next, focusing on specific body parts and breathing techniques. It is typically low-impact and can be easily modified for anyone from beginner to advanced. The following are just a few of the poses and just some of the benefits they can provide your body:
The Standing Forward Bend
The Standing Forward Bend is considered an inversion pose. This is when your head is lower than your heart during the actual pose. This pose starts in a standing position. You will then bend forward bringing your head close to your legs. This is an excellent pose for a good stretch of the spine. It also stimulates the nervous system and increases blood flow to your brain. This helps to relieve stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, mild depression, and insomnia.
The Seated Forward Bend
You are in a seated position with legs straight out in front, body bent at the waist with your head down to your legs and your arms stretched forward. While it may look like a simple pose, it is actually one of the most important and significant Asanas. It is crucial for the spine. This deep stretch will help ease spinal compression from extended standing. It can also help the joints, calm the nervous system and stimulate the reproductive system.
The Headstand is an inversion pose. This Asana is an actual headstand with all the balance directly placed on your elbows, arms and head. The Headstand is known as the 'King of Asanas' because it is considered a cure-all for many diseases. It stimulates the lymphatic system and provides relief from headaches and fatigue. It can also help with menopause symptoms. This pose increases blood flow to the brain which is beneficial for memory and maintaining focus.
The Shoulder Stand
This is an inversion pose as well. You lie on your back, legs extended upwards with your body basically resting on your shoulders. This is considered to be the 'Queen of Asanas' as it tends to strengthen and balance the entire body. Because of the position of the chin to chest, the Shoulder Stand pose will also stimulate the thyroid gland. This pose can also improve digestion and relieve stress and depression.
The Spinal Twist Pose
This can be a seated, standing or lying on your back pose. If seated, you will bend one leg and cross it over the other. You will rotate in both directions giving a nice twist to your spine. This will increase your spine's mobility and also give your abdominal organs a deep massage that could help with digestive issues. The Spinal Twist will strengthen your abdominal muscles and tone your waistline. It will also help remove toxins from your body.
The Triangle Pose
This is a standing pose with a lateral bend at the waist. This Asana keeps your spine, hips and legs flexible. The liver, spleen and other abdominal organs are massaged and stimulated which helps improve metabolism. The digestive tract is also stimulated and overall circulation is increased. The Triangle can also be therapeutic for anxiety, sciatica and infertility.
The Cobra Pose
For this pose you will be lying on your abdomen. You will push up with your arms, arching your upper body back and opening up your chest. It will increase spine flexibility, strengthen the neck and rejuvenate the nerves of the spine. This Asana is also known to relieve menstrual problems for women because of the firm pressure that is placed on the pelvic area during the pose.
The Child's Pose
This is a kneeling pose in which you bring your bottom down to your feet, touch your head to the floor and stretch your arms out in front. This releases tension in the spine and shoulders. It stretches the spine, hips, thighs and ankles. It helps with circulation and the function of internal organs. This Asana can also help relieve stress and anxiety.
The Downward Dog
The Downward Dog is considered a mild inversion pose and can rejuvenate the entire body. Basically, you start on your hands and knees and push your bottom up so that your body is in the shape of an 'A'. This Asana has many benefits which includes relief from headaches and sinus issues, relief from stress, improvement of digestion and is therapeutic for menopause symptoms as well.
Yoga Is a Commitment
If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition and you believe yoga may help, it is recommended that you first discuss this with your doctor and an experienced yoga teacher as well. Keep in mind that yoga is not an instant cure for what ails you. Yoga requires time, consistency and commitment. It is only then you will begin to notice the difference and experience just how beneficial yoga can be to your mind and body.