Yoga is very healing and restorative both to the body mind. Here are yoga’s top ten healing benefits!
I have long loved yoga as it reminds me of ballet days of stretching, strengthening and using your own body weight as resistance. So I did some research as to it’s healing benefits and wanted to share with you how it has been a part of my healing journey as a mama and a woman.
I’ll never forget taking a yoga class on a trip we took in 2010 to Yellowstone National Park and Big Sky, Montana. While at the resort in Big Sky, I took a yoga class that was so well taught I felt like I had drunk a glass of wine when it was finished! I was rejuvenated body, mind and spirit. I felt like I’d been oiled up like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. I was buzzed!
I fell in love with yoga after that and went on to get certified to teach it. I continued having more children and really got into my blog, so the yoga teaching went by the wayside but I continued to take classes and really enjoyed them.
With four kids, I know do yoga at home but hope to make it back into the yoga studio once they are all in school. For now though, this better suits my lifestyle!
Yoga continues to give me that buzzed feeling. It gently encourages me to focus on the present moment, not worry about the past or future, and like any good exercise, you learn to push yourself farther that you thought possible and to enjoy the satisfaction of that.
So, a Little Yoga History
Yoga has been existence for more than 5,000 years. It is believed to have been first practiced by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India. The ancient sacred Rig Veda texts described the ancient practices by the Brahmans and Rishs (mystic seers). Yoga is also mentioned in the Bhagavad-Gita scriptures that were composed around 500 B.C.E.
Yoga has been refined over centuries to what we know today. In Western culture is sometimes more of an exercise form than a religious practice. I’ve even seen some churches teach what’s called “holy yoga.” Either way you do it, I think you’ll find benefit.
1. Yoga Promotes Mindfulness
So what the heck is mindfulness? It is the state of being conscious or aware of something. And my fellow American mamas, this is, quite frankly, something we are pretty terrible at doing. Being mindful and allowing ourselves to stop and understand why we feel the way we do so we can fix it if it’s unpleasant. But if you’re like me, we like to be on the go, stuff our feelings down because we don’t have time to take care of them between baseball practice, teaching Sunday school, running the PTA, bunco night, gymnastics and being room mom. And then we have a meltdown…and it isn’t pretty!
So yoga enables you to create harmony between your mind and body by connecting the body, mind and breath. The teacher encourages you to think of what you’re grateful for, and stay in the present moment. It can seem silly to a Westerner, but I promise, the results are incredible!
Mindfulness is known to give a wide variety of benefits to the body that includes strengthening the immune system, reduction neuroticism and depression. In addition, it helps improve social relationships and concentration at the workplace. Mindfulness can be practised long after you have left your yoga mat.
2. Yoga Increases Flexibility
Yoga has a wide range of sequences and postures that help to increase the body’s range of motion. The mindful approach to stretching ensures that stretching is done safely. The nervous system releases the muscles gently in poses designed to stretch and strengthen at the same time. Therefore, you become more flexible with little injury to your tendons and ligaments. It is a better way to relax the muscles, too. Increased flexibility helps fight fatigue, reduces inflammation, and improves physical function.
I notice I walk differently after yoga – I stand taller, my posture is better, and I walk more fluidly due to all of that wonderful stretching. As a former ballet dancer, this is one of my favorite parts!
3. Yoga Improves Posture
One of the most important benefits of yoga is that it’s a balanced practice. The stretching helps address muscular imbalances, relax the tight muscles, and the poses strengthen the weak muscles. Our posture deteriorates with poor sitting habits and standing habits (hips tucked under, back and necked hunched over a computer or phone), and aging. Over time, the slump causes the back muscles to be weak and tightens the chest muscles. Yoga can correct this problem in yoga and restore healthy alignment.
4. Yoga Improves Strength
This is the least known benefit that people tend to overlook, thinking that you’ve got to lift weights or do hard core boot camp classes to get stronger. Yoga strengthens the muscles by causing them to contract and relax in the performance of several postures and sequences. Strong muscles are able to handle the body weight, which is in itself a functional strength. Yoga also engages the body’s core muscles, which helps to improve overall posture, strength and alignment. It is weight lifting in a very gentle way that develops long, lean muscles.
5. Yoga Reduces Stress
We all need a lotta this! I love how yoga uses centering, focus and breathing exercises. This helps to reduce stress by relaxing our brains with a hectic lifestyle. The practice also promotes mindfulness, which is good at releasing the mental tension that comes with exhaustion and a busy lifestyle. With repeated yoga sessions, you feel relaxed, refreshed, and ready to face the day ahead.
We used to live in France when Kevin and I were first married and I clearly remember a yoga class I attended there. I didn’t understand hardly a word of French yet (I learned a lot more later!), but I could follow the teacher in the class. When we got to the end pose, shavasana, where you relax, I was so relaxed from the class I fell asleep! I am a super energetic person and rarely fall asleep except at night in my bed, so I was shocked. I knew yoga would continue to be a big part of my life!
6. Yoga help keep your joints healthy
Yoga does an amazing job improving the strength and flexibility of your tendons with combination of stretching and strenghtening. The yoga sequences, or flow, improves the flow of synovial fluid that lubricates the joints and helps the bones to move against each other without causing friction. The free movement of the fluid is important in ensuring that nutrients and oxygen are delivered to the cartilage. You can practice yoga to reduce joint pain from such conditions as arthritis.
7. Yoga can Lower Blood Pressure
Many have high blood pressure due to extra weight, stress and poor diets. Yoga helps to relax you, which can help to reduce blood pressure. This, in turn, prevents an increase in adrenalin in the body, which raises the pressure. In addition, yoga helps to enable the blood to run smoothly through the veins through stretching of muscles and mindfulness. This is key to the prevention of stroke. Certain postures such as Supported Bridge Pose and Savasana are helpful in dealing with high blood pressure.
8. Yoga Starts the Body’s Natural Healing Process
Our bodies are made to heal themselves and can do so when the conditions are right – healthy, real food diet, reducing stress or finding ways to process it in a healthy way, using essential oils and supplements, and more! The body can heal itself if the conditions are right. Yoga creates the right environment for the body to heal itself. The mindfulness helps strengthen the immune system and mental health, it strengthens the muscles to improve mobility and function, which improves the body’s ability to heal from injury. Improved mental health can also help in concentration and improved sleep.
9. Yoga Improves the Respiratory System
One of the common practices of yoga is pranayama, which is the cultivation of the life force through breathing. While yogis perform the exercise to obtain higher states of awareness, it also helps in improving the lung capacity and the tidal volume (amount of air that you can hold in your lungs). This helps in performing strenuous activities and is known to even be able to add years to your life!
10. Yoga Can be Practiced Anywhere
Yoga is one of the most convenient forms of exercise. You can do it at an airport, during your picnic, on the rooftop, during your lunch break and even open in the field. All you need is your body, you really don’t even have to have a mat!
Yoga is a continuous practice and more of a lifestyle. You never really master it but continue improving on your last performance. You compete against yourself to be better than the last time and find that your mental strength improves as your body strengthens.