Originating as an ancient Indian practice of physical, spiritual and mental disciplines, yoga has been defined in many circles as a "union with the divine" providing many internal and external benefits. Differing yoga traditions can be found in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. Swami Vivekananda successfully introduced the practice of yoga to the Western world in the late 19th and early 20th century. And in the 1980s the practice of Hatha yoga as a system of physical exercise exploded in the United States and other Western countries.
Many studies have shown the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary treatment for asthma, cancer, heart disease and even schizophrenia. And in a national survey conducted in the US, those who have been practicing yoga for many years actually reported mental health improvements and benefits, and even positive changes in their musculo–skeletal makeup.
While multiple physical positives can be contributed to practicing yoga, established yogis of the Eastern world will tell you that when you connect with your breath properly through yoga, you decontaminate your mind, which leads to positive thinking and peaceful understanding. Listed here you will find 10 top benefits of practicing yoga for both men and women, something you can undertake on your own at home, or at the many classes offered in most major cities.
1) Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight
The Shoulder Stand and Fish Pose rouse your thyroid, which actually gives you a metabolism boost and starts aggressively burning calories. Another yoga pose which benefits your weight loss efforts is the Valrasana spinal twist. As well as the Lengthening Child's Pose and Cobra Pose, it promotes weight loss by massaging the abdomen. This targets your internal organs, and helps deliver optimal digestion.
Both Downward Facing Dog and Upward Facing Dog are yoga poses which allow you to target weight loss in your hips and thighs. And though the amount of calories you burn during yoga varies greatly, from around 180 to about 360 calories per hour, you do not have to attend hardcore yoga classes to benefit. Nanci Muriello is the owner of Big Apple Power Yoga in New York City, and she said that a typical 90 minute power yoga session uses deep breathing techniques which actually increase your internal body temperature, pushing out harmful toxins and water weight.
But Oakland, California physician and yoga instructor Baxter Bell also noted that intermediate and even beginner yoga poses fire up your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates your breathing and improves digestion, leading to weight loss.
2) Yoga Can Reduce Chronic Back Pain
Whether you are a well-trained athlete or a sedentary person, you could be one of the many sufferers of lower back pain. The esteemed Mayo Clinic has even stated that nearly everyone will experience either simple or chronic low back pain at some point during their lives. You need look no further than the typical 9 to 5 office job to understand why lower back pain is such a common ailment.
Technically, the problem comes from your hamstring and illiopsoas muscles which are shortened from extended hours of sitting, which puts strain on your lower back. Use the Hamstring Stretches, the Sphinx, the Two Knee Twist, Pigeon, Thread the Needle and Legs Up the Wall yoga positions to help relieve lower back pain.
3) Yoga Can Make You Happier
While losing weight and diminishing back pain are two outstanding physical health benefits that the regular practice of yoga offers, there are spiritual rewards as well. Yoga has certain poses called Heart Openers which effectively do what their name implies. These have been acclaimed for centuries for their ability to open your heart so that love may flow freely.
Yoga teaches constantly about loving human beings and all other living things. And even short-term practitioners have stated that practicing yoga helped them understand that true happiness comes from within. The spiritual aspects of this simple and ancient practice can open up your heart and mind to love and happiness, and help you realize what things are truly important in your life.
4) Yoga is an Excellent Stress Reliever
Dr. Terri Kennedy is a yoga teacher and also the president of Power Living Enterprises. He says that the basis of yoga is to help you slow down, live in the now and tune into your breathing. This meditative quality of yoga allows you to decompress, and the actual asanas (poses) of yoga relieve tension in a number of different ways. Just remember that not all yoga poses are created equal.
Some more efficiently promote relaxation and stress relief. There are several empowering positions such as Standing Forward Bend and Eagle Pose, which help you calm your mind while energizing your body. For both beginning and advanced Yogi practitioners, the calming Child's Pose is a simple resting posture that quiets your mind while easing stress and anxiety.
Also excellent for your nervous and lymphatic systems, you can return to this pose any time during your yoga practice to clear your mind and relieve stress.
5) The Benefits are More than Physical
Yoga is more a way of life than a set of physical exercises. And there are those specific asanas which have been clinically proven to boost your mental powers and recall.
The simple and ancient practice improves brain power more than conventional aerobic exercise. Neha Gothe is the professor of kinesiology (human movement), health and sports studies at Detroit's Wayne State University, and she headed up a significant yoga study on the mental benefits the practice delivers.
She found that a simple 20 minutes of Hatha yoga each day significantly improved research subjects' accuracy and speed when they were tested on different aspects of memory and concentration. The exercises and poses were immediately followed by a meditation session, where participants focused on both deep breathing and posture.
6) Yoga Helps You Let Go
Yoga helps you find your inner voice, harnessing your intuition to let go of those things that are not serving you. When you get in touch with your proper breathing and use the many asanas designed to improve you both internally and externally, you begin to notice positive shifts happening in many areas of your life.
A sense of renewal and inner peace allows you to deal with anything that arises. Indecisive people become fast action takers, and you become aware of abusive relationships or negative friends which are not serving you well. By improving your physical, mental and spiritual health, yoga allows you to identify and let go of negative factors and people in your life.
7) Yoga Can Slot Into a Hectic Schedule
In today's busy and hectic world, you sometimes run out of time and space. And two of the many benefits of yoga address those problems effectively and simply.
With just your yoga mat and very little space you can perform whatever asanas you need to at work, at home, on vacation or on the go. With just 10 or 20 minutes and the correct poses, you can efficiently address whatever physical, spiritual or mental needs you have, even if you have extremely limited room to work with.
8) Yoga Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
Multiple clinical trials and mounds of research show that a regular practice of yoga can lower your cholesterol and resting heart rate, regulate healthy blood pressure and help slow the onset of atherosclerosis. These are all major risk factors for heart disease, according to Doctor Erin Olivo, PhD and director of Columbia University's Integrative Medicine Program.
While any exercise is good for the heart, lifelong practitioners of yoga point to the many physical advantages that the practice delivers, as well as its ability to reduce stress, a cause of poor heart health. And a Mumbai, India study conducted at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre showed yoga effectively lowering blood pleasure, while test subjects reported an overall improvement in well-being and quality of life.
9) Yoga is a Powerful Anti-Aging Exercise
Certain yoga asanas and sequences have been proven to delay the aging process. By relieving stress, one of the principal causes of aging, and contributing to peace of mind, yoga helps you turn back the clock.
Additionally it detoxifies your body, making you look and feel much younger. And that detoxification process also contributes to inner organ and digestive health, which in turn can lead to a much longer life.
10) Yoga Helps You Sleep Better
Regular, fitful sleep for several hours each night is absolutely essential for you to function at your mental and physical best. Fortunately, yoga has been proven to combat insomnia. And it also helps you develop healthy sleep rhythms, which in turn make you more productive and alert during the day.
Practicing yoga regularly can definitely lead to a happier and healthier you. Multiple social and physical benefits are delivered, and the significant research and clinical trials which have continuously uncovered the truly unlimited gains this ancient practice can offer are countless.
Whether you are looking to relieve stress, improve your posture, tone your muscles, lose weight or sleep better, take up a yoga practice as an inexpensive and simple habit proven to deliver significant mind and body profits and rewards. Begin practicing yoga today to benefit from the multiple physical, spiritual and mental rewards that this simple and easy to perform ancient practice offers.