The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga, or more specifically the asana or physical posture component of yoga, has swept through North America like a tidal wave over the past few decades and I say, thank goodness for this wave! With the state of our society as it is; with obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high stress and plummeting levels of happiness surrounding us, yoga has the true potential of inspiring positive change and, in turn bringing a level of renewed health, vitality & well-being to people throughout society.
By stepping onto the mat and beginning a yoga practice, you are embarking on a journey that will ultimately change your life in ways that you could not have imagined.
I can say this, because the practice of yoga has been a tremendous gift in my own life. Introduced to me about 13 years ago now, Yoga slowly became an integral part of my life, supporting me through many challenges & struggles; building strength in me on a physical, mental and emotional level that I believe I would not have known otherwise. Yoga has become my passion and, I feel my life purpose or dharma – it was a natural progression for me to become a yoga teacher, as it is something I feel compelled to share with as many people as possible.
Through my own yogic journey, I have come to understand that although you may begin your yoga journey with the intention to lose weight, reduce stress or improve physical strength; your yoga practice will open and build you up in so many ways beyond your original intention – spilling off the mat into your everyday world. And yes, you will lose weight, reduce stress and build strength – but that’s just the icing on the extra yummy cake!
So, where’s the proof?
For those of you that need to see some science to back up the more intangible benefits of taking up a yoga practice, the following brief list of the many demonstrated benefits of yoga may help:
Increased Happiness: Boston University’s School of Medicine discovered a 27% increase of the neurotransmitter GABA within the brain after just one sixty-minute yoga practice. Low levels of GABA have been tied to anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s.
Stress Reduction: Depending on the type of practice you choose, yoga has the potential of triggering your parasympathetic nervous system, which, in our typically fast paced, high stress society is rarely given the chance to ‘switch on’. This system is designed to calm and relax us, reducing stress, anxiety and restoring our immune functions, digestive systems and all over physical and mental well-being.
Asthma: Adults with asthma have reported an increased quality of life and reduced asthma symptoms in various research studies. The improvements are often almost immediate and can be lasting with continued, regular practice.
Chronic Pain: A study at the West Virginia University School of Medicine found that, after practicing yoga for three months, people reported 70% less lower-back pain, and 88% of them reduced or stopped taking pain medication. Alignment and body awareness during yoga practice has been shown to reduce numerous types of acute and chronic back pain, including scoliosis, sciatica, and herniated discs. There are many cases of people who have opted for yoga, rather than back surgery with very positive results.
The proven benefits could continue, as this very short list barely even touches on the impact yoga may have on you nutritionally (reducing food cravings & increasing an interest in more positive food choices), spiritually (no matter what your faith or lack thereof, yoga brings with it a sense of inner peace and calm), and emotionally(aside from the increased happiness, yoga may help to regulate your adrenals, which in turn helps with your hormones, which in turn will create a sense of inner balance, vitality and well-being).
Now, just in case you require more convincing (or believe yoga is just for women)… Yoga can improve sexual health. According to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, men with premature-ejaculation problems lasted three times longer during sex after just 12 weeks of practicing yoga daily for an hour. The same journal also found that a regular yoga practice improves several aspects of sexual function in women, including desire, arousal, orgasm, and overall satisfaction.
Whether you decide to come to the mat for healing, balance, stress reduction, spiritual well-being or to get a tighter butt… Yoga will meet you exactly where you’re at and provide you with exactly what you need in the moment. Try it; you’ll be glad you did.
It’s all yoga, baby.