If you have ever been to a yoga class then you will know first-hand what the benefits of yoga feel like in your body, but how might our Western scientists explain some of this? How can you encourage a friend to try a yoga class when you have the words of your teacher saying that your that your energy centres (chakras) will be more aligned and your prana flowing freely?
In a very detailed article written by Timothy McCall, M.D for Yoga Journal many of the benefits are listed. Out of that I have constructed a list that is inspiring for me to continue with my own daily practice.
- Improves flexibility therefore decreasing our aches and pains over time.
- Increases muscle strength which lowers the risk of arthritis and back pain while improving our balance. This strengthening is ideal when combined with the flexibility gained through yoga.
- Better posture which decreases spinal pain and degenerative arthritis.
- Sends fresh nutrients to our joints when moving and exploring our range of motion.
- Creates supple spinal discs through a combination of backbends, forward bends and twists.
- Helps prevent osteoporosis through the weight-bearing poses and possibly also by the decrease in our stress hormone, cortisol.
- Improves blood circulation through twists, inversions and movement.
- Naturally thins the blood and boosts the levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells.
- Moves the lymph, which helps our immune system to fight off common colds, cancer and other illnesses.
- Increases the heart rate in a healthy way that promotes a decrease in depression and an increase in heart health.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Lowers cortisol, (our stress hormone), which if high for too long has been proven to put pressure on the immune system, increase depression, be a factor in memory loss, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.
- Increases happiness in regular devoted yoga practice.
- Allows for healthy weight loss by the obvious activity in yoga, but also in dealing with the emotional issues behind the weight ;increases our awareness to healthy eating.
- Lowers blood sugar and bad cholesterol while increasing the good cholesterol levels.
- Improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores. We are able to be in the present moment through yoga and it shows in this benefit.
- Aids our parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for calming and restoring the body.
- Increases the blood flow to our digestive and reproductive organs.
- Helps with the awareness of when and where we are holding tension so that we can release it throughout our day.
- Gives us better sleep, therefore allowing for more awareness to our tasks such as driving, work, etc.
- Improves immune health.
- Improved bowel health which decreases constipation, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and even may prevent colon cancer.
- Calms the mind which helps to ward off many illnesses and disease.
- Increases self-esteem and helps us to feel more connected to ourselves, others and possibly a higher power.
- Helps to ease pain.
- Inspires healthy change in our life and helps us to deal with change in a positive way.
- Decreases the need for certain medications over time.
- Helps us to break habits fueled by destructive behaviour and emotion.
- Opens our natural compassionate, honest self in our relationships with friends, family, partner, children, etc.
- Helps with visualization which is a powerful tool for those with terminal illness or chronic pain.
- Encourages us to serve others which has been proven to help our health while we help others.
- Increases our hope and faith that we can help ourselves instead of relying on medicine and others to “fix” us.
There you have it – my complete list of the benefits of a yoga practice. It is inspiring really! Please feel free to create your own list, adding to mine. Send me your updates if you wish and I will add it to this post.
To end I will leave you with a key quote from the article by Timothy McCall, M.D
“As you read all the ways yoga improves your health, you probably noticed a lot of overlap. That’s because they’re intensely interwoven. Change your posture and you change the way you breathe. Change your breathing and you change your nervous system. This is one of the great lessons of yoga: Everything is connected—your hipbone to your anklebone, you to your community, your community to the world. This interconnection is vital to understanding yoga. This holistic system simultaneously taps into many mechanisms that have additive and even multiplicative effects. This synergy may be the most important way of all that yoga heals.”