Yoga has seen an explosive rise in popularity in recent times. It seems like everywhere you look, people are posting up photos of themselves in impressive yoga poses or embarking on retreats in Bali or India.

But yoga goes deeper than its hype. Considered as one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu traditions, it is a practice that finds its origins in ancient India and is a discipline that has been practiced for thousands of years. There are many forms of yoga, including Hatha, Tantric, and Astanga yoga, all of which are designed to decrease stress and increase health, happiness, and well-being.

The benefits of yoga for your physical health

Yoga incorporates and sculpts the whole body. It strengthens, tones, and elongates muscles, with poses like downward-facing dog engaging the core and glutes, and one-leg poses building balance and strength.

It undoubtedly leads to better posture but is also beneficial for your internal organs and spine nerves. The increased blood flow from doing yoga aids the lymphatic system in eliminating toxins from the body and helps the digestive system extract nutrients from your diet.

Yoga increases flexibility and gently addresses any joint issues that someone may have, particularly those suffering from arthritis. Those who work at a desk or drive all day may find yoga an appealing way to deal with any tightness or compression they may be experiencing. It improves body alignment and rinses out the joints and muscles, having an almost detoxifying effect on the body.

Yoga increases body awareness while decreasing the brain’s response to threat, levels of cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure. When you hold specific body postures while breathing deeply, your body shifts from tension to deep calm, relaxation, and presence.

When yogis find that they can do challenging yoga poses despite persistent pain, this increases their self-competence and self-awareness, which then leads to a higher quality of life—a benefit for both the body and mind.

The benefits of yoga for your mental health

Because yoga is like a moving meditation, incorporating deep breathing, mantras, and prayer, it increases awareness of the oneness and duality of life. You become aware of the sacred connection between the body and the mind, and as you strengthen one, you strengthen the other. As a result, you start to live in a more integrated way and make decisions that positively support your growth and well-being.

It helps you disengage from incessant thinking through mindful breathing. Many of us have unnaturally shallow breathing, but yoga teaches you to take deeper breaths, which also benefits the physical body, clearing the nasal passages and calming the central nervous system. It teaches you to neither resist nor judge your experiences but to allow them to be as they are, which is especially helpful during high-stress situations at work or home.

As your awareness grows and you experience a greater level of clarity and focus, you begin to put your problems in perspective and take more responsibility for your life and happiness. You realize that true joy comes from within, and by living more mindfully and holistically, you make changes in the rest of your life that will mirror the peace you find on your yoga mat.

It is also well known for its calming and stress-relieving benefits. High school students at a school in Massachusetts found that yoga improved their mood, behavior, and mindfulness more than doing PE alone. Furthermore, growing research has found that it has a positive impact on social well-being and enhances a sense of belonging to others.

Yoga can be an excellent addition to the treatment plan of someone with an addiction or mental health problem. Studies have found that yoga can be an effective and appealing way to manage mental health disorders and improve overall health, and has the potential to relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorders, and sleep disruptions.

As beneficial as yoga is, it should not replace medication or therapy. However, seeking the help of a licensed therapist from professional platforms in combination with a regular yoga practice can be an excellent way to manage mental health disorders.

How to incorporate yoga into your life

There are numerous yoga classes out there that offer gentle, beginner-friendly classes to more advanced and challenging ones. Wherever you are in the world, you will almost certainly find a studio that you can attend. Through the guidance of a certified yoga teacher, you can advance your practice and deal therapeutically with any pain that may arise during classes.

The advancement of technology and accessibility to information means that you can do yoga from the comfort of your own home, and many of them are completely free of charge. Youtube, online classes, and apps mean that you develop and establish a regular at-home yoga practice, even if you travel frequently.

As usual, use precaution when doing at-home yoga, and speak to your doctor about any concerns you may if you have an existing physical or mental ailment.

The takeaway

Yoga is undoubtedly an excellent way to ground and relax the mind, strengthen and tone the body, and improve overall quality of life and well-being. It may not be for everybody, but it is a practice that is well worth exploring because of its numerous benefits for the mind, body, and soul. 

Health & Fitness