What are some key benefits that I can expect from a regular yoga practice?

Yoga promotes so many health benefits that doctors are prescribing it as part of a regular health regimen, as a recovery tool, and as a preventative measure. Some of the basic benefits of yoga practice include flexibility, weight control, good posture, strong bones, immune and lymphatic health, detoxification, mood boost, and enhanced relaxation response. Although, as a beginner, you might not be able to touch your toes, after several classes you will notice an increase in flexibility due to the gradual loosening in muscles and connective tissue such as fascia and ligaments. Moving more and eating mindfully while practicing yoga brings calorie awareness and burn to the forefront, assisting in weight control. The added spiritual self-inquiry during poses can help weight and food issues on an emotional level since many people consume additional calories in response to heightened emotions. The improved posture that yoga practice brings makes you look and feel better; when the body is in proper alignment, it uses less energy which helps you feel less fatigue. Additionally, good posture can prevent onset of degenerative arthritis in the spine. Yoga is considered a weight-bearing exercise because many postures require you to hold your own weight; this aspect of yoga will strengthen bone mass and ward off osteoporosis. The upward and downward movements, as well as movement in the organs, causes an increase in lymph drainage, helping systems fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of toxic waste in the body. The twisting postures bring fresh blood and oxygen to organs, flushing out toxins, and physical practice eases constipation and promotes colon health which lowers the risk of colon cancer. Further purification for the body comes through increased perspiration. Yoga teaches you to slow down the mental chatter, be present without worry, let go of unnecessary tension, lowers cortisol levels, and increases serotonin thus heightening levels of happiness and improving immune function. Slower breathing, being present, shifting your balance from the sympathetic (fight or flight response) to the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system lowers heart rate, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to intestines and reproductive organs. This is recognized by Herbert Benson, M.D. as the relaxation response. All of the above benefits link together to provide various other benefits and disease-fighting aspects of the practice of yoga.
From a physical point of view, yoga will help bring symmetry to your body. By that I mean you will become more flexible where you need to and stronger where you need to.  It is also a great way to develop balance, co-ordination and concentration. You will learn to focus in on how your body feels and to make adjustments as needed. You will learn to be patient with yourself while being persistent enough to create change. You will learn to use your breath to amp up your energy or to calm things down as needed. Most importantly, your yoga practice teaches you to respect yourself, your body and your soul.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.