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Yoga has many benefits. The biggest is helping you increase your flexibility and decrease your stress. Many people use yoga for those main reasons. The more flexible you are and the more mobile you will be. The more relaxed you are and the happier you will be. Now who doesn’t want to be mobile and happy? I know I surely do!
Medical experts aren't exactly sure why yoga offers the high number of health benefits that it does. Some of its physiological effects can be attributed to stress reduction and relaxation. Since many health problems are triggered or aggravated by stress, stress reduction can only help.
And when you do yoga, especially meditation and breathing exercises, you often induce what is known as the relaxation response, a stress-neutralizing physiological state that boasts a wide range of physical and mental benefits.
Yoga has gotten a bad rep for being good for weight loss until recently. Depending on the yoga you choose, you can get a wide variety of benefits including weight loss and more. Yoga works much deeper than many other forms of fitness. It starts in the cells and works its way out.
- Yoga helps to increase the digestive fire which results in a higher metabolism.
- Yoga also strengthens the muscles as well as the surrounding ligaments and tendons.
- Yoga increases bone density and strength.
- Yoga decreases the stress response and inhibits the secretion of cortisol.
- Yoga works into the deep belly muscles to tone the core.
- Yoga helps improve the focus of the mind.
- Yoga strengthens the optic nerve.
- Yoga promotes proper weight distribution.
- Yoga increases cardiovascular endurance.
- Yoga increases awareness.
- Yoga decreases depression and related symptoms.
- Yoga increases flexibility.
These are just a dozen benefits of yoga, but there are many more. To get the full benefits for you, try out different styles and teachers. You can check out www.yogajournal.com, and www.yogaalliance.com for listings of classes and class descriptions.
Be open to the different styles and you'll find what works best for you.
Yoga strengthens and stretches the body while it helps to focus the mind. Yoga has a bit of a weird reputation, but before you get all nervous, let me assure you that I do not wear Birkenstocks or eat granola. I cannot bend myself like Gumby and I do not weigh less than my height in inches. I do like Hare Krishna songs, but I refuse to wear orange. And, none of that makes any difference, because one of the really great things about yoga is that you do not have to be a yogi to do it. You can be short or tall, young or old, a super athlete or a recovering couch potato. You can take it slow and easy, or if you are one of those sweat fiends, you can crank up the heat and get the most vigorous workout of your life. Yoga works for everybody and there is no such thing as striking a perfect pose. You go as far as you can in each position, or asana, and that is exactly the place that will give you what you need. As you get more flexible, you will be able to go deeper, but it is still about getting to a point where you are comfortable being uncomfortable - where you can achieve equanimity in body and mind.
The other aspect of yoga that is essential for good health (and is frequently overlooked in other forms of exercise) is its emphasis on the breath. We all breathe all the time, so we think we are experts, but taking deliberately slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breaths has tremendous benefits. According to both ancient yogic tradition and modern science, deep breathing can be effective in reducing stress. It is also an essential tool in detoxification, eliminating carbon dioxide and stimulating lymphatic drainage, thereby clearing the body of metabolic waste products stored in our tissue.
It is possible that yoga is not your activity of choice, and that is fine. But, you have really got to try it at least once. You can take an introductory class at a studio or rent an instructional DVD so nobody will ever see you in "down dog." Just do what you can and remember that wherever you are is exactly where you are supposed to be. That is yoga.
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.