The Physical and Mental Benefits of Yoga
What is Yoga?
It seems that everywhere you look these days, more and more people are starting to practice yoga. Studios have been popping up in cities all over the U.S., and it's hard to imagine the influx is limited to this country only. Despite this, many people still aren't sure what exactly yoga is but are too afraid to ask at this point. I mean, isn't yoga basically just a fancy way of stretching?
Well, to some, that's exactly what it is. There are many individuals who use yoga moves to stretch but don't adhere to the philosophical aspects of it. They do it mainly for their physical health. You could make the argument that they're not really doing Yoga then, but that's not necessarily true. Just because someone isn't utilizing every aspect of it, doesn't mean they're not doing it at all.
To others, however, Yoga is much more than a way of stretching. Rather, it's a way of life. In this case, Yoga begins with a capital "y". Individuals who practice this version do so in everything they do, including the physical movements. They use the practice to connect to the world around them and to their higher selves. Their practice of Yoga goes much deeper than the physical aspects.
What About You?
Why do you practice yoga?
The beautiful thing about Yoga is that regardless of which type you choose to practice, you're going to experience some serious benefits. The art has been found to lessen chronic pain, alleviate headaches, and even lower your risk of heart attack. Of course, the more you put into it, the more it will benefit you - but every little bit counts.
There's no doubt that stretching of any kind leads to more flexibility, so it stands to reason that yoga would do the same. However, unlike regular stretching, it also builds your muscle strength and improves your posture. Here are a few more of the physical benefits you may experience:
- Increased blood flow
- Protection from osteoporosis through strengthened bones
- Prevention of degeneration of joints and cartilage
- Boosts to your immune system
- Lowered blood pressure
There are countless other physical benefits to practicing yoga. Each move is designed for a specific purpose, so the benefits you receive have a lot to do with which methods you choose. To get the most out of it, find moves that target the specific area you want to improve. Otherwise, you'll still benefit, but it might not be in the exact ways you'd like.
The physical benefits are probably the most measurable, but they're certainly not the only ones in existence. Other benefits of Yoga go much deeper but are harder to measure. That doesn't mean they can't be measured, however. Many tests have been conducted to try to figure out the other benefits of Yoga. These are psychological benefits, though, which means they're largely dependent on the individual.
Overall, practicing Yoga improves your mental well-being. How does it accomplish this amazing feat, though? Well, for starters, it's a great way to relieve stress. The practice requires you to slow down and focus on your breathing and your body, rather than any outside concerns you may have. In turn, this releases tension and helps alleviate the stressful feelings you're having.
Yoga has also been found to reduce mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Along with this, it's been found to help prevent the onset of mental illnesses in adolescents, which is a growing concern in today's society. Here are a few more of the ways the practice helps out psychologically:
- Lessens your inclination toward anger
- Boosts your mood
- Creates resilience
- Enhances awareness and mindfulness
- Improves memory and concentration
It's amazing what Yoga is capable of, but you must remember that you will only see benefits if you put forth effort. You should also keep in mind that most things don't happen overnight. It's easy to get disheartened, but it's worth continuing to try. After all, practice makes perfect and good things come to those who wait.
It's Your Journey
There will always be people who disagree with your beliefs and philosophies. While it's good to have an open mind, it's also beneficial to know where you stand and to not let others define you. Whatever your reasons are for practicing Yoga, they're your reasons. No one gets to tell you if they're acceptable or not.
The actual definition of the word yoga is union. It's a comprehensive system that was developed thousands of years ago in India to increase one's overall well-being. It has countless benefits, but you will only get out of it what you are willing to put into it. It's meaning depends on which practice you follow, but it also depends on you. Good luck on your journey. Namaste.
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© 2017 Emily Schultz