Art of Zen: 8 Health Benefits of Yoga


“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” – B.K. Iyengar

Yoga has come a long way from being recognized as just the activity that contorts the human body into various pretzel (and often, impossible) positions.

In fact, it has recently been making waves in the world of fitness. And from the looks of it, this current craze is no passé and is not likely to die out soon. Fortunately, though, yoga has been associated with many health benefits and advantages—most notably in increasing flexibility and reducing stress. However, the practice of twisting your body into near impossible positions does more than just that as it significantly helps you find inner peace as well.  Also, Yoga and Feng Shui are natural’s best friend. Here are seven of the many health-boosting benefits of yoga.

1.)    Improves your flexibility

Regularly contorting your body in a multitude of yoga poses inevitably results to a significant improvement in your flexibility. As it is, with yoga, you try to push the boundaries of what your body can handle and endure. During your first few sessions, you would most likely not be able to reach your toes or even do a backbend. But regular practices doing these poses would make a significant difference, and you will notice a gradual loosening. In time, seemingly impossible poses would now become achievable to you leaving you not only with increased flexibility but a sense of accomplishment as well.

2.)    Builds muscle strength

As the body ages, certain joint and muscle ailments such as arthritis and back pain would afflict us. Conditioning our muscles to be stronger would aid us to prevent this. Toned and strong muscles are not just for aesthetic purposes, they would help to avoid falls in elderly people. In yoga, you complement building strength with flexibility which is significantly better than just building strength at the gym.

3.)    Protects your spine

There are bones in your body that would need constant movement in order to function properly. Your spinal disks are one example as these are the shock absorbers between the vertebrae that can herniate and compress nerves. One way of getting essential nutrients is through constant movement. Yoga encourages you to practice a lot of forwarding bends, twists, and backbends. In this way, you will help keep your discs strong, supple and healthy.

4.)    Perfects your posture

Poor posture is often a result of inactivity, muscle fatigue and constant slouching and as a result, back pain, spinal dysfunction, joint degeneration and even pot bellies would ensue.  Yoga would help you perfect your posture as it encourages you to keep your spine erect. An erect spine would mean less work for your neck and back muscles to support your head eventually leading to better posture.

5.)    Increases your blood flow

As with any fitness activity, yoga helps get your blood flowing. In yoga, the relaxation exercises you learn would aid in blood circulation—specifically in your hands and feet. Additionally, your cells will function better owing to the increased oxygen produced by doping yoga poses. Poses that require you twist would wring out venous blood from internal organs and would allow oxygenated blood to flow once it is released. Individuals with heart and kidney problems will find this to be particularly beneficial.

6.)    Helps you focus

An important concept of yoga is focusing on the present. Individuals who do regular yoga practices have significantly better coordination, memory, reaction time and even IQ scores. These individuals are able to solve problems better and acquire, retain and recall information better. This is because yoga requires focus and as a result, people who practice yoga are less distracted by their thoughts.

7.)    Makes you happier

Research has been shown that consistent yoga practice would lead to lower incidence of depression and a significant increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase ( the enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters and cortisol). Another study has found that the left prefrontal cortex showed heightened activity in yoga meditators which has been correlated with greater levels of happiness and better immune function.

8.)    Inspires individuals to have a healthier lifestyle

A constant mantra of dieters is to eat less and exercise more. Yoga helps you accomplish both. Regular yoga practices would encourage you to move and burn calories, and while you are at it, the emotional and spiritual dimensions of your practice may urge you to address any eating and weight problems on a deeper level. In a sense, yoga would assist you in becoming a more conscious eater.   

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