How I Found Yoga & 10 Great Benefits!
Yoga found me the summer I turned 9… it was a rainy, cool summer on the west coast and I was getting bored. Back then, “kids” TV shows were only on after school and on Saturday mornings (seriously!). Tired of reading, friends away on vacation, I turned on the TV without much hope and started switching through the channels. I stopped on a show where a sweet, soft-spoken woman named Kareen was instructing viewers how to do a breathing technique – it was like nothing I’d seen before! I kept watching, then I started trying to do it myself, and after a summertime of doing Kareen’s Yoga I was hooked (as weird as that was for a 9 year-old kid in suburban Victoria) – I FELL IN LOVE WITH YOGA!
Maybe you’re a dedicated yoga student/teacher, or maybe you’ve dabbled but your practice has been very hit-and-miss, or maybe you’ve never given yoga a go yet…. Yet. Yoga can do so much for so many! I’m always letting my students know that “there’s a yoga for Everybody AND Every Body” – I’ve taught students from toddlers to seniors, from those in great physical shape to those with serious health conditions & physical limitations. There is some form of yoga to benefit YOU. I really believe that.
Here are 10 benefits of yoga practice…
- Stress Relief: Yoga reduces the physical effects of stress on the body. By encouraging relaxation, yoga helps to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Related benefits include lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving digestion, and boosting the immune system as well as easing symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, asthma, and insomnia.Yoga has been my saving grace in times of trouble… in fact, it helped me so much during my divorce that I decided I needed to share it with others and took my teacher training and haven’t stopped sharing it since!
- Pain Relief: Yoga can ease pain. Studies have demonstrated that practicing yoga asanas (postures), meditation, or a combination of the two, reduced pain for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases, and hypertension as well as arthritis, back and neck pain, and other chronic conditions. Some practitioners report even emotional pain can be eased through the practice of yoga. I’ve personally found that yoga has helped alleviate my pain issues when they arose. Mindfully stretching and releasing the parts of my body that were crying out did wonders for relief and recovery.
- Better Breathing: Yoga teaches people to take slower, deeper breaths. This helps to improve lung function, trigger the body’s relaxation response, and increase the amount of oxygen available to the body. In times of stress I breathe very shallowly (as many people do). “Bringing myself back to the breath” has not only allowed me to cope with stress more effectively, but it has also helped whenever sinus or headache issues snuck up on me.
- Flexibility: Yoga helps to improve flexibility and mobility, increasing range of movement and reducing aches and pains. Many people can’t touch their toes during their first yoga class. Gradually they begin to use the correct muscles. Over time, the ligaments, tendons, and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity, making more poses possible. Yoga also helps to improve body alignment resulting in better posture and helping to relieve back, neck, joint, and muscle problems. While I am a yoga teacher and wellness practitioner, I also do a lot of work on computers for both my personal interests and careers which isn’t always the best for my body. Staying flexible is important to me so I can maintain my active outdoor life!
- Increased Strength: Yoga asanas (postures) use every muscle in the body, helping to increase strength literally from head to toe. And, while these postures strengthen the body, they also provide an additional benefit of helping to relieve muscular tension. I’ve always had great leg strength, but when I really started focusing on proper yoga sequencing I built up incredible upper body strength as well!
- Weight Management: Yoga (even less vigorous styles) can aid weight control efforts by reducing the cortisol levels as well as by burning excess calories and reducing stress. Yoga also encourages healthy eating habits and provides a heightened sense of well-being and self-esteem. I like to practice a variety of styles & sequences, but each & every one of them benefits my body and allows it to balance out… this aids in weight management. I don’t have to break a sweat to know that I’m helping my body maintain a healthy weight.
- Improved Circulation: Yoga helps to improve circulation and, as a result of various poses, more efficiently moves oxygenated blood to the body’s cells. There were times when I wasn’t able to practice regularly… when I think back to those times I realize that I had more headaches and seemed to have very cold hands & feet! Brrrrrrr!
- Cardiovascular Conditioning: Even gentle yoga practice can provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering resting heart rate, increasing endurance, and improving oxygen uptake during exercise. Heart Health Matters!!!! Enough said.
- Focus/Mental Clarity: Yoga helps us to focus on the present, to become more aware, and to help create mind body health. It opens the way to improved concentration, coordination, reaction time, and memory. “Monkey Mind” has been a challenge for me, especially as a single mom! There’s always so much to think about and plan for… the focus that yoga brings to my life is like someone “cleans the screen” of my mind so I can see what really matters right now.
- Inner Peace: The meditative aspects of yoga help many to reach a deeper, more spiritual and more satisfying place in their lives. Many who begin to practice for other reasons have reported this to be a key reason that yoga has become an essential part of their daily lives. Peace. Calm. Awareness.
“Always from the heart…”
- Jennifer Greenwood