Long hailed in the Eastern world, yoga is now regarded in the West as a staple of physical fitness, something that is regularly on the schedule rotation at fitness centers. New research has opened up people’s minds about the vast benefits that come from this mental, physical, and spiritual exercise.
Traced back to around the fifth or sixth century BCE, yoga developed in ancient Indian ascetic circles, tied to both Hindu and Buddhist origins. Yoga gurus introduced the practice to the West, and over the past thirty years we have embraced it as a form of physical exercise, though in the East it is regarded as much more than that.
In Vedic Sanskrit, the literal meaning of the word yoga is to join, add, or unite. At its heart, yoga seeks to do this with the unification of mind, body, and spirit.
Physical & Mental Benefits
Yoga has profound physical effects on the body. The two most key elements are increased muscle strength and tone and improved respiration. Breathing is a fundamental part of yoga.
The breathing that is so essential to yoga creates breath awareness that strengthens the mind-body connection, which leads to improved mental functioning.
Yoga has a positive impact on the spine. Spinal disks crave movement because it provides them with the nutrients they need to stay supple. As you progress with the poses of yoga, the results will give you increased flexibility and improved posture. This leads to less injury.
Other physical benefits include maintaining a healthy metabolism, weight reduction, and cardiovascular and circulatory health.
Yoga also helps you sleep, remain calmer, and handle stress with more ease. The reasons are interconnected: all require turning off anxious natural tendencies. By being more present in the moment, we are able to soothe our minds in a manner that promotes relaxation. A calmer mind, in turn, flows into increased energy and vitality.
Yoga provides surprising extra benefits that go beyond just physical and mental health. Regular practice leads to increased immunity, engendering gene expression that boosts immunity on a genetic level.
Those who do yoga report fewer migraines, as migraines are caused by a combination of mental stressors and misalignment.
For many, the biggest change comes from the renewed outlook on life. Better breathing and posture lead to improved overall health, and feeling good again makes a world of difference.