Although yoga has been around for thousands of years (literally), it is only recently that this fad has swept through the western world and become one of the top ways people are choosing to stay active and healthy. The benefits that yoga provides to the physical body are countless and really offers a total-body workout (such as tonality, muscle building, and spine alignment) when done on a regular basis. However, yoga is not just beneficial physically -rather it benefits greatly the whole organism of the body, mind, and spirit.
Although it would be impossible to write about all the ways that yoga is beneficial on a holistic perspective, there are definitely many ways that yoga can be used not only as a way of maintaining health but also as a healing modality whenever the organism finds itself in a dis-ease.
Benefits of yoga on the body
Yoga is much more than a stretching practice. One of the most well-known ways that yoga benefits the body is simply improving its strength, balance as well as flexibility. The postures in yoga tone the muscles, especially when it comes to holding the posture for a few breaths or when flowing through postures (example: vinyasa yoga). Balance is worked on and improved when holding many of the postures and flexibility allows for deepening into a yoga posture. Whilst balance and strength are good targets to the muscles in the body, flexibility comes to target the fluidity of the spine (greater mobility) as well as a myofascial release and stretch. Although we may not be familiar with fascia, it is still something that is imperative to our wellbeing. Fascia release improves blood circulation, helps tissue during the recovery process, and releases tensions, knots, and stress held in the body.
Yoga is also greatly beneficial with our joints (hips, knees) as well as lengthening, stretching, and working with the spine. About 8% of adults are said to suffer from chronic back pain. And while it is not proven that yoga will cure back pain, it can greatly reduce discomfort and long term can make spasms and discomforts far and few. In addition to chronic back pain, yoga has also been seen to benefit those with arthritis, by targeting the swollen joints and creating lubrication around them (this leads us back to the fascia).
*Fascia: a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and structurally supports by holding every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fibre, muscle in place. The fascia has nerves that make it as sensitive as skin.
Benefits of yoga on the mind
While yoga postures may not be the best remedy to target the mind, the other aspects of a yoga practice such as meditation and breathing techniques come to be highly beneficial to a person’s mental health and well-being. A regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, sharpens the mind by creating and focusing attentions as well as bringing a relaxed state of mind during and after the practice. In time, this relieves chronic stress patterns and alleviates symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and sometimes even suicide. The reason being that the serotonin release through the practice (postures, breathing and meditation) allows for a boost of energy, making moods brighter, enthused and alert.
In turn, having a more relaxed mind and body through the above-mentioned methods allows for the body to be calmer overall. The parasympathetic nervous system is activated through moments of center-pointed focus, which allows for a greater sense of relaxation to present itself and thus benefits the practitioner when it comes to sleep. A consistent practice, especially before bed, allows the body and mind to fall asleep more easily as well as staying asleep.
Benefits of yoga on the soul
If we encompass the benefits of yoga on the mind and the body, holistically, our spirit is happier. The body finds itself in a more optimal state (greater strength, flexibility, blood circulation, muscle and organ function, etc.) as well as having an activated parasympathetic nervous system (where healing and regeneration take place), greater mental health due to decreased stress and tension. It is by putting all these benefits together that the soul benefits greatly. Once we are more aware of how we need to tend to ourselves and create better self-care habits/routines, we start to glow from within.
The word yoga is described as union, therefore, allowing the mind, body, and spirit to be targeted as one organism. Whether someone decides to use yoga as a fitness routine, a healing modality, or just encompassing a healthier and holistic way of life, everyone benefits from incorporating yoga in their everyday life.