Yoga:Good for the Mind, Good for the Body? Both!
Self-care is not just a buzzword in the wellness world, and it also isn’t selfish. Regular self-care habits are essential for optimal overall health and well-being. At the most basic level, it is the process of taking time to take care of oneself with behaviors or activities that promote health and include taking an active role in the management of wellness. Yoga is a gratifying way to practice self-care.
The word yoga means to yoke, to unite, to bring or join together. The practice of yoga aims to create a union between body, mind and spirit. The purpose is also to unite the individual self and universal consciousness. The practice of yoga can bring about transformative and powerful life-changing benefits for the student.
Since each practitioner comes to yoga for their own personal reasons, not all styles of yoga or classes are the same and can vary greatly. Some classes are vigorous and dynamic, and others are more gentle and restorative. There is a style of yoga that suits what each student is looking for out of the time spent on their mat.
Yoga is non-discriminatory and is accessible to everyone regardless of age, gender, shape, size, weight or physical ability. It’s designed to meet practitioners where they are today. Yoga can provide students with a community and a genuine sense of belonging. Many also find it to be fun, inspiring and to enhance all other areas of their lives.
When people think about the benefits of yoga, they typically equate it with increased strength, flexibility and balance for both the body and mind. Yes! These are incredible benefits that many practitioners experience. Also, these benefits can be just the tip of the iceberg as to why people practice yoga and the trans formational benefits they experience from getting on their mats regularly.
The benefits of yoga and mindfulness practices have received much attention from the scientific community in recent years.
Research continually confirms what yoga students have been reporting as benefits and supports that there are countless health improvements directly resulting from a consistent yoga practice.
Increased circulation and blood flow with the physical practice of yoga can help improve the function of the circulatory system. This can help ease stiffness in the body, may reduce inflammation, help to regulate pain better and improve heart health, which can lower the risk of hypertension, stroke and heart disease.
The practice of yoga postures and corresponding breathing exercises help to regulate and calm the central nervous system. This helps to promote positive mental health.
Balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic responses of the autonomic nervous system with yoga can relieve stress and symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.
Additional health benefits that yoga students have reported include improved sleep quality, better posture, weight management, decreased blood pressure and resting heart rate, lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and increased lung capacity, bone density, muscle tone and heart rate variability.
Furthermore, yoga tools can help train the mind to stay in the present moment, which in turn enhances the satisfaction we experience in this life. Yoga can help improve cognition and mental activities, including focus, organizing thoughts and impulse control. It provides many practitioners with increased patience, self-discipline and the ability to take things as they come, day-by-day and moment-tomoment.
Practicing yoga has been reported to help with improved self-image and increased confidence. It can also provide a meaningful sense of accomplishment, whether from doing a posture that at one point was thought to be unachievable or diligently sticking with a dedicated routine.
Yoga incorporates learning through self-reflection and self-assessment for discovery. As a culture, we constantly look outside of ourselves for answers. Yoga helps students to tap into the realization that the answers they seek are already within them.
A regular yoga practice can provide an escape by taking time to take the mind off the external world and bring awareness within. This can provide time for reflection, contemplation and connecting to one’s spiritual side of being, providing a deep sense of calm and peace of mind.
Many other benefits have not been included here. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list but a demonstration of the power of yoga and reasons to use it as a form of self-care.
Heather Delia is the founder and CEO of Aspire Yoga Center and Aspire Yoga School and is designated as an E-RYT 500 and a continuing education provider with the Yoga Alliance. She has experienced tremendous benefits from yoga — physically, mentally and spiritually — since her first Sun Salutation in September 2001 and is committed to being a lifelong student of yoga.