For a newcomer to yoga you might find that explanations like “It increases the flow of prana” or “It brings energy up your spine” fall on deaf or sceptical ears! Or seeing someone in an inverted head stand pose gets you thinking – “Oh Heck! I could never do that”!
Please don’t be put off by this. Yoga really is for EVERYONE. All ages, genders, shapes and sizes. There are many styles of Yoga, some are fast paced, others are gentle. It’s just about finding a class that resonates with you.
Yoga means Union – The union or the connection between mind and body, and body with spirit. It really means to establish a connection back home to yourself.
To truly understand yoga and reap its overall benefits is to engage this union, this connection between mind, body and spirit. Yoga is about releasing tightness and tensions from the muscles but also from your internal world of thoughts and emotions.
When you begin to fully embrace the practice of yoga, you will be taken on a spiritual journey! You will begin to FEEL its transformative effects, not just in body, but in mind and soul.
1 Yoga improves your self- esteem, increases self- awareness and boosts confidence levels. By stretching and squeezing the body and by incorporating various breathing exercises you begin to unlock stagnant or stale energy and release blockages in your energy field (also known as your Chakras). When you breathe, stretch, release and let go, both physically and mentally, you begin to heighten your awareness and elevate your vibrational energy field. As a result, you end up feeling lighter, taller, stronger and more confident in the body, and clearer in the mind.
2 Yoga increases core strength, improves muscle tone and helps maintain a healthy body weight. Without any doubt, regular yoga increases muscle tone and helps build abs! Yoga can influence weight loss, but often it is not in the “traditional” sense of how we link physical activity to weight loss. Depending on your yoga class – for example; HOT yoga or Bikram yoga can burn up to 1000 calories per class, as it is an intense workout style of yoga. Other gentler yoga practices often burn fewer calories than traditional exercise (e.g., running, cycling); however, yoga can increase one’s mindfulness and sense of self -care, so the way one relates to their body is different. We begin to love ourselves enough not to over eat or self-sabotage, which is a much more rewarding and life changing outcome.
3 Yoga Detoxifies the body and can prevent against disease. As you twist and rotate and stretch and squeeze, it massages the internal organs and brings fresh blood supply to enable them to function at their best.
4 Yoga helps decrease stress and anxiety and reduce nervous tension. Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, emotional eating, substance abuse and so on. Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing can really help improve a person’s mental well-being. It can be useful in reaching a more calm and centred state and help achieve a more positive outlook on life.
5 Yoga increases flexibility, mobility, stability and improves posture. Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga, along with increased strength and muscle tone. Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain. The combination of the above will results in less injury and reduced aches and pains in the body.
6 Yoga increases concentration, focus and mental clarity. A big part of yoga is maintaining balance and being present in the moment. This transfers into life off the mat. Regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and brings more stability and balance in our physical and emotional world.
7Yoga provides energy, vitality and improves the immune system.
When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.
8 Yoga improves sleep and enhances inner peace. At the end of a yoga class you come into the gorgeous savansa pose – ‘corpse pose’ for a mediation as part of a cool-down sequence. At this point the body is relaxed, which enables the mind to become quiet. This is often where people get great moments of insight and feel utter inner peace. This definitely helps to enhance a state of easy slumber.
9 Yoga enhances your emotional intelligence. Emotionally yoga teaches us how to be loving and compassionate toward ourselves, because as human beings, we have self-defeating and self-limiting tendencies. Practicing yoga brings the content of our beings to the surface so we can see it. Inside the muscles, we hold the memories of every emotion we’ve ever experienced: sadness, fear, anger, love etc. Through the asanas (postures), we can tap into these memories and process our pasts. It’s the asanas that release the emotions out of the body.
10 Yoga helps to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and elevate our self-care. In yoga, we come onto the mat to stop. To listen. To feel. We come on the mat to get some stillness in a world that is often so chaotic. We get on the mat to re-connect back to ourselves, to centre ourselves and to in effect ground ourselves. By doing this it enables us to feel more gratitude in our lives. It allows us to feel our heart beating and to honour this life that we have. It provides us with some time and space to simply just be. To self-care, self soothe and reconnect.