Health Benefits of Yoga

  · What is Yoga?
Yoga is a mind and body practice with a 5,000 year history in ancient Indian philosophy (Ross & Thomas, 2010). However, in more recent years, it has become popular as a form of exercise. Incorporating breathing exercises, meditation, and poses designed to encourage relaxation, yoga can amount to immense physical and mental benefits. All you need to start practicing is proper activewear, and a yoga mat.

How is yoga different from stretching?
Yoga poses have two very distinct qualities that need to be cultivated in order to be considered “yoga”, described in the Yoga Sutras as sthira sukham asanam (Ross & Thomas, 2010). Translated to English, In order for postures to be considered yoga, there has to be a balance of steadiness and alertness, as well as comfort and ease in the mind, body and breath of the practitioner.

How do you know if you’re doing it right?
1. Are you moving in sync with your breathing? Let your breath guide you in and out of postures. If your breathing becomes short or disturbed, come out of the movement and breathe freely.
2. Where is your attention placed? Focus on the present moment and be mindful of your thoughts. When your mind begins to drift, return your focus back to your breath.
3. Is there a balance of stability and sense of ease as you perform the poses? Never force the body into a particular form. Ask for modifications, or avoid doing poses that are uncomfortable for you to do (Ross & Thomas, 2010).

Benefits include:
  · Increased flexibility
  · Increased muscle strength and tone
  · Improved respiration, energy and vitality
  · Maintaining a balanced metabolism
  · Weight reduction
  · Cardio and circulatory health
  · Improved athletic performance
  · Managing stress
  · Mental clarity & calmness
  · Increases body awareness
  · Sharpens concentration

Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). The health benefits of yoga and exercise: A review of comparison studies. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 16(1). doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0044