Although the benefits of yoga vary per individual and yoga style, there are certain positive changes that everyone can expect to notice once they start to practise regularly, regardless of the class you choose.
We rarely make time to be still and reflect, so yoga gives us the opportunity to slow down and find stillness and it encourages us to relax. The relaxation associated with Yoga can be beneficial for our sleep and the focus required to practice helps shift our attention away from negative thought patterns. Relaxing yoga postures help to calm the Nervous System and when we slow down, our breath becomes more relaxed and our body starts to stimulate the relaxation response, meaning less cortisol (stress hormone) is release into the body.
How often do you observe your breath? We often go about our life unconscious of how our body works to keep us alive. We don’t dedicate time to watch how we breathe as we are too distracted with thinking and doing. The majority of the time we are taking quick and shallow breaths. Yoga helps us to take deeper breaths which benefit the entire body. Deep, slow breaths help to regulate the Autonomic Nervous System (which regulates the automatic functions of the body) in turn, helping to slow the heart rate, regulate blood pressure and aid relaxation.
When we practice yoga, we not only work on the physical postures (Asana) but also breath control (Pranayama) and this has a direct link to how we think. Yoga helps us to slow down the fluctuations of the mind. When we are focused on the placement of our bodies during our practice and concentrating on breathing steady slow breaths you become more acutely aware of the sensations in your body, your thoughts and emotions. We learn to disengage from our thoughts, the mind becomes focused on the present moment and this helps to slow down the internal dialogue. We no longer dwell on the past or anticipate the future.
As we get older, our muscles shorten, the tendons and tissues that connect muscles to the bones becomes stiff and we are left with a reduced range of motion. Yoga helps bring a greater range of movement to the body – taking each joint through its full range of motion. Yoga works multiple muscle groups at the same time, helping us to perform every day tasks with more ease, in addition to reversing the feeling of pain and immobility from lack of movement. Almost every yoga pose helps us to improve the cellular quality and elasticity of the connective tissues (cells that bind muscles together) in the body which provides muscles with lubricants and healing agents they need to stay healthy.
However, it’s not a one class fix – in order to reap these benefits, we must practice regularly.
See you on the mat!